From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Pedro Lolli, 2013.


Where they are How many
AM 754 (Silva:2010:3, 2010)
Colombia 250 (Mahecha et al. 2000: 195, 2000)
Linguistic family

Inhabitants of Northwest Amazonia, the Yuhupdeh are specialists in navigating forest trails, hunting techniques and manufacturing poisons. They are viewed as nomads, powerful sorcerers and denizens of the interfluvial spaces between the major rivers. They are known regionally as the Maku or Forest Indians, in contrast to the Tukano and Arawak, collectively known as River Indians. Despite this opposition, the Yuhupdeh form an integral part of the social system of Northwestern Amazonia. Like most of the region’s peoples, they hold the Dabucuri and Jurupari rituals and also share the two most widespread mythological cycles: the journey of the transformation canoe (yãh baah hóh) and the appearance of the Jurupari flutes (Ti’). Their more recent contact with the non-indigenous population means they have become renowned for still performing these rituals.


The name Yuhupdeh is used as an auto-denomination by a set of groups living in Northwestern Amazonia and signifies ‘people’ in the Yuhup language. In the ethnographic and linguistic literature other forms of writing the name are also recorded: yuhup, yohop, yahup, yahúbde, juhupde (Ospina 2008). It was only from the mid twentieth century onwards that these names appeared as an ethnonym referring to a cluster of groups from the Tiquié and Apapóris Rivers. Prior to then, these peoples were known generically by the name Maku.

In etymological terms, the most widely accepted hypothesis is that the word Maku is of Arawakan origin – ma: negative particle, aku: speech – and literally means ‘speechless.’ Another etymological meaning attributed to the name is ‘kinless,’ since in some Arawakan languages ku means ‘uncle.’ Whatever the case, a long history surrounds the name Maku, which can be traced back to the writings of the eighteenth century.

Over time various meanings became associated with the term. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century records, the name Maku was attributed to the orphans captured and later sold to white people as slaves. The nineteenth century travellers also identified the name Maku with groups of hunters who wandered nomadically without fixed settlements, described as “a miserable species of humanity” (Spruce 1908: 344), groups “of small and dark people, universally considered and treated as serfs” (Whiffen 1915: 60).

Although twentieth-century ethnographic studies of the Maku effectively reiterate the association of the Maku name with groups of ‘Forest Indians’ – nomads, hunters, rudimentary and serf-like –they did begin to problematize the uniformity attributed to the groups receiving this name, while the groups themselves simultaneously declared their use of other ethnonyms to label themselves. Consequently a variety of names surfaced, revealing the diversity of the groups covered by the rubric ‘Maku.’ It was in this context that Yuhupdeh emerged as the name chosen as an auto-denomination by a particular set of these groups. The same groups demanded that the name Maku should be dropped owing to its pejorative connotation.


The Yuhup language is classified as a member of the Maku linguistic family. However the languages making up this family have never been entirely agreed upon by linguists and new configurations have recently been proposed.

The existence of the Maku linguistic family was first posited by linguistic studies carried out in the first decades of the twentieth century (Koch-Grünberg 1906, Tastevin 1923, Rivet & Tastevin 1920, Rivet, Kok & Tastevin 1925). These studies were also responsible for identifying a kinship with the Puinave language.

From the mid twentieth century, new linguistic studies classified the Nukak, Yuhup, Hupdah, Kakua, Dâw, Nadeb, Hödi and Puinave languages as members of the Maku linguistic family. However there is no overall consensus concerning its exact composition. The inclusion of the Hödi and Puinave languages in the family is the most heavily contested issue due to the lack of detailed data in support of their affiliation. Greater consensus exists in relation to the other languages, though the relative degrees of proximity are debated. Some studies argue that the Nadeb language is more distant from the Nukak, Yuhup, Hupdah, Kakua and Dâw languages (Martins & Martins 1999: 255). Others include the Nadeb and exclude the Nukak and Kakua languages from the linguistic family (Epps 2005: 8-9).

It can be safely asserted, however, that the Yuhup language is closest to the Hupdah language, followed by the Dâw language, and is less closely related to the Nadeb, Kakua and Nukak languages. In terms of the Hödi and Puinave languages, no in-depth comparative studies have been made yet that could allow us to establish the degree of kinship with any certainty.

More recently, as well as the composition of the Maku family, the name of the family itself has come under debate. The term Maku has a strong pejorative connotation and is rejected by most of the groups concerned. Another name has therefore been sought. Epps (2005) proposes the name Nadahup with a family composed of Nadeb, Yuhup, Hupdah and Dâw. Ramirez (2001) suggests Negro-Japurá or Uaupés-Japurá, whose family is composed of the Yuhup, Hupdah, Kakua, Dâw and Nadeb languages. However no overall consensus exists among scholars concerning which name to employ. As well as Maku, therefore, the linguistic family to which the Yuhup language belongs is also known as Nadahup and Negro-Japurá or Uaupés-Japurá.

Although the sociolinguistic situation of speakers of the Yuhup language varies according to their location, it expresses the multilinguistic nature of the Northwestern Amazonia region in general. In other words, nobody is completely monolingual. Everyone has some degree of knowledge of one other language, at least, albeit often in the form of a passive bilingualism – i.e. the person understands a language but cannot speak it. Some people are linguistically competent in more than two languages.

The Yuhupdeh living along the Apapóris River, for example, predominantly comprehend and/or speak the Makuna language and Spanish. Those living in the Tiquié River region speak and/or comprehend mostly Tukano and Portuguese. Individuals who know other languages in addition to these can also be found. More recently an increased knowledge of Spanish and Portuguese has been observable, resulting from closer relations with the Colombian and Brazilian nation states. Active bilingualism and multilingualism is more common among men. Although passive bilingualism is more typical among women, especially in relation to Portuguese and Spanish, a significant increase in women’s proficiency in these languages has been observable in recent years.



The Yuhupdeh territory extends across a region formed by the Tiquié and Apapóris Rivers in a border zone between Colombia and Brazil. This region can be divided into seven areas:

  • The first is located in the region of the Apapóris River, between the mouth of the Ugá river and the rapids of La Libertad and Sucre, where they maintain relations with the Makuna, Tanimuka and Tukano.
  • The second is in the region between the Jotabeyá and Alsacia Streams – affluents of the Apapóris River – and the Umuña and Toacá Streams – affluents of the Pirá-Paraná River. In this area they live alongside the Makuna, Tanimuka and Letuama.
  • The third is in the region of the mouth of the Apaporis River where it flows into the Caquetá, a vicinity inhabited by Tanimuka and Tuyuka groups. The Yuhupdeh live in the community of San Pablo, on the left bank of the lower Caquetá.
  • The fourth is located in the region of Traíra River, close to the mouth of the Apapóris River. They live in the community of São José do Rio Apapóris in Brazil, which is formed by various peoples from the region.

These four areas constitute a regional zone in which the Yuhup groups maintain a network based on regular visits. These groups are located in the Yaigojé Apaporis indigenous reserve in Colombia, situated within the Amazonas and Vaupés departments.

As well as other indigenous peoples, the zone has been occupied since the mid twentieth century by rubber tappers, jaguar pelt traders, mineral prospectors and the Brazilian army. Vila Bittencourt, situated at the confluence of the Apapóris and Caquetá, contains the highest population of Yuhupdeh on the Brazilian side and is where the Third Special Border Platoon is stationed. From the 1980s onwards various Yuhup groups moved to the area, especially the São José community, located on the Apapóris River. In the mid 1990s some groups decided to return to the mouth of the Ugá Stream and the Jotabeyá Stream, the occupation of which dates back to very ancient times, meaning it is considered a traditional territory (Ospina 2008: 29). On the Colombian side, the Yuhup groups who live on the Ugá Stream often travel to La Pedrera when they wish to trade or need to use the hospital medical services.

  • The fifth area is located in the region between the Castanha and Cucura Streams, which flow into the middle Tiquié River where the Yuhupdeh live with Tukano, Tuyuka, Makuna and Desana. Two communities are situated on the Castanha Stream: São Joaquim and Santa Rosa (where the Yuhupdeh live in a Desana community). One community is found on the Cucura Stream: Cucura São João.

This area comprises another regional zone where Yuhup groups establish a regular exchange network, located within the borders of the Alto Rio Negro Indigenous Land (IL). Some of these groups originated from the region of the Ugá and Jotabeyá Streams and began to migrate to this zone in the mid twentieth century following the intensification of the state’s occupation of the region. They moved ever closer to the Tiquié River, at first attracted between the 1960s and 70s by the Salesian mission built in Pari-Cachoeira, and years later, in the 1980s, by the discovery of gold in the Serra do Traíra mountains. Initially they settled in the region of the confluence of the Tapuru and Peneira Streams. Another migration followed a measles epidemic in the 1970s. Some of people decided to return to the region of the Apapóris with one group moving to the Castanha Stream, moving even closer to the Tiquié River. Subsequently other groups decided to move to the Cucura Stream.

  • The sixth area is located in the region of the mouth of the Samaúma Stream where it flows into the Tiquié River, where they live predominantly with Tukano. They are located in the Santa Rosa community.
  • The seventh area is the region between the Ira and Cunuri Streams, both of which flow into the lower Tiquié River. Here the Yuhup groups live alongside Tukano, Tuyuka and Miriti-Tapuya. Three communities are found on the Cunuri: São Martinho, São Felipe and São Domingos Sávio. One community is located on the Ira: Guadalupe.

These two areas comprise a third regional zone located in the Alto Rio Negro IL. The hypothesis is that this population cluster was formed by an initial wave of Yuhup groups migrating from the Apapóris River region. These groups moved up the Traíra River and crossed by forest trail to the Ira Stream. From this area some groups relocated to the Cunuri and later to the Samaúma Stream. From the 1980s the communities from this regional zone were observed to have moved closer still to the mouth of these streams and that of the Tiquié River itself, which flows into the Uaupés River.


According to surveys conducted in the 2000s, the Yuhupdeh population can be estimated at around 1000 individuals. From this total, 754 people were recorded living in Brazil (Silva 2010: 3) and 250 in Colombia. (Mahecha et al. 2000: 195). However the estimates for the demographic parameters of the Yuhupdeh people should be treated with a degree of caution. The fact that the population concerned is distributed across a vast geographical area in interfluvial zones, many of them difficult to access, and shows a high degree of mobility, prevents us from making a global estimate of the demographic dynamic. Consequently we cannot stipulate reliable rates of birth, death, population growth or interethnic marriage for the Yuhupdeh population. However, taking into account the studies conducted in the 1980s and 90s by Pozzobon and comparing them with the more recent studies, we can infer a tendency towards demographic growth. Although interethnic marriages are mentioned in most studies of the Yuhupdeh, the references all emphasize that such marriages form a minority.

Contact history

No mention of the Yuhupdeh is found in the records until the mid twentieth century when ethnographic studies began to employ the name to refer to a set of groups speaking the same language. Previously all these groups had been referred to generically as Maku. Based on the current location of the Yuhupdeh groups and the memory of the oldest people concerning where their grandparents had lived, we can surmise that the first references to them are probably found in the work of Koch-Grünberg, who passed through the region between the Tiquié and the Japurá in 1904.

During this early period of the twentieth century the region was heavily affected by rubber extraction, but the Yuhupdeh mostly avoided the deleterious effects of this first rubber boom due to their propensity for inhabiting the more inaccessible interfluvial zones. This situation changed drastically from the mid twentieth century when a second rubber boom erupted in Northwestern Amazonia. Contact was also intensified by the arrival of jaguar pelt traders and the founding of a Salesian mission in Pari-Cachoeira. This combination of factors set off an initial migratory wave of Yuhupde groups who gradually moved away from their traditional territories and dispersed in search of more favourable areas.

Many of these migrants headed to the lower Apapóris River at the start of the 1960s. During this period the Yuhup groups intensified their contact with the world of white people, but still through the intermediation of other indigenous groups, especially the Yauna who held the monopoly on non-indigenous merchandise having been the earliest trading partners of the whites (Ospina 2008: 27). As well as the Yauna, the Yuhupdeh maintained contacts with the Tukano, Tuyuka, Yukuna and Tanimuka. The migration soon proved disastrous. The Yuhupdeh continued to be exploited by other indigenous peoples and whites alike. Compounding their problems, they were also hit by various epidemics.

Although some people had remained in the Apapóris River area, new migratory waves took place. Some groups returned to the proximities of the traditional territories. Others moved to the Tiquié River region attracted by the Salesian mission and by a supposedly more peaceful relationship with the whites. A portion of these groups continued to the Ira and Cunuri Streams, affluents of the lower Tiquié, close to the Taracuá mission and another group as far as the Castanha Stream, an affluent of the middle Tiquié, neat to the Pari-Cachoeira mission.

Some groups that went to the Castanha region set out from the Espinho (Jotabeyá) Stream. At the start of the 1970s, persuaded by a Salesian priest, three communities joined together at the mouth of the Tapuru as it flows into the Peneira. An epidemic led to a new dispersal. Some groups opted to return to the area of the Apapóris River, while others moved even closer to the Tiquié River and founded a new community on the Castanha Stream. At the end of the 1970s the Salesian missionaries decided to introduce regular schooling among the Yuhupdeh by constructing schools on the Ira, Cunuri and Castanha Streams. Some years later, Yuhupdeh groups founded a community on the Cucura Stream. The last community to settle in the Tiquié River area was Samaúma. Since then school education has been implemented intermittently among the Yuhupdeh. One of the outcomes of this process was the seizure of adornments and musical instruments by the Salesian missionaries. Male initiation rituals were likewise expressly prohibited. Even so, because of the sporadic nature of the missionary work in these areas, the Yuhupdeh groups continued to conduct these rituals and make some instruments, such as the Jurupari flutes and trumpets. The conflicts with Tukano groups also living in the boarding schools meant that few Yuhupdeh stayed in the missions for any length of time.

The settlement of these Yuhupdeh groups in the Tiquié River area led to them establishing contacts with other Eastern Tukano groups and the Hupdah. In the case of the Castanha and Cucura Streams, these contacts were primarily with the Desana, Tuyuka, Makuna and Tukano. In the case of the Ira, Cunuri and Samaúma Streams, the contacts were with the Tukano, Miriti-Tapuya, Tuyuka and Hupdah.

In the 1980s the region once again became inundated with outsiders as gold was discovered in the Serra do Traíra. Both the Ira and the Castanha became established as a route for prospectors, mining companies and other indigenous people in search of riches. During this period the Yuhupdeh worked as porters and guides. The groups from the Apapóris region were also heavily impacted by the gold mining.

The start of the 1990s was marked by new transformations: gold mining declined sharply as the deposits became exhausted. The stagnation of the gold rush slowed down the movement of people through the region, but had other consequences such as the reduced mobility of the Yuhupdeh groups (Ospina 2008) and more regular schooling. As a result the communities became more stable and less mobile.

Social and political organization

The Yuhup communities display variations in terms of their social formation, which ranges from a fully matrilocal composition to fully patrilocal, the most common being a mixed composition where both maternal and paternal kindreds are found. These communities are defined as local groups formed by one or more domestic groups. Each domestic group is formed by a couple with their single children, recently married children when these are residents of the same local group, and sometimes close kin, normally orphans and/or widows and widowers.

The local groups, therefore, can include both the sons and the sons-in-law of an older man who comprises the default leader. These local groups can be described as multi-clanic and structured by a consanguine group around which a nucleus of affinal relations are established through marriages. The cognatic composition of the Yuhup communities also differs from the Eastern Tukano and Arawak ideal of a community in which the male residents are agnates.

Although the local groups have a predominantly cognatic composition, the formation of a local group follows the principle of agnatic descent. Regional groups are formed by a set of local groups that possess an intense relation of matrimonial, ritual and commercial exchange. There is a clear tendency for these exchanges to be maintained within the bounds of the regional groups, though there is no obstacle to the regional groups themselves engaging in exchange relations.

Matrimonial choices are also based on the principle of descent insofar as the agnatic clans constitute the elementary exogamic units of Yuhup social organization and are organized hierarchically. This becomes evident when a fission occurs between people from the same community: the relations of affinity are those that rupture easiest. Each clan possesses its own set of names, musical instruments, myths, dances and songs that differentiate it from the other clans and that are transmitted through patrilineal descent.

This system of exogamic patrilineal clans is connected to a vocabulary of Dravidian kinship since the terminological distinction used to designate parallel cousins and cross cousins is also employed to differentiate between the clans themselves. The ideal marriage is between bilateral cross cousins of the same generation. Most marriages are linguistically endogamic: in other words, husband and wife speak the same language. This characteristic enables us to define the Yuhupdeh as part of a larger grouping encompassed by the name Maku. In contrast to most of the groups of the Upper Rio Negro who practice linguistic exogamy and are encapsulated by the names Eastern Tukano and Arawak. The exogamic unit of marriage among the Yuhupdeh – as among the Maku in general – takes the clan as its limit rather than language. Yuhup clans frequently display subdivisions ordered by hierarchical agnatic relations, contrasting with the egalitarian affinal relations that prevail between the clans.

The Yuhupdeh groups not only differ from the Tukano and Arawak due to the endogamic composition of their communities at cognatic and linguistic levels, but also due to their more intense mobility. Domestic groups very often leave the community where they have a house and spend periods either camped in the forest or visiting other known groups. The high degree of movement of the Yuhup groups, like that of other Maku groups, is associated with a vast knowledge of the paths and landscapes as well as remarkable skills in hunting and gathering.

Camp sites are typically occupied by a small number of domestic groups, sometimes just one that has temporarily left the community. In the camps, hunting, gathering and fishing activities are more frequent and the work of tending the swiddens is put on hold. Visits may be made to consanguinal and affinal relatives alike. It is also common for a domestic group to relocate to provide services in Tukano communities.

All these features of Yuhup social organization contributed to the Yuhupdeh, as Maku, standing out within the sociological landscape of Northwestern Amazonia as Forest Indians – egalitarian, nomadic, endogamic, hunters, gatherers, inhabitants of the deep forest – in opposition to the image of the River Indian – hierarchical, sedentary, exogamic, horticulturists, inhabitants of the major rivers – represented by the Tukano and Arawak. But while such differences indeed exist and are notable, this opposition is not absolute: instead it should be conceived as a gradient of transformations (Jackson 1983).

Cosmology and mythology

The Yuhup cosmos is called wag and divides into multiple planes, the main of which are the land of the mortals (yuhup-bö-saah) where the Yuhupdeh live today, the land of the Umari River (péj-dëh-saah) where the subterranean world is located, the house of thunder (pẽy mõy) which is found in world above, and the path of the sun (weró-tíw) which indicates the direction of sunrise and sunset. Various mythic cycles tell of the formation of these cosmological planes and their impacts on other planes.

