by Carlos Alberto Villarroel Barria
The Ye'kuana, also called Ye'kwana, Ye'Kuana, Yekuana, Yequana, Yecuana, Dekuana, Maquiritare, Makiritare, So'to or Maiongong, are a Cariban-speaking tropical rain forest tribe who live in the Caura River and Orinoco River regions of Venezuela in Bolivar State and Amazonas State. In Brazil, they inhabit the northeast of Roraima State. In Venezuela, the Ye'kuana live alongside their former enemies, the Sanumá (Yanomami subgroup).
When the Ye’kuana wish to refer to themselves, they use the word So’to, which can be translated as "people", "person". Ye’kuana, in turn, can be translated as "canoe people", "people of the canoes"or even "people of the branch in the river".
They live in communal houses called Atta or ëttë. The circular structure has a cone-shaped roof made of palm leaves. Building the atta is considered a spiritual activity in which the group reproduces the great cosmic home of the Creator.
The first reference to the Ye'kuana was in 1744 by a Jesuit priest called Manuel Román.
There are some 6,250 Ye'kuana in Venezuela, according to the 2001 census, with some 430 in Brazil.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ye'kuana_people
Yekuana woman with calabash cut or sekudato and bracelets (ahat mi)
(photo Dr. Agostini)