The Yawanawá

The Yawanawá (Laminaua, Jaminawa, Yaminawá) are an indigenous people of about 1,300 people, who live in small longitudinal towns along the Gregorio River: Their homeland Acre (Brazil), and also in Madre de Dios (Peru) and Bolivia.

The Yaminawá language belongs to the Panoan language family. Linguists estimate that fewer than 1,600 people speak the language. Very few Yawanawá speak Spanish or Portuguese, and their literacy rate is extremely low.


Interview with a Yawanawá

Nixiwaka Yawanawá lives in London and works with Survival International to raise awareness about the rights of indigenous Amazonians. His town, Yawanawá, is made up of more than 900 people.

Êwê anê Nixiwaka, Ê Yawanawa ihuhu, êwê yurahûki kânu, pênâku hiash. Mâ ika ânu, matuvê iwânâ, mahu tapipai ê uitamêa. Nênuashê kashê êwê yurahâu ravâna ipai.

My name is Nixiwaka. I am from the Yawanawá. I intend to return to my people one day, but first I want to stay in the United Kingdom for a while so I can help my people when I return.

The name Yawanawá translates as ‘The people of the wild boar’, because as a people we are always together, when we hunt and in life in general.We are a pack. I was born in Kaxinawa, the most sacred part of the Yawanawá lands, where my people come from. Kaxinawa is the place where my grandfather and all our great chiefs are buried.

We have people known as “jungle doctors”. They know everything there is to know about medicinal plants. They say that this world is a beautiful place to live and that we all have a responsibility to take care of it.

I know that Western medicine is now making use of our plants and remedies that we, the Yawanawá, have used for centuries. From tree bark to frog saliva, we have the answers for both remedies and poisons.

Women rub their bellies with a type of potato plant called “rau” to get pregnant. Other plants, such as the so-called “hukâshupa”, are used by lovers to foster successful relationships. It is the juice of three ground plants that is applied as a perfume to attract a lover. The jungle is a magical place.

I think that perhaps the Western world can learn from us to live a more harmonious and peaceful life with our environment, combining Yawanawá knowledge with Western ideas.

Nixiwaka, de la tribu Yawanawá


Since ancient times, the Yawanawá have used “rumê” (a type of snuff made from the bark of a specific tree) as part of our tradition and culture. We normally use “rumê” during our sacred ayahuasca ceremonies, which we call “uni”.

We had bananas, papaya, sugar cane and cassava juice (called “caiçuma”) for breakfast. And meat, if it was left over from dinner the night before. For lunch there is cassava again, with green plantains and plantain porridge. We had meat and fish for dinner.

My favorite time of day in the jungle is late afternoon, sunset, when I take our sacred medicine. They all gather in a large area of ​​open land. At dusk, the birds return to the tacana trees to rest, and the songs of the makukaus birds surround us. It is a very calm time of the day. I miss.

Our land is our home, our friend and comrade. We greatly respect our land and we have the responsibility to take care of it.

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