Yuhup mythology contains many narratives shared by many other groups in the region, including Tukano and Arawak. The most widespread are those telling of the appearance of the Jurupari flutes (Ti’) and the journey of the transformation canoe (yãh baah hóh). These narratives constitute a genre of Yuhup verbal art designated big ni dih, literally ‘ancient stories,’ the principal feature of which is the description of the various geneses of the universe.

In this sense the mythic plane is the combination of a multiplicity of heterogenic geneses that become differentiated from each other over time and give origin to a diversity of planes. A fundamental aspect of these geneses, one already widely remarked in the anthropological literature, is that they refer to the processes through which personhood emerges. Both human beings and animals, rivers, mountains and so on initially appear in this condition and gradually transform and diverge from each other thereafter. In the case of human beings, the myths tell that at a certain moment the transformations gave rise to ‘true people.’ In the case of the animals, plants and rivers, divergent transformations led to diverse ‘peoples.’ Peoples who, from the human point of view, do not usually appear like persons.

The main myth recounting this transformation into ‘true people’ is that of the journey of the transformation canoe and the Yuhup protagonist Sah Säw. He is the one who steers the canoe and, from the Yuhupdeh perspective, he is the commander of the voyage, deciding where to go and where to stop. This contradicts the view of the Tukano and Arawak peoples, whose versions of the myth describe the Maku – including the Yuhupdeh – as the crew of the canoe working for them.

As well as the journey of the transformation canoes, various other mythic narratives feature Sah Säw as a protagonist in a period spanning from before to after the journey. This mythic cycle tells how the universe came to be organized in its current form. Prior to the journey, Sah Säw is responsible for learning the main cultural notions and after the voyage for teaching this knowledge to his grandson Dö’-Saa.

The stories involving this grandson comprise a new mythic cycle since thereafter the universe begins to be named in the form that it currently appears to the Yuhupdeh. In the world of Sah Säw, for example, pepper was called pun tat, but following the birth of Dö’-Saa it became called kow; the grandfather called pitch teg duw dew while the grandson called it wo’, and so on. These mythic cycles are a fundamental source for ritual practices and shamanic actions.

Ritual e shamanism

Yuhup shamanism and ritual practices have waned over the last fifty years and powerful shamans have become scarce. This situation is encountered among all the group living along the Upper Rio Negro. The decline is associated with the Salesian missions set up in the region in the 1940s and that worked to combat shamanic practices. The priests prevented rituals from being held, took away ritual instruments, banned the performance of blessings and cures based on the extraction of disease. Another strategy used by the Salesians was to recruit children for their boarding schools in order to civilize them and prevent them from participating in the initiation rituals with the Jurupari flutes.

Although the Yuhupdeh were less affected by contact with the missionaries – they comprised a minority in the mission boarding schools, for example – the consequences were very similar to those experienced by the other groups that dominated in the missions. So much so that the Yuhupdeh groups living in the region of the Castanha, Ira and Cunuri refer to a waning of shamans and enchanters, associated with the seizure of the instruments and adornments by the Salesian missionaries and their ban on performing initiation, curing and dance rituals.

The Yuhup language has two words to refer to the shaman: säw and mihdiid säw, usually translated into Portuguese as ‘pajé’ (shaman) and ‘benzedor’ (enchanter or blesser) respectively. Something that the Yuhup language shares with the Eastern Tukano and Arawak languages, which also distinguish two types of shaman.

The main difference between the shaman and the enchanter, as some Yuhup enchanters stated, is that the shaman has the capacity to transform into a jaguar person and negotiate with this people. Another difference concerns the therapeutic procedures used to cure. The shaman can extract the disease from the person and then identify it. One of the techniques reported was curing with water. The shaman places a container filled with water on the ground in front of the sick person and bathes him or her until, at a certain moment, the disease falls into the container in the form of an object. He also possesses a quartz stone, which he normally wears suspended from his neck. He has the capacity to travel through dreams to diverse planes of the world and knowledge of verbal formulas that send illnesses to an enemy. While learning his skills, dietary and sexual restrictions have to be rigorously observed while he consumes tobacco, coca, ayahuasca and parica.

The enchanter, as well as being unable to transform into a jaguar, is unable to use the technique of extracting disease from the person. His therapeutic procedure primarily involves the execution of verbal formulas. The indigenous peoples of region use the word ‘benzimento’ (blessing) to refer to these formulas. They are also commonly translated as prayers. Some of the literature refers to these formulas as enchantments. Blessings can be differentiated into three types: naming, curing and protecting.

