Asheninka, Ucayali-Yurua in Peru

Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Asheninka, Ucayali-Yurua
Country: Peru
10/40 Window: No
Population: 8,800
World Population: 9,800
Primary Language: Asheninka, Ucayali-Yurua
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 2.50 %
Evangelicals: 0.30 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South American Indigenous
Affinity Bloc: Latin-Caribbean Americans
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua are one of the least reached of the Ashéninka people groups in the Peruvian Amazon. Historically, they have had tense interactions with outsiders, suffering enslavement and devastating epidemics during the 20th century rubber boom.

The Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua have had some exposure to the gospel since Peruvian churches and foreign mission agencies began working among them in the 1920s. Since then, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Modern Day have translated the New Testament into the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua dialect. In the last 10 years there have been various mission agencies working among the people with limited results. As such, there are very few believers and no known evangelical churches among the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua.

Where Are they Located?

The Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua live in the central jungle of Peru from the Ucayali River to the Yurua River along the border with Brazil.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua are semi-nomadic, as they often travel to visit family for several months at a time. As a river people, much of their culture and vocabulary center around rivers. They have tenaciously held onto their language and culture in a country that is quick to absorb indigenous peoples in the larger mestizo culture.

They prefer small family units to large communities and live in simple homes with a thatch roof, no walls, and a dirt floor. Their principal crop is manioc, and they also raise plantains, rice, maize, and sweet potatoes. Men also provide food through hunting and fishing. Their traditional clothing is a long cotton dress with vertical stripes for men and horizontal stripes for women, and red face paint is common.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua hold to animistic views that seek to discover spiritual causes for life problems and resolve them through shamanistic rituals. In their worldview, shamans are specialists gifted at helping people understand the spirit world and heal sicknesses. The Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua believe inanimate objects and animals can have spirits that affect daily life. They fear their dead relatives, whom they believe could cause them sickness or death.

What Are Their Needs?

The greatest need of the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua is to understand that they are sinful and in need of redemption. Because their community holds a higher standard than surrounding tribes in regards to stealing, lying, and work ethic, the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua struggle to see themselves as in need of a Savior.

They also need a lifestyle that offers them an alternative to being controlled by alcohol. Their culture revolves around growing manioc, making a fermented manioc drink, and becoming drunk at parties that often last several days. These parties are often wild and even violent as they vent what their typically stoic culture will not allow on any other occasion.

Prayer Points

Please pray that the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua will have softened hearts to receive the gospel.
Pray that the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua will feel dissatisfaction with their current worldview and cycling between a high morality and wild drunkenness.
Pray for true repentance and changed lives to take the place of nominal acceptance of Christ.
Pray that the Ashéninka Ucayali-Yurua will develop a value for literacy and actively participate in new literacy workshops provided by mission agencies.

Text Source:   Modern Day and Pioneers