The Siona indigenous people are located mainly in the department of Putumayo on the banks of the Putumayo, Piñuña Blanco and Cuembí rivers, in the municipality of Puerto
Asís and Puerto Leguizamo, on the border with Ecuador. The main reservation is Buena Vista. Their mother tongue is Siona of the Western Tukano linguistic family.For the Siona the family is the cell of the social organization and the Cabildo supports the political organization. They currently live in sedentary communities and practice agricultural activities.For the Siona people, the sacred space is fundamental, it is mother earth. On her they carry out agricultural work activities and rituals, closely related to their identity. When the taitas refer to their knowledge and in general to their customs, they do it in terms of “traditional”, as a way of vindication of knowledge that has been kept alive for generations and even more importantly, that is established as the nucleus of strengthening and survival of indigenous peoples.
The Siona indigenous people developed a way of life of coexistence with the beings of the land “airu” (animals, plants, air, water, wind and the owners and guardians of the sacred places). Airu is the natural habitat, the place from which they obtain all the essential elements to guarantee their subsistence and cultural development. This way of life allows them to develop a ancestral and autochthonous system of ordering, land management and natural resources to meet the needs of his people.
“The territory for our people represents all life and is the mother nature, mother earth since here the sacred plant of the Yagé is “raised” and developed, this plant is the best school and the best medicine that can be had where wisdom is concentrated of our town. Without territory you cannot survive, on it depends the production of culture and survive physically. ”
For the Siona people, yagé guides the life of the community and is a medium that allows direct communication with the supreme being. The respect for the yagé marks places that keep a special significance for the Siona people, such as the lagoons, the houses of the Yagé and the places where the Yagé is planted. Yage is considered the sacred plant and mother of all medicinal plants.
The traditional medicine men
The taitas are characterized not only by their role as doctors but also for being men of the field and family, spiritual guides and figures of law and of authority, they are leaders of their communities, who deeply know their environment and know how to take advantage of it. The relationship with the territory is for them fundamental; their ancestors live there, and they have also developed a style life in which despite the ever-present difficulties, it remains in search of tranquility. For them the relationship between the lifestyle ofpeople and their state of health is clear, since health is not thought nor worked since the episode of the disease but in the course of the lived experience, health refers to life itself and not to just one of its spheres; Being a traditional doctor implies in that sense not only knowing how to heal, it is above all knowing how to live. The relationship between the field and health is by opposition a relationship between the city and the disease; the taitas think that the urban way of life is somehow contaminated, that the remoteness of nature is also the remoteness of “God” and of the spiritual, which, according to them, inevitably leads to disease. An idea is highlighted reiterative among the taitas: city dwellers need to be cleansed, and medicine traditional indigenous people are able to do so. It is spoken like this in terms restitution of a state characterized by equilibrium, which refers to the
health in two dimensions: the spiritual and the corporal.
Through the yagé Taitas can come into contact with the divine in order to give health to others, but at the same time remain in a self-examination that keeps them clean and in contact with their body, mind and spirit. That constant state of cleanliness and self-observation is what It allows them to attend to others and carry out cleaning or consultations even when no ceremony is being carried out, since if there is constant reflection it is because they are always in contact with the divine, through the master plant of yagé. So the management of plants establishes contact with the divine and the maintenance of one’s own health and the wisdom to manage that of others. Preserving health in all dimensions implies for the taitas a balance in life and that is why we constantly work to maintain it; it is the consciousness of divinity that leads to seeking to live life in a harmonic way, since, in that sense, the absence of harmony is absence of health.
Their study comprises at least three dimensions: that of the disease, the of plants as remedies and, that of yagé as a master plant and guide of the spirit. Yage, teaches them everything they need to know to perform as traditional doctors and for spiritual battle. He teaches them the songs with which they call the force of the same spirit of yagé to heal his patients, and to drive spirits and diseases away of their patients and the areas they inhabit. No person learns alone, but with the guidance of a teacher. In general traditional medicine is inherited; so in many cases, the father and grandparents of a taita they have also been indigenous doctors.
Throughout their lives the taitas are trained and educated in the knowledge of the symptoms and expressions of different diseases, for which they consume yagé permanently, they cultivate and learn to know the places where find medicinal plants. The way of working of each one is unique, even if they are brothers, father and children, etc. Each one has its own process, its own formation as a doctor and his own ways of approaching the patient and his illness. The breath and the song is the way in which the work of each is distinguished
one of the taitas. The word taita refers to the father. That is why it is a word that is used to distinguish people who deserve respect and who are an example of life in the community. The taitas are traditional doctors, but that is not their sole function, they are also leaders in their communities, spiritual guides, authorities; Taitas are considered to be the possessors of knowledge and the wisdom that comes from contact with divinity, with the spiritual plane. Becoming a taita is an apprenticeship that lasts a lifetime, each of the patients or people who come to the taita represents a new challengeand a new learning. In addition to knowing the plants, the taitas specialize in mastering the spiritual plane, from the repeated consumption of yagé, with which they learn to know and differentiate different types of evils capable of generating disease.