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ETHNONYMS: Heruriwa, Hurumi, Imike, Kameheya, Piyoti


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.

History and Cultural Relations

Archaeological data from the area indicate continuous indigenous habitation dating from the fifth century a.d. (Yapura phase pottery). The maloca, or communal roundhouse, has been a key organizational form for biosocial reproduction since prehistoric times. Oral history today includes references to constant wars with the Tukano peoples to the north and northwest of Yukuna territory as well as wars with the Witoto and Mirana peoples toward the southwest. During the Portuguese invasion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the indigenous populations were enslaved in the colonial plantations of Rio Negro. In the seventeenth century the Spanish colonizers forcibly relocated indigenous populations into mission villages, mingling enemy Indians in alien territories. As the colonists extracted spices, furs, and lumber, they imposed slavery and debt peonage on the Indians. According to present-day Yukuna, the most senior-ranking Yukuna were exterminated, and the juniors divided to form the present-day Senior and Junior ranks. During the rubber-boom era in the nineteenth century, the Colombian, Peruvian, and British dealers relocated and tortured the Yukuna, forcing some to migrate to rubber camps near the Colombo-Peruvian border area. There was an active Yukuna resistance, including armed and shamanistic retaliation against the rubber dealers and their armies. Yukuna coresidence with Andoke, Bora, Karihona, and Miranya Indians in the rubber camps of the Miriti area permitted a period of intercultural borrowing.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the genocide and ethnocide perpetrated by the merchant companies that extracted rubber and gum decimated approximately 90 percent of these populations. The system of debt peonage in White-Indian relations prevailed in all the consecutive economic boomsthe extraction of lumber, furs, fish, rubber, cocaine, and, most recently, gold. Nowadays, the majority of the Yukuna are living within resguardo territories, which are officially recognized by the Colombian government as communal Indian lands, and are governed by a cabildo of traditional authorities. In the 1980s the sporadic presence of heavily armed groups of non-Indians involved in illegal activities, as well as the invasion of the gold mines by thousands of Colombian placer miners, has aggravated interethnic tension in these territories. Recent migrations of Yukuna to the mestizo town of La Pedrera or to the city of Leticia, in search of wages and to escape retaliation from conflicts ensuing from the gold rush, have led to the polarization of the Yukuna into traditionalists and antitraditionalists.


Most Yukuna live in dispersed dwellings along the main rivers, either in large malocas or in small, unifamily houses built on stilts. Each maloca is part of a regional network of central and dependent households. Habitation sites are usually near the Río Miriti, but on high terraces, away from the floodplain. Each maloca has a round base, a diameter of about 16 to 20 meters, and a semiconical roof about 20 meters high. Two triangular openingsone in the eastern apex and one in the western apex of the roofpermit ventilation and admit the sun's rays for the reckoning of time.

There are no interior walls or compartments within the maloca, but the symbolism of its interior space is very elaborate. The headman's place is in the west, shamans reside in the intercardinal points of the southern side of the maloca, and single men reside in the eastern side by the main door. The front (eastern) part is male, and the back is female, whereas the southern side is that of kin and the northern side that of allies. A sacred square in the center is reserved for ritual activity. Toward the maloca wall lies the domestic space, where people sleep, cook, and are buried. Between the sacred center and the domestic periphery is a large annular area for public dancing and daily work.

Around each maloca there are the nearby house gardens, and in the jungle are the chagras (garden plots) and the hunting, gathering, and fishing territories. The network of maloca habitats constitutes a regional system of resource management and intergroup alliances. A new maloca is built every decade within the traditional territory of each minimal lineage, where fallowed sites are cyclically reoccupied. At the beginning of the twentieth century as many as 200 people lived under the communal roof of malocas that measured scarcely more than 20 meters wide. In the late twentieth century the maloca is smaller, its permanent residential group consisting of an extended family of a father and his married sons. In monthly gatherings, dances, and rituals, however, it temporarily houses up to 100 individuals. There are a few central malocas, physically larger in size, where the most prestigious rituals take place under the leadership of its senior-ranking headmen.

