The Yucuna Indians

The Yucuna (or Yukuna) are a group of Indians speaking normally within their family the Yucuna, an Arawakan language (Schauer Schauer and 1975; 1978; 2000; 2005; Fontaine 2003; 2008b ). These natives are distinguished into five exogamous patrilineal descent groups (Schackt, 1989-1990, 1990, 2013). The first group considers itself as the "True Yucuna" (Yucuna propio in spanish): in Yucuna, they are called Kamejeya (their ethnonym) whose anscestors are at the origin of the contemporary Yucuna language.

In contrast to these Yucuna "legitimate", three other indigenous groups call themselves as Yucuna (as surname), but they each have their own ethnonym: these are Je'rúriwa, Jimíke'pi and Jurumi. Finally, another group chose to be called Matapi, but in Yucuna, they are called as Jupichiya (or Upichiya). These four last groups once had spoken other languages than the Yucuna language, however they were almost decimated during inter- and intra-tribal wars.  After all they speak the language of their Kamejeya brothers-in-law (Fontaine 2008a: 85-86). The Tanimuca and Letuama neighbors (whose common language is of Tucanoan family) often speak the Yucuna language, and share very similar culture to that of the Yucuna for their privileged exogamous relationships with them (Jacopin 1977: 109 -110; 1981: 37).

The Yucuna indians currently live on the banks of the lower half of Mirití-Parana River and lower Caqueta (near the village of La Pedrera, Colombia). Their current population is about a thousand individuals. Like most Amazonian Indians, they founded their subsistence on horticulture, hunting, fishing and gathering. The women grow tubers (bitter and sweet cassava, taro, yam, sweet potato), prepare food and make pottery. The men hunt, fish, produce basketry and work wood (canoes, traditional benches, etc.). They also understand tasks requiring physical strength and endurance, such as clearing land, building of malocas (large round houses), or organizing mingas (cooperative work). In addition, they sow tobacco, coca and some fruit trees (Jacopin 1977, 1981; Van der Hammen 1991; Schackt 1994; Fontaine 2007, 2008a).

Formerly had been semi-nomadic, practicing slash-and-burn horticulture in interfluvial areas of Upper Miriti, the Yucuna had transformed their social organization and their way of life since the beginning of the twentieth century in order to access to the goods (axes, machetes, salt, matches, etc.) which were first introduced by the rubber barons. Since the prohibition of latex and fur exploitation by the INCORA (Colombian Institute of Agrarian Reform) in 1974, the Yucuna moved to the White occupation zones (La Pedrera, boarding school of Jariyé, Santa Isabel, La Libertad) to take advantage of new economic opportunities (in the area of commercial fishing, gold and coca). From the mid-nineties, the exploitation of natural resources no longer provides as much work as before. The gold mines dried up, the commercial fishing is no longer abundant, and coca trafficking is increasingly controlled and restricted. With the scarcity of labour, concentrated indigenous population around small towns is trapped in an environment that can no longer provides enough livelihoods (for hunting, fishing and gathering).

Metadata on the LACITO Website



2003 Corpus yucuna. Introduction à la langue et à l'écriture yucuna, Archive du Lacito (online).

2007 Logiques modales et anthropologie : Des règles à la parole chez les Indiens yucuna d'Amazonie colombienne, L’Homme (online), n. 184, octobre, pp. 131-154.

2008a  Paroles d’échange et règles sociales chez les Indiens yucuna d’Amazonie colombienne. Paris, L’Harmattan.

2008b Récits des Indiens yucuna de Colombie. Texte bilingue. Paris, L’Harmattan.

JACOPIN Pierre-Yves

1972 Habitat et Territoire Yucuna, Journal de la Société des Américanistes (online), n. 66, pp. 107-139.

1981 La parole générative de la mythologie des Indiens Yukuna, Thèse de doctorat, Université de Neuchâtel.


1989-1990   Rango y alianza entre los Yukuna de la Amazonia colombiana. Revista Colombiana de Antropología,Vol XXVII. Bogota, pp. 137-157.

1990 Hierarchical Society : The Yukuna Story. Ethnos Vol. 55 (III-IV), pp. 200-213.

1994  Nacimiento Yucuna. Reconstructive ethnography in Amazonia. Thèse de doctorat, Université d'Oslo.

2013 A People of Stories in the Forest of Myths. The Yukuna of Miritiparaná, Novus Press, Oslo.


1975  Texto Yucuna por Quehuají Yucuna. La Historia de los Caripú Laquena. In : Folclor indigena de Colombia T.1 (online). Bogota, pp. 252-333.

1978  Una gramática del Yucuna. Articulos en lingüistica y campos afines (online). Bogota, Instituto Lingüístico de Verano - Digidec, pp. 1-52.

2000 El Yucuna. Lenguas indígenas de Colombia. Una visión descriptiva (online). Bogota, Institut Caro y Cuervo, pp. 515-532.

2005 (Comp.) Diccionario bilingüe Yucuna-Español, Español-Yucuna (online). Bogotá, Editorial Fundación para el Desarrollo de los Pueblos Marginados.


1991  El manejo del mundo. Bogota, Tropenbos (online).


White-lipped peccary brought by a hunter, Camaritagua, 2003/07