Who are the Yawanawá?
Yawanawá is an indigenous tribal group from the Amazon.
The Yawanawá people in Brazil are located in the state of Acre, in the western part of the Brazilian Amazon Forest. There are over 1000 Yawanawá, living in 7 tribal villages. The name Yawanawá translates as ‘The People of the Wild Boar’.
In Brazil, the largest country in South America, there are about 240 tribes living in Brazil today, adding up to around 900,000 people, or 0.4% of Brazil’s population.
How and where do they live?
The Yawanawá traditional homes are called ‘push’. In an interview a member of the tribe says, “Pêshê have a wooden structure, with a roof thatched with palm leaves tied into place with a strong vine called a liana. Today we have started building different kinds of houses, taking inspiration from Western architecture. We also have large houses called ‘shuhu’ used for ceremonies and meetings. In the middle of our village is an open space where we dance, the children play and guests are entertained.” (Survival Interntional)
Hopefully techniques of permaculture can be increasingly implemented within the development of indigenous communities, perpetuating their sustainable environmental practices. Development does not have to come with the cost of environmental degradation and destruction for future generations.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world – a giant river basin covering 1.7 billion acres and including thousands of rivers. It spans nine countries in total, although around 60% is in Brazil. We have some art from there, read about an artist from the Amazon here.
The Yawanawá people have lived on their land for centuries. Their way of life is a result of the development of their ancestors, as all societies are. They live close to and with nature. Food, medicine, materials for housing, virtually everything can be accessed from the rainforest.
Culture and Preservation
Their spiritual leaders are known as ‘doctors of the rainforest’ or shamans. They know the powers of medicinal herbs and plants. The forest is a magical place. It is vital that the Amazon forest is allowed space and freedom to survive, along with its natural inhabitants.
Indigenous people have a lot of respect for their land, it is their livelihood (as ours!) and they recognize and embrace their responsibility to look after it.
The Yawanawá people take this responsibility almost with a warrior mentality. This is necessary since outside dangers are constantly encroaching on their freedoms and rights. Their education begins at birth, being taught to live in their environment. The Yawanawá fish, hunt, gather fruits and plant gardens. They have Indigenous schools in their villages where language (theirs and Portuguese) and culture are taught through remembering traditional stories and legends. They use technology, phones and computers to communicate with the outside world.
There are two shamans or spiritual leaders in their tribe: ‘Yawa’ and ‘Tata’. They are more than one hundred years old! (I actually had the honor of meeting Tata in 2013!) The Yawanawá people are known for their beautiful songs, strong traditional and spiritual culture. Their songs are ancient and reflect their lives within nature.
Have a listen to ‘wakomaya’ which means happiness!
Traditional clothing is used during ceremonies and festivals. Skirts or ‘shapãnati’ are made from the fibres of the Envira tree. We wrote an article about 3 Brazilians trees, check it out here.
Faces and bodies are painted using annatto seeds and jenipapo dye (from the jenipapo plant) and colourful jewellery is worn.
’Maiti’ or headdresses are worn on very special occasions or ceremonies where the Yawanawá are connected to the spiritual world. Necklaces are made from seeds and feathers.