In the Miriti area the only nucleated center is the area of the mission school. Otherwise, the settlement pattern is usually dispersed. In contrast with the pattern of the Miriti, the Yukuna in the lower Caquetá area cluster in Puerto Córdoba or near the town of La Pedrera. In Puerto Córdoba they live in unifamily houses near a maloca, sharing community life with coresident mestizo fishers. Those in La Pedrera live in mestizo houses as they work for wages. The Yukuna group that is in front of La Pedrera within the Komeyafu Resguardo tends to reside permanently in unifamily houses, occasionally attending rituals in a nearby maloca.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Yukuna traditionally have been slash-and-burn horticulturists, and hunters, gatherers, and fishers within the rainforest. Bitter manioc is the staple crop. During the dry season (November to February) cultivated food is abundant, as well as certain types of fish and hunted animals (tapir, deer, peccaries, monkeys, capybaras, armadillos, etc.), whereas during the wet season (March to October) there is an abundance of wild fruits, and certain wild game are hunted near the fruiting trees or in the flooded forest.

Natural resources are harvested only after a shamanistic consultation on ecological accountability that is made to assess the impact of any human action. Nature is said to be hierarchically organized in dominant biomes and its own maloca networks, where certain masters of habitats "exchange" resources with humans. Shamans intercede "In Thought" to determine the sites, size, and amount of resources extracted. It is believed that only after Nature is "paid" for its labor can the Yukuna transform with their own labor the means of their subsistence (see "Religious Beliefs").

Each woman has three or four chagras or horticultural plots, which are about 2 hectares in size, each of which is in different stages of production. After two years, these sites are relatively fallowed and no longer planted, but certain resources continue to be extracted throughout the years. Around each maloca there are house gardens where planted fruit trees are continually enriched with organic matter, creating nutrient-rich terra preta ("black earth") soils for present and future agricultural use.

Women make manioc flour to sell to local merchants in order to buy cloth, hammocks, sewing machines, sugar, and salt; men sell wood planks and dried or salted meat and fish to the mission schools and to local merchants in La Pedrera in order to buy shotguns, clothes, fishhooks and line, hammocks, gasoline, and alcoholic beveragesor work for short periods in the gold mines at Traira to buy these commodities. Despite the impact of the market economy, most Yukuna ideas about value and exchange revolve around traditional shamanistic concepts, and their subsistence activities are conducted in the context of sexual and alimentary fasting and other shamanistic prescriptions.

Industrial Arts. Yukuna women still make their own pottery for daily and ceremonial use: large griddle plates and various types of clay vessels with caraipe (tree-bark) temper, monochrome slip, and a smoked/smudged vegetable glaze. Men weave baskets for daily use and learn their elaborate symbolism during male initiation rites. Most woodwork is done by the men: oars, canoes, troughs for pounding coca leaves, manguare hollow-tree drums, red and black hardwood staffs and stick rattles, and "thinking" stools. Men also build the monumental maloca in communal work parties that last two weeks. The complex admixtures of different plants' chemical substances to make poisons, dyes, medicine, or food usually require specialized technical procedures that are the legacy of groups of initiated adults. The secret meaning of cultural artifacts is gradually taught along gender lines throughout a person's life cycle.

Trade. Since colonial times many types of Western merchandise have reached the Indians through local non-Indian merchants who hold Indians in patron-client and bond-labor relations. This system of indebtedness-for-life prevails as the main form of trade relations, in which Indians acquire merchandise in an unequal exchange of their labor and natural products. Until recently, trade was done mainly through mission stores or Brazilian boats. Nowadays, many commercial products arrive by air transportation and there is an increased inflow of cash, wages, and merchandise. Indian-run cooperatives were established in the mid-seventies in an attempt to set fair prices for their rubber and lumber products, to regain ethnic pride, and as a means of understanding commercial dealings.

Division of Labor. Women do most of the planting, harvesting, and processing of tubers, as well as the cooking of food and socialization of infants; they occasionally hunt small rodents near or in their chagras and fish with poison in creeks. Men hunt, fish, gather wild fruits, and plant and harvest only the crops of coca, tobacco, pineapple, and certain domesticated palms. In this patrilocal, patrilineal society, men have the prestigious roles of headman, shaman, singer/chanter, and family head, and they preside over major ceremonies in the maloca, but the headman's wife and the older women can make certain privileged female decisions concerning soils, human fertility, and the secret protection of women's power. Women inherit manioc strains and plant seedlings from their mothers and convey horticultural knowledge to their daughters, whereas men transmit among themselves their knowledge concerning their hunting, gathering, and fishing territories as well as of their traditional residence sites. Although women can have more prestigious traditional roles after menopause, they own the knowledge of childbirth and infanticide. Some young women and men work for wages at the mission school or in the town.

