The Secoya, also known as the Siekopa’ai, is a small group of indigenous people from Northwestern Ecuador and Peruvian Amazon. They have been living in this region of the Amazon for thousands of years. Their ancestral homelands are located in Lagarto Cocha on the border of Ecuador and Peru.
During the 1940's a war between Ecuador and Peru separated the people. Around 600 Secoya moved up to the Aguarico river area of Ecuador near Cuyabeno National park and around 900 went downriver into Peru.
They speak Paicoca, which is part of the Western Tucanoan language group. Though most of the younger generation now also speak Spanish as they have been slowly assimilating into westernized culture due mainly to evangelical missionary groups and the petrol and palm industries that have been encroaching into their territory for the past 20 or so years.
The Secoya are known for their deep knowledge and tradition of working with Yajé. It is such a part of their life that it is embedded in their mythology as well as daily life. Through its visionary power, they saw how to emulate the heavenly beings they meet, whom they call Wiñapaí. These heavenly beings teach them ways to paint their face and bodies, call in wildlife for food, lead the community, heal the sick, and much more.
At this moment there are only a few remaining elders who still practice and uphold the Yajé tradition. Fortunately, some of the Secoya youth and people from outside the community are beginning to take interest and learn the old ways.
Last year they constructed a new Tuike We'e (traditional house) on grandfather Basilio’s land. lt is the first Tuike We'e in many years. The new house is already being used for making yuca bread, cooking chicha and will be used as a school for the children of the community.
Find out more from our friends over at Amazon Frontlines: