Foto: Oscar Calavia

Yaminawá

  • Other names
    Iaminaua, Jaminawa
  • Where they are How many

    Bolivia630 (1997)
    AC, AM1.298 (Funasa, 2010)
    Peru600 (INEI, 2007)
  • Linguistic family
    Pano

Name

yaminawa_2

The term Yaminawá begins to appear in the second half of the last century, and is typically translated as “people of the axe" – now of stone, a sign of their primitiveness, then of iron, a sign of the greed with which they sought metal tools in the rubber-gatherers’ camps. Typically, one knows about them only through other Indians, the Kaxinawá in Brazil and the Shipibo in Peru, who fear their incursions or are victims of them, and who coined the name through which the whites came to know them. The spellings are very variable: besides Yaminawá (in Brazil) and Yaminahua (in Peru and Bolívia) we can find Yuminahua, Yabinahua, Yambinahua etc. Besides the orthographic diversity, we have to consider that the custom of playing on words with the names of neighboring peoples, very common in Pano intertribal relations, can generate other versions.

The suffix -nawa, which characterizes the names of most Pano peoples of Acre, can be spoken either with emphasis on the last or next-to-last syllable, depending on the peoples. "Yaminawá" reflects more accurately the indigenous pronunciation (the Portuguese "j" does not exist in their language, nor does the closed sound of Spanish "hua" or "gua") and thus preserves the historical connotations of the name.

The Yaminawá identify themselves by this name which was given by others. They explain that their “true” names are Xixinawá (xixi = white coati), Yawanawá (yawa = wild boar), Bashonawá (basho = opossum), Marinawá (mari = cutia) and so on, within a virtually infinite series. The -nawa form a constellation of groups which throughout history, have combined in different ways, through successive fissions, fusions, or annexations. Several of these names coincide with genealogically and historically different peoples, although their language and culture may be very close – this is the case of "Yawanawá", which does not allude to the Yawanawá of the Gregorio River. Nawa, it is worth saying, besides being the ethnic suffix, is the word that designates the whites.