Safeguarding traditional knowledge in the territory of the Jaguars of Yuruparí

Dates of implementation
01/06/2017 - 01/02/2018
Fundación Gaia Amazonas Association of Captains and Traditional Indigenous Authorities of the Pirá Paraná (ACAIPI) Ministry of Culture of Colombia
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  • Facilitate the transmission of traditional knowledge from knowledge-holders to younger generations.
  • Document, foster and promote natural and sacred sites of the Yuruparí territory.


The Pirá Paraná River, located in the Vaupés Province in the south-eastern region of Colombia, is home to the sacred sites of the jaguar shamans of Yuruparí. Inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2011, their traditional knowledge is an organic system that seeks to maintain the balance between humans and nature. The Jaguars of Yuruparí are represented by the Association of Captains and Traditional Indigenous Authorities of the Pirá Paraná (ACAIPI), and number close to 2,000 according to a 2010 census. The population is comprised of 17 communities and neighbouring malocas - places of communal dwelling and gathering for rituals and ceremonies - belonging to the Tatuyo, Eduria, Bará, Barasana, Rasegana, Itana and Makuna ethnic groups. Each group conserves and speaks their native language due the relative isolation of the Yuruparí territory in the Colombian Amazon.

The traditional knowledge of the jaguar shamans of Yuruparí is known as Hee Yaia Keti Ota; ancestral wisdom that manifests itself through ritual ceremonies, social conduct, and in cosmological, ecological and economic practices. This system provides guidance for safeguarding the sacred natural sites of the territory. Healing shamanistic rituals that require deep concentration lead the thought along a healing route that interconnects the sites, both protecting its bio-cultural diversity and the well-being of its people.

Development of pedagogical resources

The ACAIPI, in close cooperation with the Colombian non-governmental organization Gaia Amazonas, implemented an endogenous research programme within the framework of the Special Safeguarding Plan of Hee Yaia Keti Ota, aimed at recognising and documenting the sacred sites in Yuruparí. As a continuation of the initiative, this project conducted further fieldwork in the ethnic territories, led by groups of young representatives and a knowledge-holder from each community, hence strengthening transmission within the community. Interviews in the respective native languages were carried out during visits to the sacred sites. The history and traditional knowledge of the latter were recorded in situ, then systematised and translated into Spanish for further editing. Ultimately, six bilingual booklets documenting the information that emerged from these exchanges were published. These resources are referenced in environmental education programs implemented by the ACAIPI along the Pirá Paraná River and serve as input for pedagogical material used by local primary and secondary school teachers.


  • Apprentice training of youth from the Yuruparí ethnic groups by traditional knowledge holders of the territory.
  • Knowledge transfer through generational exchange on sacred natural sites and ancestral territorial management.
  • Publication of six bilingual booklets that gather content related to the traditional knowledge of each of the ethnic territories.

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