Land Tenure. As an ethnic group, the Yukuna traditionally own the area of the Miriti-Paraná and lower Caquetá rivers. According to their oral tradition and historical practice, each maloca section owns a territory in which it rotates residence and subsistence strategies and where its ancestors have been buried. Since 1981 most of these lands have been recognized by the Colombian government as resguardo or collective Indian property, but the subsoil and public waters as well as gold mines and mineral deposits are claimed by the nation. Resguardo lands are communal property and have the characteristics of being inalienable, nontransferable, and unforeclosable.


Kin Groups and Descent. The descent system is patrilineal, and linguistic cultural identity is determined by speaking the father's language. Yukuna marriage alliances are with the Tanimuka (Eastern Tukanoans) or Matapi peoples. The Yukuna are organized into two moieties: the Seniors live in the upper Miriti, whereas the Juniors live downriver. Each lineage and sib, as well as each group of siblings, is ranked hierarchically among Seniors and Juniors. Most marriage alliances must be among partners of similar rank. Minimal lineages live together in a maloca, but close kin tend to reside nearby. By Yukuna laws of primogeniture, only a Senior brother can build a maloca and be a maloca headman. As a corporate group, the headman and his followers reside in a maloca. The headman's brothers usually are the aggressive and defensive shamans, the singer/chanter, and other maloca specialists. On ritual occasions, medium or maximal lineages, as well as allied malocas, meet for ceremonial food exchange or to trade information, dance, and express solidarity. Male secret rituals consolidate male bonding among descent groups and allied maloca units.

Kinship Terminology. Kin terms are of the Dravidian type.

Marriage and Family

Marriage. Yukuna marry the Tanimuka in preferential marriage by either sister exchange, matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, or through bride-service and bride-price transactions (nowadays usually merchandise). Postmarital residence is patrilocal except for a short period of uxorilocal residence at the parents-in-law's maloca. Until the 1960s polygyny was still frequent among prestigious headmen; the Christian missionaries and Colombian law have banned this tradition. Monogamy is the norm nowadays. Divorce is frequent, though it is reduced in the cases of sister exchange where the alliance bond among groups is a double-marriage transaction. Marriage occurs without major ceremony. A man cuts, burns, and clears a plot in the jungle near his maloca of residence, as a sign that he is bringing in a woman as a wife. He asks the future father-in-law for his daughter, and, if there is agreement, she proceeds to live with him. Although a wife initially learns about certain maloca rules and about the work processes in the manioc fields from her mother-in-law, once the wife has borne a child she directs her own horticultural activities. Copulation usually occurs in the manioc fields. Cohabitation is in the peripheral/domestic part of the maloca. The semen from multiple copulations is said to help the fetus grow. A boy's essence is thought to proceed from his father's, whereas a girl's proceeds from her mother's.

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit is the maloca or communal household, comprised of an extended or joint family. As a household and a unit of biosocial production and reproduction, it practices communitarian praxis subsistence in the rain forest. The maloca can either disperse or concentrate great quantities of people according to seasonal fluctuations and depending on labor requirements.

Inheritance. Maloca territories are inherited by patrilineal corporate groups. The right to habitation sites and subsistence territories accompanies the transmission of specialized knowledge about the characteristics of these sites and confers the obligation to conserve them by "paying" the masters of Nature/headmen of these sites. Shamanistic paraphernalia (ceremonial staff and rattle stick, thinking stool, feather crowns, and stones) as well as secret knowledge (e.g., the chants for curing and hunting, the formula of fermented pineapple brew, the technique to make the Yurupari trumpets, details of lineage history and mythology) are transmitted premortem and postmortem between fathers and sons. Women inherit seeds and knowledge about horticulture and birthing from their mothers. Individuals have few belongings, and these are destroyed when a person dies because it is believed these objects were part of unique personal relationships. Nowadays, capitalist items (shotguns, outboard motors) are inherited or disputed among the descendants.

