The Nukak Tribe

The Indigenous Tribes of the Rainforest – The Nukak Tribe The Nukak Tribe is found in between the Guaviare and Inirida River in the Amazon basin. It is part of the Guaviare department, in the Republic of Colombia. Unlike any other tribe, the Nukak population is facing a severe threat to extinction. Their current numbers only lies around 400. Over half of their population were found dead or killed since they met in the Columbian civil war between the Columbian soldiers and gorillas. The out-side world has finally answered their calls.

The BBC has written an article about their endangerment and survival international has started a campaign to save these people. Another interesting factor about the Nukak Tribe is their sophisticated hunting methods. They shoot with blow-guns with their tips poisoned from a type of plant called curares. They use bows, arrows and harpoons to hunt for fish. They also use poison, darts, traps, javelins and traps to hunt for large animals. Marriage is one of the most important customs to the Nukak Tribe. After the man has formally courted the woman with gifts, she has to live with him.

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If the woman still lives with her father, the gifts must include him. The man must go through an invitation ritual in which he demonstrates his abilities to the woman as he endures several penalties and difficulties. If the woman accepts and has a child, the couple is considered to be a formal pair. I man can marry several wives, although a single wife is most common, as there is increasing problems in finding a suitable partner (population problems). Ten territorial Nukak groups have been identified, each one with at least 50 or 60 people. If groups merge together, a special ritual is performed, called “entiwat”.

The groups dance face to face, striking and verbally injuring each other until the ritual reaches an intense moment when they all embrace each other, while weeping and expressing their affection to their ancestors. Another ritual called “ihinihat” is performed when the groups perform a form of exchange. The Nukak Tribe believes in Animism. It refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle. Animism encompasses the beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical world.

The Nukak Tribe believes that souls or spirits exist, not only in humans, but also in all other animals, plants, rocks, natural phenomena such as thunder, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment. As the Nukak Tribe moved into the Nukak reservation, some were influenced by the workers to be Christians. The Nukak Language, which is only spoken in Columbia by the Nukak Tribe, is a tonal language. There are six oral and six nasal vowels, as well as eleven consonant phonemes in the Nukak Language.

Some rules in the Nukak Language resemble other modern languages, for example, sentences are constructed in the word order: subject – object – verb. Some of the Nukak people speak Spanish, but this is just the minority. Currently, the Nukak Tribe spends their lives in a Nukak reservation and a provincial settlement proposed by Survival International. They are still struggling for their survival as more and more people in the tribe commit suicide by drinking poison. They plead the Columbian government for help every day. In their daily lives, they spend most of their time hunting for food.

However, their lives has been transformed as they settle into the reservations as the workers are trying to teach them simple tasks like wearing clothes and listening to the radio for the news (they still do not understand these concepts). Their typical day is similar to our day as they also enjoy playing, singing, taking care of babies… Lastly, we should help protect the Nukak Tribe from extinction by donating to Survival International to extend their survival campaign. The United Nations also supports this mission. We should help protect these people because they are also human beings and deserve the same as we do.

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