Yekuana in Brazil

Photo Source:  Marcos Schultz 
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People Name: Yekuana
Country: Brazil
10/40 Window: No
Population: 500
World Population: 6,800
Primary Language: Maquiritari
Primary Religion: Christianity
Christian Adherents: 80.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Amazon
Affinity Bloc: Latin-Caribbean Americans
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Their first contact with Spaniards was in the 1700s. Initially the Yekuana were allied with the Spaniards, but they had armed conflict when Franciscans tried to force them to convert to Roman Catholicism by order of the Spanish crown. Not only did they refuse to convert but they had an armed rebellion in 1776. The Yekuana had more conflict with the Spaniards in the 20th century when their tribal lands were invaded by people seeking rubber trees.
In the 20th century they had bad experiences with missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant. For that reason, many stay away from Christian beliefs. They have, however, welcomed mission schools. These schools have led them to better jobs.
Today, the Yekuana and the Sanuma (Yanomami subgroup) live in the Auaris region. The two tribes had many wars, but today they cooperate, and even intermarry, especially in Brazil. Most of the Yekuana are in Venezuela, but a small number are further south in Brazil.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Yekuana prefer cross-cousin marriage, where a man marries from his mother's brother's daughter or father's sister's son. He can marry several sisters, but this is reserved for powerful men like shamans.
Each Yekuana village is politically independent. They have a village chief, but also a council of elders. The chief coordinates of collective activities, but he can't issue orders. This is the domain of the elders. The chief offers direction and he represents tribal interests with outsiders. There is sometimes conflict with outsiders. In 2018 a Yekuana leader was killed by gold miners.
Under the elders, there are both single and married young men. Over meals they discuss communal work needs. Through these cooperative efforts they have produced large, productive farms and multi-family homes.
Their main livelihood involves agriculture. They grow crops on large communal farms and keep livestock. Fishing and hunting help them have enough meat in their diet. They are excellent canoe makers. These canoes are essential for their fishing activities.

What Are Their Beliefs?

There are Yekuana Christians. Some are Evangelical in Venezuela, but almost all others are Roman Catholic. The Yekuana have had a number of bad experiences with mission efforts, so they have been suspicious of all missionaries. New Tribes Mission worked among them. Some missionaries have left after seeing little fruit from their labor.
The Yekuana believe in an earthly and a spiritual realm. There are good and evil spirits. The latter need to be controlled by shamans. These shamans understand how to perform rituals that appease the spirits. Some shamans have special powers like how to heal sickness. They utter magical invocation or sacred chants that keep the spirits from harming them. Shamans sometimes perform rituals for the entire community, but these are more likely to be done for individuals. Yekuana shamans can also act as prophets.
There is a rite of passage into adulthood when a girl has her first period. For a time, she lives in seclusion, cooking her own food and doing her own fishing. She weaves cotton, though she can also attend classes. She cuts her hair very short and refrains from painting her body. When the time of seclusion is over, she drinks a lot of their traditional drink. She can paint herself, attend social activities and marry.

What Are Their Needs?

The Yekuana people need to put their trust in the power and character of Jesus Christ, the only one who can save them. As it stands, this people put their hope either in a religious institution or in the power of their shamans.

Prayer Points

Pray for justice and mercy as the Yekuana people face many changes in the 21st century.
Pray for a Christ-oriented revival among the Yekuana people.
Pray for loving, Holy Spirit anointed missionaries to go to the Yekuana to help them with their medical, economic and spiritual needs.
Pray for Yekuana elders to have dreams and visions of the risen Christ, and to tells others of the Lord's glory.
Pray for Yekuana to make more disciples.

Text Source:   Joshua Project