Socialization. Although both women and men raise young children, they are mostly with their mothers until age 4. Children tend to play in peer groups and take care of younger siblings, teaching them games and carrying them on their hips. Children are born in a woman's garden or in the jungle. Postpartum seclusion in a hut outside the maloca is required because female heat is considered polluting. In a week or so, after a shamanic initiation and a curing session for the mother, she and the child are allowed to enter the house. Toddlers are baptized in a collective ceremony in which they are given an ancestor's name. Boys are assigned a godfather (a paternal uncle) and girls a godmother (a maternal aunt), and they are symbolically "introduced" to the shamanistic topography of the jungle and its masters. In this ceremony they are made to taste hiwi (vegetal salt). At puberty boys collectively undergo the first of a series of secret male initiation rituals, during which they are shown the sacred trumpets and learn their meaning. Girls, in turn, are isolated individually during menarche in a hut outside the maloca and are taught by their mothers the secrets of birthing and de-birthing, as well as the sexual and alimentary restrictions that must accompany menstruation.

An extensive corpus of oral traditions, myths, chants, and stories is transmitted through generations and along age and gender ranks. In the communal life of the maloca, the group is socialized to share a common roof, necessitating discreet behavior, solidarity, and respect for hierarchy. The duty to enact contentment and happiness and continually to communicate problems or illnesses to the shaman allows for communal well-being. Many games and stories are taught to children, whereas longer stories and specialized myths are told among adults. Each night, in the center of the maloca, while the rest of the people are lying silently in their hammocks, the elder men smoke tobacco and chew coca as they recount stories and comment on the state of affairs of the maloca, give advice, debate softly, and analyze events from different perspectives. During the day, the children accompany the adults in most chores (except hunting) and actively participate in subsistence activities, many times making miniature replicas of tools to perform small-scale chores. Women breast-feed their infants and, until they reach about age 2, carry them on their hips in bark-cloth slings. When a new child is born, she or he is mainly socialized by older sisters and siblings but remains under the mother's surveillance.

Industriousness is inculcated, as well as generosity. Stinginess and incest are despised, as is gossip that endangers communal life. Aggression, loudness, and overt sexuality are highly discouraged. Since the 1940s many children have been forced to attend missionary boarding schools, undergoing separation from their families and maloca. Spanish is taught in the national curriculum, and children are acculturated to national values. Nowadays the Yukuna are trying to organize their own bilingual schools near their maloca, in an attempt to maintain their own cultural vitality even as they learn the non-Indian Colombian culture. Indian health promoters are seeking to practice both Western and non-Western medicine.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The Yukuna rank their sibs according to the categories of newakana: "important/respectable people" and "common/ordinary people." The common people consist of the Urumi and Matapi, who were considered slaves in the past, as well as the junior members of the Junior lineages and moieties. In the Miriti area the Senior and Junior moieties each have their own riwaka kaneka or captain, and in the lower Caquetá each local community has its elected leader. Each captain must reside in a maloca and must know extensively the group's mythology and tradition. A captain's wife directs the women in large gatherings. Each maloca headman directs its domestic group in semiautonomous fashion, consulting sporadically with its captain only for panregional management. Chiefs and leaders must work in association with two types of shamans: a defensive one who cures and protects the community and an aggressive one (usually the youngest brother of the former) who attacks other communities as he masters death; he legitimates and enforces decisions by the leaders.

Political Organization. As a minimal chiefdom the Yukuna captains are supralocal chiefs to the degree that their arena of control is beyond their local residence or village site. A maloca headman's authority extends only to its corporate local group. The agnatic power structure in a maloca distributes authority among groups of brothers maintaining patrilineage ideology and androcentric authority within domestic groups. Alliances among maloca units and their initiated men are generally determined by the ascribed status of partners, permitting only incremental transformations of the system by individuals who achieve competitively the roles of shaman, headmen, or great men. Nowadays the Yukuna are in government-protected resguardo territories. The Miriti-Paraná Resguardo (created in 1981) has an area of 1,162,500 hectares; in the Caqueta area, the Puerto Córdoba Resguardo (created in 1985) has 39,700 hectares and the Komeyafu Resguardo (created in 1985) has 19,180 hectares. These resguardo territories are governed by annually elected members of a cabildo (with a governor, a treasurer, and a secretary), who legally represent their group before Colombian authorities. Some Indians are seeking to diminish the existing conflict between traditional sociopolitical authorities and the cabildo members by further subdividing the cabildo groups into parcialidad regions that roughly correspond to central maloca units.

