Macuna - Orientation

Identification. The name "Macuna" is of foreign, probably Geral, origin. As used in the ethnographic literature it refers to a speech community, composed of two exogamous, intermarrying sets of clans (sibs). The Macuna generally use clan names to identify themselves.

Location. The Macuna are a tropical-forest people of the northwestern Amazon. They occupy their traditional territory around the confluence of the Pirá-Paraná and Apaporis rivers in the Colombian Vaupés region. The area is roughly from 0.5° N to 0.5° S and from 70° to 70.5° W.

Demography. There are no reliable census data for the entire Macuna population. In 1973 it was estimated as comprising about 400 individuals. On the basis of a partial census in 1989, the present population is thought to include some 600 individuals. Despite the considerable increase, the Macuna hold that the population was much bigger in the past.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Macuna speak a language belonging to the Eastern Tucanoan Language Family. It is said that in the past the different clans now forming the Macuna speech community spoke different languages (dialects). There are still slight dialectal variations among the clans. An adult Macuna normally speaks the languages of several neighboring groups (e.g., Barasana, Tuyuca, Tucano).

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