Yukpa - Orientation

Identification. The autodenomination "Yukpa" (or, depending on dialect, "Yupa" or "Yu'pa") means "tame people," which contrasts with "Yuko" (enemy or wild person), the name used by Yukpa in Venezuela for their culturally and linguistically related neighbors in Colombia. Yukpa subtribes include Irapa, Macoas, Tukukos, Pariri, Sapriria, Rionegrinos, Shaparu, Viakshi, and Wasama. Subtribal names refer to geographical features of the separate river valley locations or to founding ancestors. Those who are not Indians (foreigners, Spaniards, criollos) are called "Watia."

Location. The Yukpa Indians currently inhabit the mountains forming the natural border between Venezuela and Colombia. Within these mountains, three parallel ranges of a north-northeast to south-southwest direction can be distinguished: La Serranía de los Motilones, La Serranía de Valledupar, and the Sierra de Perija. The present Yukpa habitat extends from the northern section of the Serranía de los Motilones, through all of the Sierra de Perija and into the northern portion of the Serranía de Valledupar. The coordinates of their territory are 9°45′ and 11°N and 72o40′ and 73°10′ W.

Demography. Preliminary analysis of the 1982 Yukpa census indicates a total population of 3,408, which includes 1,749 males (51 percent) and 1,659 females (49 percent). A total of forty-nine communities or settlements were identified, ranging in size from a few households to as many as 500 residents. The exact size and demographic characteristics of precontact Yukpa society are unknown.

Linguistic Affiliation. Yukpan belongs to the Carib Language Family. Various dialects of Yukpan are spoken. Dialects of the most geographically distant subtribes are almost mutually unintelligible.

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