Social Control. In prehistoric times, when conflicts over resources could not be resolved between groups, there were wars and raids. Ritual combat with tapir-hide shields and poisoned arrows and spears and human poisoning were common. The captain was said to have great authority and the right to punish infractors with death. Nowadays social control is mainly through shamanistic positive injunctions or sanctions. Public commentary, temporary withdrawal of group collaboration, and the shamans' explanation of the consequences of wrongdoing usually suffice. Small-scale conflict is settled internally by the traditional leaders and/or the cabildo, whereas homicide is usually dealt with in conjunction with Colombian police and officials.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. The maloca is a model of and for the cosmos and of shamanistic geography. Simultaneously, in Yukuna cosmology the universe is composed of layers of griddle plates, which represent maloca units. The universe, composed of superimposed and juxtaposed maloca networks, is inhabited by human and nonhuman forces. The cosmic river, with Sun and Moon (Senior and Junior brothers) surround the universe. The snake/vine of the worlds sustains the fire at the base of the cosmos. A palm tree is the axis mundi. This earth is between the five skies of male Thought in the heavens and two female underworlds. In the apex of the skies resides Tufana/God, whereas the Kaipulakena or the Four Founding Ancestors, the Master of Wild Fruits and Animals, the Master of Cultivated Food, the Master of Chants, the Master of Death, and the spirits of high-flying birds reside in the other skies. In one of the underworlds, certain spirit-forms live hanging upside down and sleeping during the day. In another underworld reside past ethnic groups and the remnants of previous geneses. Namatu, Mother Earth, is the master of the telluric and aquatic forces of the underworld.

This earth is determined by the dynamics between the male Yurupari and female Namatu forces, each of which empowers the respective gender. The utilization of any resource from Nature necessarily entails shamanistic "payment" to Nature for its "labor" by exchanging beings and energy with the master of each biome. Each master of Nature is said to reside in a maloca, with kin plants and animals in a hierarchy of dependence. Human deaths and illnesses are part of the payment to Nature.

The universe is composed of human and nonhuman peoples, who are sentient beings in many spatiotemporal levels. An exiled and distant God resides in the apex of the skies. The Four Brothers or Founding Ancestors reside in the highest sky, isolated under an airless crystal abode. Otherwise, many active supernatural beings reside in the rest of the skies, which, with the telluric female forces, continually interact with humans. Mystic ancestors that constitute constellations, stars, the Milky Way, Venus, or the rainbow are said to exert desirable seasonal changes on the environment when shamans solicit them or their masters. Sun is a great Seer that guides initiated men, and Moon is an ally of jaguar-man shamans and of menstruating women. On the earth Nature is a supracultural realm of animal and plant "peoples" who exchange resources with humans. Many animals (e.g., jaguars, dolphins, and nutrias) that are considered lineage ancestors from mythic times are tabooed and not eaten. Only shamans and initiated adults understand and see the supernatural. A jaguarman can travel in Thought through tobacco smoke, water and air currents, and between and among the levels of the universe by changing into different animal predators, according to the biome he traverses in Thought.

Religious Practitioners. There are two types of shamans: the marichu (jaguar-man, "he who Sees"), who can divine the future through his great knowledge of social history and of the natural environment and who directs the sacred ceremonies, and the lawichurau (curer), the shaman who merely "cures people and food," prescribes good conduct, and counsels his local group on short-term activities. The singer/dancer/chanter leads the musical performances in all rituals, "directing the energy of the community with heavenly forces."

Ceremonies. Throughout the yearly cycle there are more than twenty collective rituals in the main malocas, where hundreds of people meet temporarily to dance and exchange information while the host shamans "think ahead to see how the people will live in the next season." An elaborate calendar of ceremonies begins at the September equinox, with the appearance of the Caterpillar (Corona Australie) and Cicada constellations and the setting of the Anaconda (Scorpio) at the beginning of the dry season. An earth-drum ritual, which is performed to cure the oncoming cultivated food, initiates the time for clearing the jungle and building new houses and fields. During September and October many dances and chants with fermented pineapple take place to celebrate the abundance of food and fish of the season, and from November to December households meet for two days and nights to dance the peach-palm (Bactris gasipaes ) ritual, in which dozens of masked men in bark-cloth costumes ritually sing and theatrically represent the animals with whom they share the fruit.

