For the first time in its history, UNESCO identified an entire culture complex as the intangible heritage of humanity and in need of protection. The cultural traditions of the Jaguar Shamans of Yuruparí, Colombia have finally been recognized.
This culture, common to several ethnic groups along the Pira Paraná River in the Colombian Amazon, centers around the holistic management of their sacred land. They combine spiritual elements with a deep knowledge of the rainforest.
Threatened in the 1970s by missionaries’ efforts to westernize them, these communities and their leaders from the Pira Paraná River have invested decades of work in documenting and protecting their culture.
Congratulations are due to the leadership of the people of the Pira Paraná River and Swift grantee Gaia Amazonas (www.gaiaamazonas.org) that has been accompanying the communities on the Pira Paraná for over twenty years to strengthen their governance and see their culture flourish.
According to Andrea Armeni of Gaia Amazonas, despite the UNESCO recognition, grave challenges persist in this region, especially as mining companies attempt to enter their territory to exploit the gold under some of their most sacred sites.
Here is a link to a short video on the culture of Hee Yaia Keti Oka: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddW3tpC-K28