Yaguas

The Yaguas indigenous group live in the Amazon regions of Colombia, Brazil and Peru. There are approximately 300 of them in Colombia, and they live on two reservations -- Santa Sofia and El Progreso. They do not call themselves Yaguas, but rather Nihamwo -- which means 'the people'.

The typical attire of the Yaguas is made of palm fiber and looks like a grass skirt. In fact, when the Spanish first came across the Yaguas, they saw people wearing grass skirts and carrying blowguns in the trees lining the Amazon river. Because they wore skirts, they assumed that they were women and named the river Amazon after the mythical Greek women warriors.

The Yaguas live in houses with large family groups (usually consisting of up to 10 families). The large home has 2 doors and a conical shaped roof covered in palm leaves. Inside, the home is sparse with many hammocks hung from the roof supports. In addition to the homes, villages will have several small huts that serve as kitchens.

In the 1930's, their population was decimated by a measles epidemic where as many at 1/3 of the population died.

The Yaguas are hunter gatherers. Their main weapon is the curare blowgun. This weapon has an interesting legend associated with it:

One day, a grandmother was in the forest weeding her garden. When she returned to her village, she found that enemy Indians had killed everyone and destroyed the village. As she wandered about the ruins, she found two small children, twins, still alive. She took them in and decided to raise them. Their names were Nandu and Mena.

The children grew up miraculously in a few days, and wanted to avenge their parents and the village. The grandmother taught them about the blowgun, and they made their own. Then, they stole the curare darts from their scorpion caretakers.


Once armed, they returned to their birthplace, where they were met by the spirit of their father who had returned to Earth. Their father was playing a flute that had amazing powers -- those who listened became paralyzed. The two stole the flute, and learned to play it without succumbing to its power.


With their new weapons in hand, the two united the Yaguas into clans and formed and army. The army then marched against the enemy Indians. Then, Nandu turned himself into a bird and flew into the village, thus attracting the attention of all the inhabitants. Once, they had gathered to observe the bird, Mena blew the flute paralyzing all of their enemies at once. Then, the clan warriors entered the village and killed off the helpless enemy.

The twins organize a party to celebrate their victory. Masato (a fermented drink made from yucca) is served. With the warriors all drunk, the twins' father's spirit returned to Earth and reclaimed his stolen flute.

Photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/celineo/549676816/sizes/o/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chanycrystal/277626621/

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