During the March Equinox, when the stars of Egret's Neck (Pleiades) and the Tapir's Jaw (Hyades) set and the wet season is beginning, the male initiation rituals of Yurupari take place. As a symbolic severance from women is stated and young boys and men are taught to "see beyond the eyes" and know the symbolism of their material culture and the rules of their social structures, they sound the sacred trumpets. The women are forbidden to see the trumpets, although myths state that women were their primal owners in matriarchal-origin times.

Throughout the wet season the jungle is flooded and many ceremonies with wild fruits and seeds take place as the masters of these fruits and of certain animals that are hunted or fished are "paid." In turn, an individual's life cycle is usually marked by rites of passage at birth, puberty, and death involving shamanistic intercession accompanied by strict avoidance of sexual contact and certain alimentary restrictions (against fat, sugar, and salt). Many individual crises are managed in private ceremonies that are mediated by the shamans, who publicly explain the diagnosis, usually making reference to a human infraction of the limits of a certain biome or an enemy group's shamanistic attack. Each time a new maloca is built, there are ceremonies to cool the ground against gossip, envy, and conflict and to consult the willingness of the ancestors and certain beneficent forces. In an inauguration feast guests are asked to test the physical strength of its architectural frame and to dance happily while shamans think ahead for six or eight years to see the future communal life.

Arts. Except for a few Western items, most objects are made by the Yukuna. The knowledge for construction of the maloca and for the production of material artifacts is transmitted by oral memory and encoded mnemotechnically in the parts and processes of the items. An encyclopedic corpus of myths, chants, songs, and formulas requires a special discipline that takes place formally and informally. Theatrical performance, in arenas such as the peach-palm ritual, enacts dramatically and ironically the main social tensions and includes songs to the animal people, permitting group catharsis and solidarity. Body paint, masks, and the decoration of objects encode icons of cultural identity. Many of the new iconic elements of the material culture are seen in dreams before they are manufactured.

Medicine. Illness is said to be caused and cured through Thought. Almost no medicinal plants are used in shamanistic therapeutics. Unlike the Tukanoans, the Yukuna do not use the hallucinatory yajé, although large doses of tobacco, smoked or snuffed, and of coca and certain incense fumes may cause altered awareness. Shamans cure by thinking about the causes of an illness and interpreting socially the cause of individual suffering. To remember his view of the patient's ailment, a shaman records them in his own body as muscular twitches. To identify the origin of an illness or the place where the patient's Thought is hidden, the shamans expand corporeal problems into the cosmic topography. Shamans blow and suck the patient's body in search of signs of supernatural intrusions. Sexual and alimentary restrictions usually apply after a diagnosis. Nowadays a distinction is made between Indian and Western sicknesses, and Western medication is sought for the latter.

Death and Afterlife. Death after an illness is caused by another shaman's attack (through Thought or by poison-ing), by a Western sickness, or by the theft of a person's mind by an aggrieved master of Nature who took it as compensation for a debt the person had incurred with him when using natural resources. Dead people's bodies decompose in the Earth Mother and their spirit travels in the cosmic river to reach the sky of the dead. In the maloca of the dead, it receives all the personal belongings that were burned or thrown away during the funeral. If not found guilty of incest by the Master of Death, the spirit is placed under an overturned pot. If the death of a person is caused by the loss of his or her Thought to Nature, part of the deceased becomes a vital force for the "people" of Nature. The Yukuna are buried underneath the place where they slung their hammocks and slept, in a tomb with a lateral shaft. The body is wrapped in a hammock, placed facing east. After about a year, a ceremony to end mourning is held, and it is forbidden to be sad hence. If the maloca headman dies, the maloca is abandoned.


Jacopin, Pierre-Yves. (1981) La parole generative de la mythologie des indiens yukuna. Neuchâtel: Université de Neuchâtel; P. Lepettit-Tremblay.

Reichel de von Hildebrand, Elizabeth (1987). "Astronomía yukuna-matapi." In Etnoastronomías americanas, edited by Jorge Arias and Elizabeth Reichel de von Hildebrand. Bogatá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

von Hildebrand, Martin, and Elizabeth Reichel de von Hildebrand (1987). "Grupos étnicos del area del bajo Río Caquetá y Apaporis." In Introducción a Colombia amerindia, edited by François Correa and Ximena Pachón. Bogatá: Instituto Colombiano de Antropología.