Amazon Rainforest Indigenous Tribes

Amazon Tribe
Photo ChancyCrystal

There are hundreds of indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest. The indigenous groups in all of South America have disappeared or been torn apart by the colonization process, disease, alcohol, forced labor and war. For long period of time the Amazon rainforest was a giant refugee for the indigenous population. This happened because the lack of a clear economic potential to be exploited by the colonizers. So the rain forest remained almost untouched by the western culture until the first half of last century. That’s why you still find many indigenous Amazon rainforest tribes in the region, many of them already being under stress from legal (agriculture and cattle) and illegal activities (drug dealers, some wood cutters, some miners and biological traffickers).

There are still over 200 indigenous groups in the Amazon Rainforest , talking 180 different languages and each with their own cultural heritage. If you narrow your view to language families you will still find 30 different language families in the Amazon rainforest. This shows that like the flora and fauna , the cultural diversity in the region is also very high, making it an even more interesting and rich place.

The Kuarup is the biggest indigenous festival and it has being happening annually in July or August for centuries. The Kuarup festival brings many different tribes together to celebrate and honor their dead. Although the motivation is not the most cheerful one the festivities are happy and very enjoyable for outsiders. It’s a huge demonstration of indigenous dance, music, rituals , games and food. Nowadays the Kuarup can be seen by the outsiders on some occasions, not always, as it depends on the mood and willingness of the tribe leaders.

There are at least 50 groups that still don’t have regular contact with the outsides and keep away from them. The Brazilian government policy towards these groups is to leave them alone, as they wish. Not very much is known about these groups as they keep going deeper and deeper into the forest as the outsiders get closer to where they live. To stop the constant migration of tribes it has been suggested that an Indigenous Protected Area be setup so they can stop running away into the most remote places of the forest.

Another interesting fact and a hope about the indigenous population is that their numbers are increasing. This means that, after 5 centuries being destroyed, they are actually being able to live and grow in their demarcated lands. This is hope for their cultures and way of life.

Since there are different kinds of indigenous, there are also different forms of organization. Some groups are nomads and they don’t settle in a place for long periods, exchanging locations every now and then. There are others that settle in a tribe and live in the same place for centuries. The size of the groups are also very different, you can find groups with as few individuals as 200 and other with 30000.

In northwest of the Amazon rainforest there are 22 different ethnic groups in an area that is located in Brazil , Colombia and Venezuela . These 22 different indigenous groups (Baniwa, Kuripako, Dow, Hupda, Nadöb, Yuhupde, Baré, Warekena, Arapaso, Bará, Barasana, Desana, Karapanã, Kubeo, Makuna, Mirity-tapuya, Pira-tapuya, Siriano, Tariana, Tukano, Tuyuca, Wanana, Tatuyo, Taiwano, Yuruti, Kakwa and Nukak) each speak their own language, which comes from 3 different language familys. Although the languages differ, they all interact with each other in a large net of marriages, festivities, rituals and commerce. The total population of these groups reaches 65,000 individuals.

Another important “large”group is located in the Alto Xingu region in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. There are 14 ethnic groups (Aweti, Kalapalo, Kamaiurá , Kuikuro, Matipu, Mehinako, Nahukuá, Trumai, Wauja, Yawalapiti, Ikpeng , Kaiabi , Suyá and Yudja ) in the area. The first 10 ethnic groups, like the ones in the northweastern Amazon, have different languages but share the same rivers, have culture similarities and participate in a net of marriages, festivities, rituals and commerce. The last 4 groups are very different and don’t have as much contact with the others, although there is still some exchange of cultural aspects. There are other large groups in the Amazon rainforest region plus the 50 groups that don’t have regular contact with outsiders and although the indigenous population is growing again they are still in danger.