Meet the Amazonian voices featured on Maps, Magic, and Medicine

The Inga

Descendants of the Inca, the Inga people reside in the southwest region of Colombia in the departments (states) of Caquetá, Cauca, Nariño, and Putumayo, notably the Sibundoy Valley. They are the most populous indigenous group of Colombia's Andes-Amazon region, numbering some 20,000 people. The Inga are known for their shamanic tradition and cultivation of medicinal plants. The majority practice subsistence agriculture. Almost all Inga are bilingual in Inga-Quechua and Spanish.  

The Kogi

On the northwestern coast of South America, the Kogi dwell on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains along with three other associated indigenous groups. They choose to remain mostly in their villages and spend their days growing crops, weaving clothes and mochilas (fiber bags in which they carry the sacred coca leaves), and praying to the spirits.



The Matawai

The Matawai are a Maroon community living in the Surinamese interior. They are the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans who fled from coastline plantations during the time of Dutch colonial rule over three centuries ago. They traveled far along the ascending rivers leading southward until they were safe from Dutch raiders who sought to recapture them. There, they established thriving settlements and won their right to peacefully exist in the interior. Of the six primary Maroon groups today, the Matawai are one of the smallest and least known. Their present day population is estimated to be around 2,000, dispersed across 21 villages along the Saramacca River.


The Trio

The Trio are an indigenous group who occupy a large area in the northern Amazon region on both sides of the Suriname-Brazil border. In Suriname, the Trio currently live in the upper Sipaliwini-Corantijn River basin and the Tapanahoni-Palumeu River basin. Historically, the Trios lived in small settlements scattered across the region, but in the 1960s Baptist missionaries convinced the Trio to live in larger population centers where they can access healthcare, education, and church services. They are approximately 2,000 in number and speak the Tiriyó language, a member of the Cariban language family.



The Waurá

The Waurá indigenous people have inhabited the Xingu region of Central Brazil for at least a thousand years and represent some of the most traditional people in the Amazon basin. Today, they reside in the southwestern part of the Xingu Indigenous Reserve, numbering about three hundred people. They reside primarily in the village of Piyulaga and live in malocas (traditional roadhouses) built around an open central plaza. Much of the village life occurs in the plaza including their renowned colorful and intricate dances. In 2011, a group of Waurá established a second village, Ulupuene, to enable them to better preserve the reserve's southwest border. 


View Interactive resources

Explore the links below to learn more about the places, people, and stories featured on Maps, Magic, and Medicine:

The Northwest Amazon: Colombia

The Northwest Amazon: Colombia

The Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes

The Amazonian Travels of Richard Evans Schultes

The Northeast Amazon: Suriname

The Northeast Amazon: Suriname

Amazon Gold Rush: Gold Mining in Suriname

Amazon Gold Rush: Gold Mining in Suriname

Recommended reading:

Alexandra McAnarney. "Extracting Wealth, Endangering Health: Gold Mining in Suriname" (CIP Americas, 2013)

Arturo Escobar. Encountering Development: the Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University Press, 1995.

John Hemming. Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon. Thames & Hudson, 2009.

Jeremy, Hance. "Has Big Conservation Gone Astray?" Mongabay. April, 2016.

Mark J. Plotkin. Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: an Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest. Penguin Books, 1994.

Richard Price. Rainforest Warriors: Human Rights on Trial. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

Richard Evans Schultes. Where the Gods Reign: Plants and People of the Colombian Amazon. Synergetic Press, 1988

Wade Davis. One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest. Simon & Schuster, 1996