Archiver > MEXICAN-INDIAN > 2006-03 > 1142137257

From: Dani Brown <>
Subject: Wayana-Aparai Indians
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2006 20:20:57 -0800 (PST)

Wayana-Aparai Indians

Area: north of Pará, Brazil, French Guiana and Surinam

Other Names: Apalai; Uaiana

Population: 1,600 inhabitants (Brazil, 415; Surinam,
400, French Guiana, 800)

Language Root: Karib

First Contact: 1730 (Orokoyennes)

Economy: Agriculture and Artisan works

Today: Attempting to integrate into Brazilian economic

According to the historical sources and their own
reports, the Aparai and Wayana have distinct origins.
The Aparai come from the south bank of the Amazon
River, having migrated to the region of the lower and
middle courses of the Curuá, Maicuru, Jari and East
Paru rivers, and from there to the area they presently
inhabit. The Wayana, in turn, have inhabited for a
long time the region of the upper and middle course of
the East Paru River, its tributary the Citaré, the
upper Jarí River, besides the Litani, Paloemeu rivers
and tributaries. Today, the Aparai and Wayana are
distributed in three territorial groups defined by the
coordinates of the East Paru River, in Brazil; the
Marouni River, in French Guiana; and the Tapanahoni
River in Surinam. While the great majority of the
Aparai is found in Brazilian territory, the Wayana are
also distributed in villages in French Guiana and
Surinam. This distribution into three distinct
territorial groups is the result of their long history
of contact with non-Indians, marked by migrations,
processes of fission and fusion with other indigenous
peoples. In any case, spatial distance does not
represent an obstacle to the interaction among these
territorial groups, which takes place, basically,
through kinship ties and formal trade partnerships

Like most of the other indigenous groups of the region
of the Guianas, the Aparai and the Wayana have a
subsistence economy, based on hunting, fishing,
gathering and cultivation of fruits and root crops.
These economic activities are defined by two seasons
that divide the year throughout the northern region of
the country: "summer", or the dry season, which covers
approximately the period between the months of July to
December; and "winter", the rainy season, between
January and July. This annual cycle guides not only
the calendar of activities – particularly the
clearing, felling, cleaning, burning, planting and
harvesting of the gardens –, but also the appearance
of animal, fish, and fruits species available and,
consequently, the food diet of the Aparai and Wayana.

Generally speaking, in the "winter", during the rains,
the consumption of root crops is reduced so as not to
produce a shortage for the rest of the year, until a
new harvest is made. Fishing diminishes with the level
of the rivers and streams, and, in counterpart,
hunting is given greater emphasis with the emergence
of small islands along the river, where animals are
forced to stay. In the "summer", in turn, most of the
time is used for preparing the earth to plant the
gardens, this also being a period which is quite good
for fishing, given the concentration of fish in the
lakes and small water courses.

The tasks are organized according to a rigid sexual
division of labor. It is up to the men to hunt, fish,
clear gardens (felling the trees, burning and
cleaning) and make new settlements, build houses, and
also produce all of the woven domestic utensils (fans,
baskets and recipients, manioc squeezers, etc.). The
women are responsible for fetching water and taking
care of the fire, the preparation of food, the
processing of root crops (producing manioc flour,
bread and, above all, beverages (fermented), and all
production of ceramics (pots and ovens to toast manioc
bread and manioc flour) and weaving of cotton
(hammocks, straps, etc.). Both sexes participate in
gathering, planting and harvesting of the garden
products, and the great fishing expeditions using
timbó poison held during the dry season.

In the gardens various species of root crops are
cultivated (more than 30 species of manioc, cassava,
sweet potatoes, yams, etc.), sugarcane, fruits
(bananas, watermelons, pumpkin, mango, maracujá,
cherimoya, orange and lime), cotton, urucum dye and
genipap. Several types of fruits are planted around
the villages. Throughout the year, expeditions are
made into the forest for hunting and gathering.
Through hunting, the Aparai and Wayana add to their
diet: tapirs, deer, rodents (paca and cutia, for
example), monkeys (cuatá and guariba among others),
wild pigs (peccary and boar), birds (curassow,
jacamim, toucan), alligator and lizards etc. The
techniques used depend on the species of animal being
hunted and the time of the year. Fishing is also
characterized by a diversity of fish caught and
techniques used: tucunaré, surubim, pacu and piranha
are some of the species obtained in the region. The
predominant technique is with industrialized hook and
line, but also “thresher” nets are used (above all,
during the time of the rains), bow and arrow and tmbó
plant poison (in the dry season).

Between 1977 and 1990, there was a great increase in
the production and commercialization of Aparai and
Wayana artwork, which has been supported since then by
the FUNAI and its Artíndia Program. From 1997 on, the
Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Tumucumaque
(APITU) initiated the Tykasahmo Project for
encouraging the production and commercialization of
Aparai and Wayana artwork, with financing from the
Demonstrative Projects Subprogram (PD/A-PPG7), and the
installation of three new ‘canteens’ for buying and
selling in the villages.

Text from © Instituto Socioambiental. You can find
their web site here:


Two separate tribes that are joined together
culturally and geographically. They are of the same
language root and the two dialects are very similar.
The fusion took place due to intermarriage and
geographical proximity. The ceremony "Marake" is the
most important part of this group's life. One will see
about eight of these festivals in a lifetime. They use
tall masks representing "Orok", a mystical bird in the
creation explanation. The ceremony finishes with the
application of the "kunana", three mystical figures
filled with Tucandeira ants and placed on the chest of
the boy or girl entering adulthood. The participants
are stung by as many as fifty ants at once but must
remain rigid. These Tucandeira ants are aggressive and
their sting is excruciatingly painful. This clearly
severs the bond of childhood and from then on they
live only in the world of the adult responsibility.

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