Yukuna - Orientation

Identification. The name "Yukuna" does not correspond to indigenous self-identity. It is a name imposed by White colonizers almost two centuries ago, derived from the word yuko, meaning "storytellers." The Yukuna refer to themselves as "Pig people," "Grass people," or "Snake people," according to different sibs, each of which claims certain ancestors, a site of origin in the upper Río Miriti area, a specific territory, and specialized shamanistic knowledge of that territory's historical and natural characteristics. In the twentieth century the Yukuna have "adopted" the Matapi (Upichia), whose mythic site of origin is in the upper Yapiya and Guacaya river regions. Today, because of Yukuna territorial proximity and marriage alliances with the Matapi and Tanimuka (Ufaina), common cultural traits are shared by all these groups.

Location. The traditional territory of reference of the Yukuna is the Miriti-Paraná and lower Caquetá river region, approximately between 70°31′ and 71°31′ W and 0°45′ and 1° S, within the present-day Comisaría Especial del Amazonas in Colombia.

Demography. In 1989 the Yukuna population was approximately 1,000 and there were only 90 Matapi. The Yukuna numbered more than 15,000 at the beginning of this century but were nearly exterminated during the rubber-boom era.

Linguistic Affiliation. Yukuna belongs to the Arawak Language Family. The Matapi were Eastern Tukano speakers but now speak Yukuna Arawak.

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