The enchanter is responsible for conducting the male initiation rituals using Jurupari flutes (Tí’). These flute rituals are found across the entire Upper Rio Negro, one of the factors defining it as an integrated system. As well as the flutes themselves, the region’s peoples share versions of the origin of these flutes. The invariant connecting all these versions is the recapture of the flutes by men after they had been wrongly taken by women. During this period in which the initiates and adult men see the Jurupari flutes (Tí’), they obey dietary and sexual restrictions and the initiates learn to consume tobacco, coca, parica and ayahausca. The enchanter who coordinates the ritual tells myths and transmits blessings to the youths.

As well as the male initiation ritual, other dance rituals exist that can be differentiated into the cariço and caapiwaya dances. The cariço dance is called be’ in Yuhup and is frequently performed during the food exchange rituals, commonly known in the Upper Rio Negro region as dabucuri. The caapiwaya dance, which may also be linked to a dabucuri, is performed in cycles lasting a day and a half when men decorated with adornments dance under the coordination of the dance master and sing in an incomprehensible language that dates back to the time of the genesis of the first generation of people. The dance masters who conduct these rituals are called yãm säw in Yuhup.


Contemporary aspects

In general terms the contemporary aspects of the Yuhupdeh groups (as of 2014) can be comprehended in two distinct contexts that are closely connected to the reality of the national politics of which they form part. The groups from the Apapóris region are located in Colombian territory while those of the Tiquié region are located in Brazil.

The indigenous peoples of the Apapóris River experienced a significant political transformation following the 1991 Colombian Constitution in which indigenous territories, like all the other Reserves, acquired the status of Territorial Entities and gained political and administrative autonomy in relation to education, healthcare, public services, the justice system and so on. As a result the Yaigojé Apaporis Reserve, established in 1988 through a partnership between indigenous communities and the Gaia Amazonas Foundation, became a Territorial Entity, introducing a new political configuration to the region.

Although local participation in political processes had intensified since the start of the 1990s, it was only in 1995 that Yuhup groups were invited to participate actively in the ACIYA (Asociación de Capitanes del Resguardo Yaigojé Apaporis), an organization created to lead negotiations with the Colombian state.

In 1997 when the possibility to expand the Yaigojé Apaporis Reserve surfaced, the Yuhup groups campaigned for their traditional territory to be included in the new Territorial Entity (Ospina 2008 71-72). The consolidation of the traditional territory was very important to strengthening the position of the Yuhupdeh in relation to Colombian public policies and opened the way for new projects in partnership with the Gaia Foundation to be implemented through ACIYA. One such example was the creation of a Yuhup school, which began in the same year, 1997. While the Yuhupdeh living in the Apapóris region are undeniably participating more and more in indigenous organizations and public policy programs, it is also indisputable that their involvement is marginalized and questioned by other indigenous groups from the region.

Though the context in which the Yuhup groups of the Tiquié region are embedded differs from the situation experienced by the Apapóris groups, we can observe a number of parallels. In 1988 the indigenous movement as a whole made a substantial political advance with the inclusion in Brazil’s national constitution of specific legislation guaranteeing respect for their cultures and their originary rights over the lands they have traditionally occupied.

The indigenous movement of the Upper Rio Negro played an important role in this political campaign. In 1987 the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of the Rio Negro (FOIRN) was founded in the region, formed by more than 50 associations. This more favourable political context in the 1990s enabled the development of innumerable projects in education, healthcare and culture. Most of those were undertaken by the associations through FOIRN with the support of NGOs, international funding bodies and the Brazilian state.

At the end of the 1990s, this collective effort culminated in the official demarcation of lands in the Upper Rio Negro. Yuhup groups participated actively in the demarcation of the Alto Rio Negro and Rio Apapóris ILs, especially between the Tiquié and Marié Rivers. Recognized as the oldest and most knowledgeable inhabitants of this area, they played a crucial role in legitimizing the demand for its demarcation.

This participation strengthened the Yuhup groups in terms of their representation within the associations and the attempt to develop cultural, educational and healthcare projects specific to their communities.

The Yuhup groups living in the area of the Castanha Stream monitor and participate in the work conducted by ACIRC (Association of Indigenous Communities of the Castanha River), but so far (as of 2014) they have never held an administrative post within the association.

Moreover since 2000, the Yuhup groups in this region have been working on a school project being implemented by themselves rather than other Tukano and Arawak groups or the Brazilian State. The school located on the Castanha started operating again in 2009 with a Yuhup teacher. Earlier, in 2006, the schools in the communities on the Ira and Cunuri Streams had already succeeded in hiring Yuhup teachers. In 2010 AECIPY (Association of Indigenous Schools and Communities of the Yuhupdeh People) was created with the intention of increasing the autonomy of Yuhup groups vis-à-vis public education policies.

