Ka'wiari - Orientation



Identification. The listed ethnonyms are generalized names given the Ka'wiari by Whites. Although there is no translation for it in their own language, "Ka'wiari" is the name by which they refer to themselves. In the language of their Taiwano neighbors, however, a possibly pejorative translation designates them "children of the crab." Apart from using the generic "our people" ("Ichumari"), the Ka'wiari use the ritual name "people of the anaconda A'sha," stemming from the belief that they are descendants of the water snake. The social identifiction of an individual is established by the adscription of mythical descent from a clan, the name of which is used as an eponym. The toponym of the clan ancestor's place of origin could also be used to designate a social group sharing this filiation. Every individual has a ritual name and a nickname. Ritual names are inherited every fourth generation and are secret.


Location. In the region of the Colombian Vaupés, the Ka'wiari live along the Río Cananari (an affluent of the Río Apaporis), as well as near its mouth—that is, at approximately 1o N and 71° W. There are also some members of the group scattered along the Río Miriti-Paraná, a tributary of the Rio Caqueta, in the territory of the Yucuna. According to the Köppen system, this area has an Af climate. It is characterized by humid tropical forest with abundant rainfall (350 centimeters annually) and a relatively high temperature (26° C). Rains decrease somewhat in the dry seasons from December to February and from July to August.

Demography. In 1976 the Ka'wiari population was estimated to be approximately 100 individuals, exclusive of the small segments on the Miriti-Paraná, who moved there in former times.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Ka'wiari speak a language of Arawakan affiliation, that is, a variety of Eastern Proto-Newiki (Waltz and Wheeler 1972). In contrast to various neighboring groups that are multilingual, the Ka'wiari speak only their own language.


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