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About the Fulni-o Tribe in Brazil

The Fulni-o Indians of the Pernambuco area of northeastern Brazil are only modestly known within and outside of Brazil. Once they numbered in the hundreds of thousands and lived in the lush coastal lands near Recife, but after the European invasion, those that survived fled several hundred miles inland to a semi-arid, drought-prone land. They now number about 6,000 and have lived on their current "reserve" of land for more than 500 years. Their name, Fulni-o, means "people of the river and stones."

Ironically given their name, when a friend who travels frequently to Brazil first met them and began to work with them in 2003, the region where they live had been in a state of drought for four years and so the rivers were dry and the Fulni-o had not had access to water during these four years. As a result, they were suffering as they could not raise crops, and starvation was a real issue. Between local Brazilian cattle rangers taking away and/or deforesting their land, it is increasingly difficult for the Fulni-o to obtain the traditional and powerful medicinal herbs and other plants they need for making various craft and household items. Our friend began to try to help them by fundraising and primarily, by bringing their crafts back to the U.S. to sell and help bring about more sustainability for them.

The Fulni-o, despite the many and complex pressures and challenges they live with, have held on to their Yathe language and their spiritual and healing practices. Every year for three entire months, they go on spiritual retreat ("ouricouri"), in order to renew their ties to their traditional ways. Men and women are kept mostly separated during that period, and the ceremony is so sacred that the Fulni-o do not discuss it even among themselves. They say that their culture has been maintained through their spiritual practices, which have never been infiltrated by outsiders. Because of this ongoing and profound spiritual work, their people have remained strong.

The Fulni-o have an extraordinary knowledge of plant and animal relationships, including healing benefits. In fact, other tribes call them to heal their sick. Often the other tribes invite them to stay with them to help them maintain their health. The Fulni-o philosophy is simple; always do things for the betterment of man, environment and all living things. This stance exemplifies what living for a higher purpose really means. Their music, songs, dances and art reflect this harmony between life and spirit.

They are also generally a warm, hardworking yet joyful people who want to return to being self-sustaining. Their crafts are gorgeous, including the headdresses they make from drop feathers of birds, as well as other craft items and natural seed jewelry. The Fulni-o jewelry is made primarily with indigenous seeds of Brazil, in the form of bags, necklaces, bracelets and earrings, and are all blessed to provide protection and connection to the positive forces of Nature for the wearer. By purchasing Fulni-o crafts, you are not only helping support the tribe and a way of life, but are benefiting from the powerful spiritual energies infused in each item.