One of the impacts of this process was the significant increase in the number of people obtaining the documents needed to access the diverse benefits offered by the Brazilian government: pensions, the family allowance, maternity benefit, and so on. This is a situation that brings new challenges for the Yuhupdeh since it led to frequent visits to the urban centre of São Gabriel da Cachoeira.

Notes on the sources

The most complete works on the Yuhup language were produced more recently. The first to be published was the work of Ana Maria Ospina Bozzi (1995, 2002) who mainly analyzes the morphology and syntax of the Yuhup language. The second was that of Cácio Silva and Elisângela Silva (2012) who as well as morphological and syntactical analyses also sought to compile a dictionary for the Yuhup language. Another three works exist that specifically explore the Yuhup language exist, but are more ad hoc in nature. These are the work of Daniel Jore and Cheryl Jore (1980) which provides a preliminary analysis of the language, the text by Dalva Del Vigna (1990) on complex segments and the work by Brandão Lopes and Parker (1999) on phonology. Other linguistic studies also mention the Yuhup language, but in relation to the discussion on the Maku linguistic family Maku. This is the case of the work of Loukotka (1968), Reina (1986), Silvana Martins and Valteir Martins (1999), Landaburu (2000), Ramirez (2001a) and Aihenvald (2002). Older studies exist that deal with the Maku linguistic family but it is impossible to determine whether the Yuhup language is directly involved. The applies principally to the studies by Koch-Grunberg (1906) and Tastevin (1923).

In terms of ethnographic sources on the Yuhupdeh, few works exist. The first work to make any prominent mention of the Yuhupdeh is by Pozzobon (1984, 1992) who studied the social organization of the Maku through the relation between kinship and demographics, establishing a general socio-structural model for the Bara, Hupda and Yuhupdeh. Other works that deal specifically with the Yuhupdeh and concern the questions of social organization and history include those by Gabriel Cabrera Becerra, Carlos Eduardo Franky Calvo and Dany Mahecha Rubio (1997, 2000), Carlos Eduardo Franky Calvo and Dany Mahecha Rubio (1997), Dany Mahecha (2000) and Gabriel Cabrera Becerra (2005). More recently Lolli (2010) published a text on the ritual and shamanic system of the Yuhupdeh.

Sources of information

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  • ASSIS, Lenita de Paula Souza. Do caxiri a cachaça : mudanças nos hábitos de beber do povo Daw no Alto Rio Negro. São Gabriel da Cachoeira : UFAM, 2001. 86 p. (Monografia)


  • ATHIAS, Renato. Doenças e cura : sistema médico e representação entre os Hupde-Maku da região do Rio Negro, Amazonas. Horizontes Antropológicos, Porto Alegre : UFRGS, v. 4, n. 9, 1998.

. Hupdë-Maku et Tukano : relations inégales entre deux sociétés du Uaupés, amazonien (Brésil). Paris : Univ. de Paris X, 1995. (Tese de Doutorado)

. Doença e cura : sistema médico e representação entre os Hupdë-Maku da região do Rio Negro, Amazonas. Horizontes Antropológicos, Porto Alegre : UFRGS, v. 4, n. 9, 1998.

  • BAMONTE, Gerardo. I Macu dell'alto Rio Negro : delimitazione delle aree di distribuzione e breve inchiesta etnografica su alcuni insediamenti del Tiquie. Roma : Univ. Degli Studi di Roma, 1973. 318 p. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • CABRERA BECERRA, Gabriel. Gentes con cerbatana, canasto y sin canoa. Nomadas, s.l. : s.ed., n. 10, p. 144-55, 1999.


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. Los Nukak, demografia, contato y enfermedad. In: GOMES, A. J. et al (Eds.). Amazonía Colombiana : enfermedades y endemias. Bogotá : Ministério de Cultura, 2000. p. 319-60.

. Nukak, Kakua, Juhup y Hupdu (Maku) : cazadores nomades de la Amazonía Colombiana. In: CORREA RUBIO, François (Ed.). Geografia humana de Colombia : Amazonía-caqueta. Tomo VII, v. II. Bogotá : Univ. Nacional de Colombia, 2000. p. 130-211.


  • FARIA, Ivani Ferreira de. Território e territorialidades indígenas do Alto Rio Negro. Manaus : EdUA, 2003. 168 p.


