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Enawene @ Enawene-Nawe Tribe

The roots..

The Enawene-Nawe live in a region undergoing a process of change, between the plains and the rainforest, occupying an area of about 740,000 hectares, situated in the river Juruena valley, a tributary of the river Tapajos in the north-west of the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil. They belong to the Aruak linguistic family.
In 1974 an expedition, under the leadership of the Jesuit, Thomaz de Aquino Lisboa, made the first contact with an isolated group. At that time the tribe consisted of 97 people. Up until 1983 the tribe was called Saluma’.
During the nineteen eighties, initally OPAN, a nongovernmental organisation from Cuiaba, looked after the “Indios”, together with a Spanish priest, Vicente Canas, who was killed by large estate owners in 1987.
In 1998 a road was built in the southern part of the indigenous Enawene-Nawe area by an invading group of farmers. At the same time the natives were given motor boats, that gradually replaced by canoes with paddles and the nearby towns became quicker to reach.
In 1996 the tribe counted 260 members, in 2006 the namer increased to 435 and in 2011 a population explosion of 600 members was registered.
In the past the “Indios” lived in an area to the north of the present settlement. Continued attacks by the Rikbaktsa and Cinta-Larga tribes forced them to migrate further south each time, until they reached the river Ique where they now live in an “aldeia” (village) built about 6 years ago.
They now live under a new threat, the building of many hydroelectric power plants on the rivers that cross their territory.
Because of the lack of fish, since 2009 the Enawene-Nawe have had great difficulty in carrying out their “Yakwa” ceremony, a symbolic exchange of food between humans and the Spirits, that lasts about four months.
The exchange begins with very articulate ceremonies, when the men and the boys come back to the village from the fish camps. The “Indios” wear feathered headdresses and special costumes. The men play flutes to accompany the songs and dances that take place round the fire in the central square in the village.
The collection of honey is celebrated in the “Keteoko”, or honey festival, which is carried out when the men find it in large quantities.

The “Yakwa” has been recognised as a national cultural heritage of the country by the brasilian Minister for Culture, but this has not been enough to avoid the fact that the 70 proposed dams along the river Juruena basin are destroying the fishing resources.
The Enawene-Nawe have carried out numerous campaigns to try and halt their construction and have made contact with the government to explain their situation.