Preface
The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.
—Thomas King, The Truth about Stories
Ipeople
n July 1999, Don Veneto Vera, a konsaha (shaman) of the Yshiro
of Paraguay, explained to me the chain of circumstances
that had resulted in me being alive and working with his people.
In short, it seems that Don Veneto, mobilizing a complex net-
work of human and nonhumans, had saved me from a disease
that would have killed me. These events had taken place be-
yond my awareness, as they had unfolded in a reality/world, the
yrmo, of which I had only references through Don Veneto and
other Yshiro elders and intellectuals.1 Although I had known
of it for years, the yrmo had had until that moment little per-
sonal relevance for me. What little I did know about it, however,
was enough to make me realize that because Don Veneto had
acted on my behalf, I had certain obligations toward him and
the humans and nonhumans he had mobilized, which would in-
volve commitments that I was not sure I would be able to honor.
Among the responses I considered was to leave and never return.
While I eventually decided otherwise, this event confronted me
with a political and epistemological dilemma which had never
before presented itself with such clarity and urgency, pushing me
to reconsider my involvement with the Yshiro communities and,
ultimately, to write this book in its present form.
I had been working for close to nine years on a variety of top-
ics and projects with Yshiro communities when the incident with
Don Veneto took place. At the time, I was engaged in a project
commissioned by the leaders of the four communities of the Ebi-
toso, one of two Yshiro groups (the other being the Tomaraho). I
had been asked to contribute to their efforts to create an organiza-
tion that would federate the Yshiro communities by promoting,
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