The Yawanawá

Guardians of the Rio Gregorio terroritories in Acre, Brazil

A Connection To Past and Future

The Yawanawá are a bridge between the past and the future of the Amazon rainforest. They live on the Gregorio River in the State of Acre, Brazil, on lands that their ancestors have called home for eons. Theirs is a story of connection to their land, their traditions, and a commitment to passing that connection to the next generations of the Yawanawá.

Protecting Indigenous Rights

Having endured slavery during the sixteenth century, and the suppression of their traditional practices during the times of missionaries, the Yawanawá chose to restore their traditional lands and their way of life. In 1982, the Yawanawa expelled all non-Indigenous people from their territory. In 1983, the Indigenous Lands of the Gregorio River was demarcated, the first Indigenous lands to be demarcated in the State of Acre. Thus began a journey of establishing partnerships with governmental, non-governmental, not-for-profit, and private organizations to execute long-term, collaborative planning with their partners in a way that is Yawanawá-led and does not interfere with their traditional way of life.

Empowering Female Leadership

The Yawanawá have 9 villages within the territory. The village of Mutum is unique in the history of the Yawanwá, as it is the first village to be led by a woman – Chief Naiweni Yawanawá. Chief Naiweni was chosen by her father Tuikuru, the great leader of the Yawanawa, and took her place as the Chief of the village of Mutum after his passing. She has been in her leadership role for over 25 years and became the first woman Chief of her people.  She is a well-respected authority figure in her village and she has won the hearts of many, young and old, due to the great generosity of heart.  She has also served as a powerful role model for the next generation of Yawanawá women, encouraging them to step into their power and to rebalance the feminine and masculine energies in her community.

Preserving Traditional Knowledge

The Yawanawá have a deep traditional knowledge of the forest, its plants, and healing properties. They have always passed this knowledge from one generation to the next through their oral tradition.  The Yawanawá are at risk of losing their traditional knowledge due to the rapid deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. The impact of colonization, including being forbidden from teaching their language and culture, has created a generational gap in passing this knowledge from one generation to the next. The elders of the villages, the last keepers of their traditional knowledge, are dying before they can pass it on to the new generations.

The Nipei Garden Of Medicines

The Yawanawá people are strengthening their traditional knowledge and experience in maintaining the health of their people and their land. The Nipei Garden of Medicines is contributing to this effort. “Nipei” is the Yawanawá word for the Rainforest’s healing plants. The project gathers the traditional healing plants of the forest into one accessible garden. This garden provides a learning center where the few remaining elders work with the new generation of students, teaching about the healing plants and traditional treatments.