Amerindian (Indigenous) Piaiman & Cacique
The piaiman (pronounced pee-EYE-man) is a medicine man or folk-doctor and is believed to have supernatural powers and highly respected among his people. He teaches other piaiman and it is believed that he invokes the dead, communicates with animals and has unusual foresight.
A story was told by the village elders of a case in which a piaiman was asked to diagnose and treat a patient.
The patient was a young man with an unexplained illness; who grew worse by the day. Many doctors in the city failed to help him and, in desperation, his mother asked the piaiman’s intervention. The piaiman had the patient sit on a turtle shell in his wigwam of palm leaves.
Observers could see and smell the aromatic smoke which soon seeped through the leaves of the hut. They also heard the sound of the rhythmic shaking of a gourd rattle; then later the “droning sing-song” of the piaiman’s voice; then later still a conversation in which three different voices were heard. The séance lasted for about half-an-hour, after which the patient was taken back to his mother’s house.
When the piaiman emerged, he said he had consulted the spirits of the camoodi (anaconda) and the tiger who told him that the lad was being punished with this illness because he had been unfaithful to an Amerindian (Indigenous) girl. However, he would not die.
The piaiman set out at dawn next morning to obtain the medicines he said the spirits prescribed, returned in three days, administered them to the patient, and the patient became well again.
His fee? A long-barreled gun.
The piaiman is basically one who has intimate and extensive knowledge of the medicinal value of forest plants and is an exceptional ventriloquist.
The Arawak Cacique
The cacique was an Arawak (an indigenous tribe) clan leader who was treated with great respect. Although he needed to be firm, he was usually courteous and considerate to his people.
The cacique was responsible for, among other things, the distribution of land, labor arrangements, planting and disposal of crops, and decisions regarding war and peace.
The cacique was allowed a number of privileges. He was given a part of the harvest; his dwelling was the largest in the village; his canoe, the largest and the only painted one, was made for him.