Yawanawá community

All images: @maiharamarjorie

Goal 13: Climate Action

the Yawanawá – a cultural history

For thousands of years the Yawanawá have thrived in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, despite outside threats. Here we trace their powerful heritage

By EMMA ELMS
23 SEPTEMBER 2021

Over time, life has evolved for the Yawanawá, with the arrival of ethno-tourism as well as legal threats to their land from their own government. Today their mission is to continue to protect their community’s cultural heritage and their precious rainforest, as well as celebrate how their philosophy has moved with the times – for instance, now women have a more powerful, equal voice within the community. Here we chart the fascinating history of the Yawanawá, known as ‘the people of the wild boar’, who live in the Indigenous Land of Rio Gregório in the state of Acre, deep in the Brazilian Amazon.

Pre-16th century

The Yawanawá live in harmony with the forest for thousands of years. 

Man on boat with ácaí palm tree branches

16th century 

The Yawanawá’s first contact with Western Society takes place under the leadership of their ancestor Antonio Luí’s Pekuti. It is a period marked by atrocities against their people, including enslavement by rubber barons.

1960s

The missionaries of the New Tribes Mission of Brazil (MTB) come to try and ‘evangelise’ the Yawanawá community and introduce new Western customs. 

1983

The ancestral land of the Yawanawá community is legally marked out by the Brazilian government, with an area of 92,860 hectares. 

1993

As part of a major, ongoing partnership with AVEDA, the Yawanawá plant a large crop of annatto seeds for the company to use in its cosmetics.

Yawanawá community member in the rainforest

2001 

All the Yawanawá people gather for the first weeklong festival called YAWA, a celebration of singing, dancing, art and cultural expression.

2003

Concerned about the threat of a new road due to cross through the state of Acre in the southwest Brazilian Amazon, the Yawanawá prepare to fight to revise the boundaries of their land.

Yawanawá young girl with our Yawa Bands

2004

They produce a documentary film called ‘YAWA – History of the Yawanawá People’ expressing their art, culture and spirituality.

2007

Joaquin Phoenix is filmed visiting the Yawanawá community in the rainforest for a reality TV series called 4REAL, which is shown in 166 countries.

2008

The limit on the Yawanawá community’s land is officially reviewed and their territory doubles in size.

Yawanawá community member climbs an ácaí palm tree

2011

They trial ‘ethno-tourism’ for the first time with 15 English visitors arriving, which is deemed a big success.

2016

The Yawanawá Life Plan is introduced, presenting a detailed vision of the future for the next generation.

2021

The Brazilian government introduces a bill PL 490/2007, which threatens to strip over 300 Indigenous communities of their precious land rights.

2021

The Yawa #TOGETHER partnership with #TOGETHERBAND launches and the Yawa Band is born!

Two Yawanawá community members create our Yawa Bands

Our Yawa #TOGETHER Kickstarter is now LIVE! Click here to help preserve the culture of the Yawanawá and the Amazon rainforest by pledging support for our campaign. We have collaborated with the Yawanawá to make Yawa Bands in the heart of the rainforest, created from ácaí seed waste and Parley Ocean Plastic®️, each featuring a single Humanium Metal bead, made from melted down seized illegal firearms. 

Meet the Yawanawá: 'Nature Is Like Our Family – It's Part Of Us'

From Seed To Bead: How The Yawanawá Make Our Bands

Indigenous Peoples: Guardians Of The Forest