Aguaruna in Peru

The Aguaruna have only been reported in Peru
Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Aguaruna (also known as Awajun) are an indigenous people who live in the jungles of Peru. They live primarily on the Marañón River in northern Peru near the border with Ecuador and several of the Marañón's tributaries, the rivers Santiago, Nieva, Cenepa, Numpatakay and Chiriaco. Currently, they possess titled community lands in four of Peru's regions: Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto, and San Martín. A significant Aguaruna population also lives in the Alto Mayo River basin in the Department of San Martín.
Their origin has been greatly debated with many suggesting that they were people who originally crossed the Andes to settle in this wider geographical region, while a few believe that they are emigrants from either Melanesia or Central America. The Awajún resisted efforts to incorporate them into the Incan and Spanish empires. Their reputation for fierceness and the difficult terrain in which they live prevented them from being incorporated into Peruvian national society until the late 1950s.
The Aguaruna were traditionally a seminomadic population, relocating on a regular basis as soil fertility and wild game populations declined in the immediate vicinity of their houses. Relocations have become rarer in the present day as they are increasingly confined to titled community lands, which in some cases are now surrounded by the farms and villages of non-indigenous colonists.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Aguaruna use everything they gather for food, crafts, and traditional medicine, in witchcraft or as fuel, adhering to an ancestral pattern of self-sufficiency. They are known among naturalists for their sophisticated knowledge of rainforest flora and fauna, which has been the focus of extensive studies by ethnobotanists and ethnozoologists. For their food supply they gather wild fruit and buds of some palm trees, some shrubs, as well as stems, bark, and resins. They also gather honey from wild bees, edible worms (suris), beetles, and medicinal plants.
Aguaruna men are experts in rope making, basketry, the construction of canoes, and textiles. These men make headdresses of exquisite feathers as well as cotton ribbons on the ends of which they place feathers and human hair. They keep these adornments in bamboo cases. The women make crafts of ceramics and necklaces from seeds, wings of small insects and beads. They use the axe, the machete, the shovel and the traditional wai (a stick with a sharp end, made from the wood of the palm tree), as agricultural implements.
The traditional economy of the Aguaruna was based mostly on hunting, fishing and subsistence agriculture. However, over the last few decades they have increasingly become engaged in capitalism. Some communities now cultivate rice, coffee, cocoa, and bananas for sale, either in local markets or for transport to coastal cities like Chiclayo. Maintenance of the trans Andean oil pipeline and the medicinal plant industry also play roles in the local economy.
They hunt many major species of animals, including Brazilian Tapir and Jaguars, diverse species of monkeys and birds. They hunt not only for the meat but also for their skin, feathers, teeth and bones, which are used for making handicrafts, medicines and as items used in witchcraft. Traditionally, the tribe hunted with a spear perfected with pijuayo (a palm tree of very hard wood) and the blowpipe. At present the spear has been almost completely displaced by the pellet shotgun but they also continue using the blowpipe.
They practice both monogamy (one husband and one wife) and polygamy (one husband with multiple wives). The families live together as kin either through marriage or descent in dispersed neighborhoods. Their houses are built in a traditional construction with no streets, footpaths or squares. The settlements along the rivers are arranged in a linear pattern along the sides of the river. In other places, the houses are arranged in an asymmetric form. In recent years, construction of roads and establishment of bilingual schools and health posts has led to a more clustered settlement pattern and so give the appearance of densely populated hamlets.
They strictly hold on to the traditions of the community. They demonstrate a custom of mutual aid, called ipáamamu. This involves constructing houses for young couples, clearing fields and sowing yuca and peanuts, etc.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Many Aguaruna today are Christians, due to the evangelization that began in the middle of the 20th century.
A few adhere to the ancient religion of worshipping spirits and mythological figures such as Zeus, or the Sun; Núgkui, or Mother Earth, Pachamama, who ensures agricultural success and provides the clay for ceramics and Tsúgki, the water spirits who live in the rivers.

What Are Their Needs?

In the latter half of the 20th century, the arrival of Protestant and Jesuit missionaries, the building of roads, and the construction of an oil pipeline created substantial tension between the Aguaruna people, poor agricultural colonists, state agencies, and corporations. In response to new threats to their way of life the Aguaruna began to organize a political and social response to defend themselves.
The community also faces exploitation of the natural resources by the illegal miners and loggers from Ecuador and sometimes from their own countrymen, leading to violent confrontations.
Due to their immense knowledge about the fauna and flora of the Amazonian rainforest, they have been subject to exploitation of their wealth of knowledge by the international community, leading many to act and decry it as biopiracy. The project involved a controversy over violations of the Aguarunas rights over their genetic and cultural resources and to an equitable share in the potential profits derived from pharmaceuticals based on their traditional knowledge of medicinal plants.

Prayer Points

Pray that the rights of the tribe will be respected and that they will be given a fair share for their contributions.
Pray that the present generation of children will have access to quality education so that they will be able to grow as leaders and take careers of their community.
Pray for the Aguaruna people to put Jesus first in their spiritual lives.
Pray for Aguaruna disciples to make more disciples.

Scripture Prayers for the Aguaruna in Peru.


Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Aguaruna
People Name in Country Aguaruna
Alternate Names Ahuajun
Population this Country 65,000
Population all Countries 65,000
Total Countries 1
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 2
Unreached No
Frontier People Group No
GSEC 6  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed
People ID 10183
ROP3 Code 100125
ROP25 Code 300117
ROP25 Name Aguaruna
Country Peru
Region America, Latin
Continent South America
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto, and San Martin regions: upper west Marañon river area; Cahuapanas, Mayo, and Potro rivers.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Peru
Region America, Latin
Continent South America
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto, and San Martin regions: upper west Marañon river area; Cahuapanas, Mayo, and Potro rivers..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016

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Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.10 %)
7.00 %
Ethnic Religions
93.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Awajun (65,000 speakers)
Language Code agr   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Awajun (65,000 speakers)
Language Code agr   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Awajun
Photo Source International Localization Network 
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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