Asheninka, South Ucayali in Peru

Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Asheninka, South Ucayali
Country: Peru
10/40 Window: No
Population: 18,000
World Population: 18,000
Primary Language: Asheninka, South Ucayali
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 1.60 %
Evangelicals: 1.40 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: No
People Cluster: South American Indigenous
Affinity Bloc: Latin-Caribbean Americans
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Ashéninka South Ucayali is one of the least reached of the various 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 and defending themselves from terrorist groups in the early 1990s.

The Ashéninka South Ucayali have had some exposure to the gospel since the 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 completed a full Bible translation, and other mission agencies have done work in Bible storying in the last 10 years. Seventh Day Adventists have also had a strong influence in the region. However, the gospel has struggled to take root among the Ashéninka South Ucayali, and only one church is known to exist among the 50-60 communities.

Where Are they Located?

The Ashéninka South Ucayali live in the central jungle of Peru where the southern Ucayali River meets the Cohengua and Tahuanía Rivers.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The Ashéninka South Ucayali live a daily subsistence lifestyle connected to the land, collecting enough food for 1-2 days and continually working hard to produce new food supplies. They typically work in manioc fields during the morning and rest during the afternoons. At night, the men will often go hunting or fishing.

In spite of great cultural changes, the Ashéninka South Ucayali have maintained their language and traditional dress to the present day. They prefer small family units to large communities and live in simple homes with a thatch roof, no walls, and a dirt floor. 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 South Ucayali hold to an animistic worldview that seeks 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 South Ucayali 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 Ashéninka South Ucayali need solid biblical teaching about Jesus as victor over the spirit world in order to give them an alternative worldview from that of the shaman. They need more gospel workers who are willing to learn the language and stay long-term among them.

The Ashéninka South Ucayali have very few health clinics. The government has done a good job of initiating schools and mandating bilingual education, but with few teachers who speak the local dialect and an alphabet that uses the spellings from a different tribal language, education remains very confusing for students.

Prayer Points

Please pray for believers among the Ashéninka South Ucayali to continue meeting and growing in their faith.
Please pray that believers will not become discouraged as they face challenges like sickness and limited discipleship instruction.

Text Source:   Modern Day and Pioneers