Ticuna - History and Cultural Relations

According to their creation myth, the Ticuna originated in the Eware ravine, near the Colombian-Brazilian border. Formerly the left bank of the Amazon, as well as its islands, were occupied by the Omagua, who were the enemies of the Ticuna. The banks of the Río Putumayo were inhabited by Arawak, Mariaté, Yumana, and Pasé Indians, who had become almost completely extinct by the middle of the ninteenth century. To the west of the Ticuna lived the Peba and the Yagua; the latter are still their neighbors. When the Europeans arrived in the area, the Omagua were decimated by wars between Portuguese and Spanish missionaries and by epidemics. The population of the Mayoróna also decreased. This enabled the Ticuna to expand their territory toward that of the Omagua and Mayoróna. Between 1864 and 1870 Brazil was at war with Paraguay; the involvement of the Ticuna in this war led to a decrease in their population. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, intensive rubber tapping was instigated, with natives as the main source of labor. Of the Ticuna, the most seriously affected were those living on Brazilian soil; they were forcibly relocated. Former rubber tappers are now the owners of the land and the Ticuna's "bosses," a situation that has generated still-unresolved conflicts. In 1932 a war between Colombia and Peru erupted, causing the Ticuna to emigrate from the left to the right bank of the Amazon. In the 1940s farmers and city dwellers began to colonize the Amazon Trapeze. A significant development of the 1950s was a bonanza in the export of hides and animals; the physical presence of the church was also affirmed by the Apostolic Prefecture of Leticia. Besides preaching, the church began to build schools in the area in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s and is still in charge of the education that is imparted to the Indians. In the 1970s there were two important trends that affected the Ticuna of Brazil as well as those of Colombia: a considerable population increase and the concentration of people in villages all along the Amazon. In the 1980s an incipient messianic movement, founded and propagated by Brother José Francisco da Cruz, involved almost the entire Ticuna population in Brazil and Peru and, to a lesser degree, of Colombia.

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