Awajún women and their families are an indigenous group of people occupying the Peruvian Amazon (forest). The group is also referred to as Aguaruna. Historically, the tribe has had a reputation for being fierce warriors and successfully defended their land and tradition. It is this kind of fortitude that has helped them retained their independent way of life and influenced the mission of the Awajún women, today.
Awajún women are hailed for their deep knowledge of identifying plants for their medicinal properties, and nutritional sources. This traditional is passed down from women to their daughters. Since the people rely so heavy on the forest where the plants are grown, where they find their food, and build their houses, it is of paramount importance to save the forest from destruction. Deforestation is mainly attributed to outsiders who are loggers, commercial builders, farmers, and oil and mining companies.
Since 2012, Conservation International (CI) has embarked on an ambitious project with the Awajún community in the settlement of Shampuyacu. The village lays close the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, an area in the Yungas of northern Peru. The Awajún women wanted to reserve a section of the forest to cultivate and harvest traditional plants. And while there is much work to be done, much has been achieved.
Conservation International reported “back in Shampuyacu, the women’s forest is thriving. The general assembly approved the request and there are now 32 women participating in the project. They’re growing a tree whose bark can be boiled to treat various stomach maladies, a palm whose oil is used as shampoo and a plant that treats headaches and typhoid fever. But more important, they are growing their knowledge of traditional plants and recovering ancestral traditions that were almost lost.”
The words ‘lost‘ and ‘recovering ‘ are imperative with regards to the contexts in which these were used above. As so-called modernism or civilization encroached on the once isolated territories of indigenous people, their homes, and lifestyle traditions are vanishing. Awajún women are steadfast in their determination to protect their customs, forest and homeland’s verdure.
Article by: Amber Walker