  • LUZ, Pedro Fernandes Leite da. Estudo comparativo dos complexos ritual e simbólico associados a Banisteriopsis Caapi e espécies congêneres em tribo da língua pano, arawak, tucano e maku. Rio de Janeiro : Museu Nacional/UFRJ, 1996. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • MACIEL, Iraguacema. Alguns aspectos fonológicos e morfológicos da língua maku. Brasília : UnB, 1991. 76 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • MARQUEZ, Juan Carlos Pena. A escola no tempo e no território Hupdah : mudanças no Nordeste Amazônico. Manaus : UFAM, 2003. 125 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • MARTINS, Silvana de Andrade. Análise da morfossintaxe da língua daw (maku-kama) e sua classificação tipológica. Florianópolis : UFSC, 1994. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • MARTINS, Valteir. Análise prosódica da língua daw (maku-kama) numa perspectiva não linear. Florianópolis : UFSC, 1994. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


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  • MUÑOZ R., Maria I.; ZAMBRANO, Carlos V. Los Nukak : encuentro etnográfico en las selvas. In: BARTOLOME, Miguel A. (Coord.). Ya no hay lugar para cazadores : processo de extincción y transfiguración étnica en America Latina. Quito : Abya-Ayala, 1995. p. 145-72 p. (Biblioteca Abya-Yala, 23)


  • MÜNZEL, Mark. Notas preliminares sobre os Kaborí (Makú entre o Rio Negro e o Japurá). Rev. de Antropologia, São Paulo : USP, v. 17/20, p. 137-81, 1969-1972.


  • OLIVEIRA, Ana Gita de. Índios e brancos no Alto Rio Negro : um estudo da situação de contato dos Tariana. Brasília : UNB, 1981. 162 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)

. O mundo transformado : um estudo da "cultura de fronteira" no Alto Rio Negro. Brasília : UnB-ICH, 1992. 286 p. (Tese de Doutorado)

; MEIRA, Márcio; POZZOBON, Jorge. Relatório antropológico, Áreas Indígenas Médio Rio Negro, Rio Téa e Rio Apapóris. Brasília : Funai, 1994. 192 p.

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  • POZZOBON, Jorge. Identidade e endogamia : observações sobre a organização social dos índios Maku. Porto Alegre : UFRGS, 1984.

. Isolamento e endogamia : observações sobre a organização social dos índios Maku. Porto Alegre : UFRS, 1983. 387 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)

. Langue, société et numération chez les Indiens Maku (haut Rio Negro, Brésil). Journal de la Société des Américanistes, Paris : Société des Américanistes, n. 83, p. 159-72, 1997.

. Os Maku : esquecidos e discriminados. In: RICARDO, Carlos Alberto (Ed.). Povos Indígenas no Brasil : 1987/88/89/90. São Paulo : Cedi, 1991. p. 141-2. (Aconteceu Especial, 18)

. Parente et demographie chez les indiens Maku. Paris : Univ. Paris VII, 1991. 257 p. (Tese de Doutorado)

  • POZZOBON, Jorge. O sistema numérico dos índios Maku. In: FERREIRA, Mariana Kawall Leal (Org.). Idéias matemáticas de povos culturalmente distintos. São Paulo : Global ; Mari/USP, 2002. p. 166-84. (Antropologia e Educação)

. Vocês, brancos, não têm alma : histórias de fronteiras. Belém : UFPA ; MPEG, 2002. 140 p.

  • RAMOS, Alcida Rita. Patrões e clientes : relações intertribais no Alto Rio Negro. In: --------. Hierarquia e simbiose : relações intertribais no Brasil. São Paulo : Hucitec, 1980. p. 135-82.


  • REID, Howard. Some aspects of movement, growth and change among the Hupdu Maku indians of Brazil. Cambridge : Univ. of Cambridge, 1979. 405 p. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • SALAMAND-KUAN, Catherine. Representations de la hierarchie dans le nord-ouest amazonien : le cas des indiens Maku. Paris : École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 1992. 82 p.


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  • SCHULTZ, Harald. Ligeiras notas sobre os Makú do Paraná Boá-Boá. Rev. do Museu Paulista, São Paulo : Museu Paulista, v. 11, n.s., p. 109-32, 1959.


  • SILVERWOOD-COPE, Peter L. Os Makú : povo caçador do Noroeste da Amazônia. Brasília : UnB, 1990. 206 p. (Coleção Pensamento Antropológico). Apresentado originalmente como Tese de Doutorado. 1973, Cambridge University.


  • TORRES C., William. Nukak : aspectos etnográficos. Rev. Colombiana de Antropologia, Bogotá : Inst. Colombiano de Antropologia, n. 31, p. 195-36, 1994.


  • WEIR, Evelyn Maria Helen. A negação e outros tópicos de gramática Nadeb. Campinas : Unicamp, 1984. (Dissertação de Mestrado)

. Nadëb. In: KAHREL, Peter; BERG, Rene van den (Eds.). Typological studies in negation. Amsterdan : John Benjamins, 1994. p. 291-323. (Typological Studies in Language, 29)

  • ZAMBRANO, Carlos Vladimir. El contacto con los nukak del Guaviare. Rev. Colombiana de Antropologia, Bogotá : Inst. Colombiano de Cultura, n. 31, p. 177-94, 1994.