–Our only written history is that shared with the western world. Our first contact with the white man, the Iaranave, dates back to the end of the 18th century. This relationship lasted two decades. Though eager to trade with the conquistadors at the beginning, we quickly became weary of their desire to evangelize and their lust for gold. We rebelled and retreated into the impregnable mountains at the center of our territory, and established a new trading route to the east with old Dutch Guyana. Between 1914 and 1921, our villages were destroyed and 1000 of our people were murdered and many more enslaved by a Brazilian rubber merchant by the name of Funes. We have been weary of outsiders ever since. -The Ye’kuana
The Yekuana (Yeh-qua-nah) Indians are a very traditional tribe living along the riverbanks in the Amazon rain forest in Venezuela. Some Yekuana go by the tribal name of Maquitare, which was the name given to them by the Spaniards. Traditional villages prefer the name Yekuana. The Yekuana are the tribe described by South Americans as “finished,” meaning that they have an advanced culture. They are very intelligent and amicable. They are known as the best bongo makers, burning the center out of huge trees to make the dugout canoes not only for their own people, but other tribes in the area.
Any Ye’kuana can acquire a certain ritual skill to control evil power, even if it is specific. But the ritual system is dominated by specialists who have command over special powers : the jowai (also known as cadeju), whose principal function is to cure sicknesses. They possess a power which is similar to Wanadi and his brothers, who were the first shamans of the earth. This power is not the same among all shamans, but is stronger in some. Another group of specialists is the “owners” (edamo) of sacred songs (generally known as a´churi or aremi) and are called a’churi edamo or aremi edamo. Both types of specialists are able to perform rituals for good or evil purposes, since Wanadi and Cajushawa come from the same source.
Ye’kuana cosmology has a prophetic dimension that is protagonized by the shamans. Besides knowing the past, the shamans can see the future, the “Ye’kuana promise”. And fate is dramatic: “first the shamans will disappear, then the wise men, then the singers, when the last Ye’kuana dies the earth will burn, the Whites will suffer greatly because they will be many, there will be no more water, the rains will cease to fall.” The Ye’kuana will meet Wanadi; but there is no “salvation” for all in the Ye’kuana “promise”. Thus, shamanism is the main reference point for collective destiny, or in other words, the vision of the Ye’kuana fate is related to shamanic. Practices,
The main festival of the Ye’kuana is the Tanooko, but it hasn’t been celebrated in more than 15 years in Brazil. Generally it took place when the men who had gone to Boa Vista over the rivers with their canoes, returned. These days, only the men from Waikas still make the trips by canoes to the ranches near Boa Vista. In Auaris, from the 1990s on, river transport has intensified.
Two of the men who conducted the Tanooko festival unexpectedly died in the beginning of the ‘90s, one of them because of measles and the other because of a snakebite. No doubt this loss was important for explaining why the festival was no longer held. In any case, the teachers and traditional Ye’kuana leaders intend to show the younger people how the Tanooko festival was done.