Awá Kwaiker - Orientation

Identification The name "Kwaiker" was imposed by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, who named the group for the river where they were discovered. They call themselves "Awá," which means "people." They may further identify themselves as "Inkal," which means "mountain" or "jungle" (i.e., "mountain people"), thus differentiating themselves from the Blacks of the coast, "Ijakta Awá," and Whites, "Wisha Awá." Since the name "Awá" has only recently been introduced, both names are used to avoid confusion. Some people, however, following Spanish spelling, use "Cuaiquer" instead of "Kwaiker."

Location. The Awá Kwaiker occupy an area in the extreme southwest of Colombia and the northwest of Ecuador between 0.45° and 1.20° N and 77.45° and 78.30° W. They live in a tropical-rain-forest climate at an elevation of between 500 and 1,500 meters in an area of steep, eroded hills.

Demography. In 1989 the Awá Kwaiker population was estimated at 7,000, of whom 5,000 live in Colombia and 2,000 in Ecuador.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Awá Kwaiker language belongs to the Barbacoa Subgroup of the Chibcha Family. This language is related to all native languages of the Pacific coast from Ecuador to Guatemala.

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