Peace in the Forest: The Way of the Kuntanawa

By conference convener, Stephanie Mines.

 “Peace in the Forest expresses our aim to raise consciousness for a better world and to open human minds to the harm we are causing Earth through the exploitation of Nature. We are inspired to unite the differences of language, skin color and culture to bring a universal language through the power of love.”   ~   Haru and Hayra Kuntanawa

The Kuntanawa people from the state of Acre in the Brazilian Amazon have survived near-extinction many times. They ascribe their many resurrections to love – all aspects of love including: the personal and the collective, love for the ancestors, the plants and animals; love for the medicines they derive from the natural world, and love for the arts and all avenues of expression; love for the world and love for the continuity of all life. The people all share the one surname, the name of their tribe: Kuntanawa. They embody a faith in a World Tribe, without barriers and with one vision for a thriving humanity.

Tribal leader Haru Kuntanawa and his wife Hayra devote themselves and their love for each other to protecting their land, to reforestation and intergenerational healing. Haru is also a singer, a musician, and a song writer. His wife is a physician, born in the United States, and accepted as a co-leader of the Kuntanawa. The synthesis that these two represent, is a model for a new way forward.

The language of the Kuntanawa people is Panoan, and it too symbolizes resilience. In fact, 18 of the Panoan dialects are already extinct; others remain unknown and some went underground. A few, including that spoken by the Kuntanawa, were rediscovered as recently as 2000. Haru Kuntanawa brings the message of emergence from near-extinction to Climate Change & Consciousness. He knows the reality that Western peoples are only starting to admit for themselves – that of living each day faced by the threat of the loss of everything. With the collapse of all we hold dear in the offing, how do we find the spirit to move forward?

Haru Kuntanawa knows that the way of love includes the way of unification. He coordinated eleven tribes and more than 15,000 people in an effort to promote health for the indigenous people of the Vale of Jurua in Acre, fusing traditions and strengthening their mutual cultural values. Haru is a voice not only for his tribe but for all the people of the Amazon. He promotes food security, family agroforestry, the reforestation of degraded areas, and the need for merging traditional healing with contemporary science. Like his friend, Uncle Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, the Kalaallit Elder from Far Northern Greenland, Haru advocates for the elimination of barriers between all peoples. Uncle Angaangaq will be a keynote presenter at Climate Change & Consciousness; he and Haru often speak together at conferences. Uncle says that we cannot stop the devastation like the melting of the Big Ice, but we can change how we deal with it through our awareness and awakening – through consciousness.

The Kuntanawa people literally disappeared from sight after they were almost decimated by rubber tappers and the rubber industry in the first decade of 1900. Reduced to only 100 people they lived in anonymity until they re-emerged to declare themselves to the Brazilian government. After centuries of colonization and near-genocide at the hands of European settlers, the risk their leaders took to be seen, despite their vulnerability, has resulted in a resurgence of the Kuntanawa people. Now their numbers are increasing and they are openly and non-violently fighting for the restoration of their natural resources. Each member of the Kuntanawa tribe is a living miracle. Their rise from the ashes of near annihilation is a source of inspiration to us so that we too can come to see that each one of us is a living miracle.

Haru and Harya Kuntanawa rely on spiritual guidance and the courage and daring that comes with it to steer their movements and mission in the world. It is through spiritual guidance that people feel empowered to take a stand, even if they are the only ones articulating it. This is the kind of guidance that brought Haru and Hayra together. Harya was formerly Margaret Halle, living in Colorado and practicing Oriental medicine. Even though it appeared radical for her to follow this guidance, she allowed it to take her all the way to Pisac, Peru to a particular spot where she met her future husband. Now she is accepted as a member and leader of the Kuntanawa tribe despite the fact that she brings with her a different language and a different approach to relationship. The Kuntanawa people are learning not only about Hayra; they are also learning about equal partnerships and women’s rights.

Hayra is dedicated in particular to the fusion of medicines, including the Oriental, Western and indigenous traditions that will restore health to not only the growing numbers of her tribe, but to the world. She is a visionary in this regard and a fusion artist like her husband. While they are still learning each other’s languages, they are inspiring others to mirror the authenticity of their heart-centered and profoundly guided and purposeful relationship.

Through their music and in workshops, conferences and programs, Hayra and Haru encourage us to strive for inclusion and respect for all. They join with their dear friend Uncle Angaangaq in a plea to open the hearts of humanity at this critical time when the Amazon and the entire world are threatened more than ever before by the draining of resources. They deliver this message in many ways, but perhaps the most potent is the love they share with the world alongside their dignity, vulnerability, transparency, innocence and daring.

Their simple statement of purpose meets the complexity that often makes the climate change dialogue daunting and takes us back to the unifying power that gives us the courage to meet this challenge: “We share our sacred teachings and songs in the hopes of awakening hearts and inspiring a new perception of the world.


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