Kampa – Ashaninka Indians

The Ashaninka are an indigenous people residing deep within the Peruvian Amazon, with a much smaller population residing in the Brazilian state of Acre. The Ashaninka indigenous peoples are also known as the Kampa. However, the term “Kampa” is considered derogatory by the Ashaninka, since the word means “dishelved” in Peru. The Ashaninka name itself translates into “our kinsmen” in their native Ashaninka language. They almost reached extinction during the Rubber era/ Their land was demarcated in 1985. They have lived ever since in “preferred isolation”. A large population of Ashaninka live in Peru.

The Ashaninka are considered the second largest indigenous group within the Peruvian Amazon, outnumbered only by the Quechua. Nevertheless, current estimates show a population between 25,000 to 45,000 native inhabitants. The vast majority are located in small settlements scattered throughout the Peruvian rain forest. A scant 300 to 600 indigenous Ashaninka reside along the Brazilian border as a consequence of displacement.

During the Incan era, the Ashaninka developed a reputation for being skilled fighters who would go to great lengths to protect their culture from outside intrusion, leading them to be known by the Incas as the “Anti.” First contacted by the Jesuits in 1595 and again by the Franciscans in 1635, the Ashaninka continued to rebuff efforts made by the Spanish intruders to infiltrate and take over Ashaninka lands.

It was during modern times when the Ashaninka population faced its most dire threats. The AshÁninka not only faced constant encroachment of their territories from a variety of outsiders, they were also subjected to slavery during the rubber boom of the early 1800s to the early 1900s. During that period, up to 80 percent of the population lost their lives as a consequence of the horrific conditions that existed during that period.

Throughout the 20th century, the AshÁninka suffered from systematic encroachment, reduction and destruction of their territories and settlements by an assortment of outsiders ranging from drug traffickers and missionaries to Maoist guerrillas, loggers and oil companies. Many of the Ashaninka were forced to join the Shining Path, a self-proclaimed Maoist terrorist group well known for its atrocities. Internal conflict from other groups within Peru also greatly contributed to systematic violent acts against the indigenous people and their lands. Dozens of communities were displaced or destroyed during this period.

As a result of the constant devastation suffered at the hands of outside groups, the indigenous AshÁninka people prefer to live in isolation within their territory. The AshÁninka’s lands were demarcated in 1985, with a portion of those lands legally titled to the indigenous group itself. These lands serve as the basis of Otishi National Park.

The Ashaninka people are also well known for their unique traditional dress, also known as the “Kushma.” The Kushma is typical to Peru and the high jungle area. Borrowed from the Quechua language, the kushma consists of a robe oven on a back strap loom in natural hand-spun cotton and festooned with seeds on the shoulders. The feather work on the shoulders is used exclusively by males and signifies their prowess as hunters. Many of the traditional dresses are made using the bright red seeds of Achiote fruits. This red color is also used on the skin as well as their wardrobe. The red color is one of three variety of “Urucum” and is painted on as a daily practice. While the women wear long hair, Ashaninka men usually sport bowl cuts below the ear, giving them a unique hairstyle that makes them easily identifiable from others within the indigenous group.

As the Kampa “migrated” down into Brazil, they brought many Peruvian traditions. One was the Peruvian pan flute that dates back to 500 B.C. The same nine note musical scale is used as well in Oceania today.

Additional Information

NATIVE-L (April 1996): Ava-Guarani Indians make agreement with … – … owe an indemnification of R$ 14 million (about 14 million US dollars) to the Kampa Indians for the theft of the hardwood and for moral and environmental damages
The Social Dynamics of Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon – … becoming increasingly frequent in the Indian reserves. In 1987, the Kampa, Kulina and Jaminaua Indians denounced to IBDF (the Brazilian Institute for Forestry …
dios Ashaninka querem garantir seu território e a segurança de suas famílias
A arte, a sabedoria, o pioneirismo e as dificuldades vividas pelos ashaninka
Ashaninka pedem providências contra invasores de suas terras
Funai retoma atividades em região de índios isolados, no Acre
Ashaninka – Social Impact of Internet on Indigenous Communities in Peru – from the International Development Research Centre
Ashaninka Indians – A photo gallery of Ashaninka images. From Digital Photographs by Bart Van Oudenhove
Ashaninka sustentability – Learn about their economics, culture, organizations, and find general information. – illustrated – From Instituto Socioambiental
Ashaninkas – An excellent history. – From NY Transfer News
Ashaninkas Displaced From Their Lands – From Abraham Lama
Association for the Conservation of the Cutivireni Patrimony – Learn about their programs as related to the Ashaninkas. – illustrated – From ACPC
The Rainforest Foundation – Ashaninka Territorial Security – Peru – From The Rainforest Foundation
Rumbos Online: Ashaninka: the rebirth of a nation – “For more than a decade, in a forgotten jungle world in the center of Peru, in a valley called the Ene, a vicious war raged between the Shining Path guerrilla movement and the Peruvian armed forces…It was 1987, and the Shining Path had begun recruiting Ashaninka youths by force. Natives were snatched from their communities and many families were divided at gunpoint to form part of these guerrilla troops.”  Find out how well things have gone. – illustrated – From Rumbos Online
Shining Path Massacre of Ashaninka – News article from Sep 16, 1993 – From Robin Kirk
Zoraida Portillo, Colonisation Threatens the Ashaninka – Learn about the settlement of native lands and some of the history of the Ashaninka since contact. – From Zoraida Portillo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>