Study of Indian Communities on the Caura River, Right-side Tributary to the Orinoco, and the Ways to Protect Them, Including Basic Medical Care  

Project authors:

Ing. Mnislav Zelený, founder of the Gran Amazonia Foundation, field ethnographist. (bibliography: Contribución a la etnografia huaraya, Praha 1976 (PhD Dissertation), Prairie and Forest Indians, Bratislava 1985, Encyklopedie archeologie (part: Latin America), Bratislava 1985, Encyclopaedia of World Culture (author of entries relating to Yawalapiti and Hurayao), New Haven 1992, Indiánská encyklopedie: Indiáni tří Amerik (Red Indians of the Three Americas), Praha 1994, and another 200 articles on the Latin American Indians.) Spent many years living among the Indians in Latin America during the past thirty years.

Jiří Šlambora, field ethnographist. Spent many years living among the Indians in Latin America during the past fifteen years.


Contact addresses:

Ing. Mnislav Zelený, Gran Amazonia Foundation, o.p.s., City Museum of Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, mobile: 604-263868, e-mail:

Jiří Šlambora, Gran Amazonia Foundation, o.p.s., City Museum of Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, mobile: 737-948340, e-mail:


An overview of the Amazon Indian Communities in the Region

Hoti: Hot (“Man”) live in partial isolation in the north-eastern Guyana Highlands in the Sierra Maigualida range on the upper courses of the rivers Asita, Parucito and Cuchivero. The estimated population is between 500 and 700 persons. They migrate in small groups as forest farmers, gatherers, hunters and fishers. The origin of their language is unknown. It is related to Wóthuha by some hypotheses, and is influenced by the neighbouring ethnic groups (Coppens, Walter, 1983).

Yanomamas: Yanomamo, Yanomami, Guaica, Guaharibo, Waika – they represent perhaps the largest group of forest Indians living a primeval life. Their number is estimated at 18,000. Their language belongs in the Yanomamo family, with a number of dialects: eastern dialect Paríma, western dialect Padamo, and another five dialects, including Kobali, Cobariwa, Ninam, Samantari and Sanema. They live as migrating hunters, gatherers and forest farmers on the extensive territory of the Venezuelan Amazonia on the upper course of the Orinoco and Caura, and in the Paríma mountain range (Cocco, padre Luis, 1972, Chagnon, Napoleon, 1983).

Maquiritari: Maquiritare (the “River People”) call themselves Yecuana (the “Curiara People”) (Gazeta Indigenista). They live along the rivers Ventuari, Caura, Paraguay and Erebato and their population is estimated at 5,200. They are typical forest farmers, hunters and fishers, and their language belongs in the large language family, Caríb.

Panare: They call themselves E’nepa. About 1200 hunters, fishers and forest farmers constitute two groups: those living in the forest and those inhabiting the Highlands and the basin of the upper course of the Cuchivero River. They belong in the large language family, Caríb.

Piaroa: They prefer being called Wóthuha (the “Peace People”). Their language is isolated, belonging in the Sáliva language family. Their scattered population of about 12,000 spans the vast and hard-to-get-at territory from the rivers Parguaza, Sipapo, Autana and Cuao up to the mid course of the Bentauri and the Manapiare Valley. They are typical settled forest farmers, gatherers, hunters and fishers (Joanna Overing, Kaplan M.R., 1988).

In the area between Trincheras and the town Maripa, there are several Indian settlements which arose as a result of the recent migration of several of the above ethnic groups, and which are very badly affected by our civilisation in cultural, social and health terms.


Short-term project:

3 years

Key objectives of the project:

Draw maps during the field investigations to be conducted within the 3-year period, showing the local communities, including their zones of hunting, gathering and crop growing (the migration regions). Analyse their original settlement systems and study the cultural changes in the region, including creolisation of the population and the relations between the Indian population, the Creoles, Negroes, Missionaries and Europeans, with emphasis on the social, cultural and economic aspects. Prepare overviews showing the current population numbers of the different Indian ethnical groups, lists of the animals they hunt (Gilmore, Raymond, 1950), fishes they catch, herbs they pick and crops they grow (Sauer, Carl O., 1950). Examine, proceeding from one community to another, the state of health of the communities inhabiting the area between the settlement Trincheras and the town of Maripá (Eichenberger, Ralph W., 1966, Layrisse, Miguel and Wilbert, Johannes, 1966). Provide central storage of the results in the Centre of Amazon Studies under the Municipal Museum of Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, where the Gran Amazonia Foundation has its registered office.

Deliverables: Expert publications in the Czech Republic (e.g. Iberoamericana, Lidé a země) and in other countries (Boletin de la Sociedad Venezolana de Antropología, Boletin Indigenista de Ministerio de Justicia, Sociedad Venezolana de Ciencias Naturales etc.), conferences, lectures in Czech universities, particularly in the Amazon Studies Centre in Ústí nad Labem and in the Ibero-American Centre of the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University in Prague.

Partners: University of Ústí nad Labem and the Charles University (Ibero-American Centre)

Estimated costs for the first period: travel expenses (about 6-9 air tickets) and costs of stay for two experts – each for two to three months every year, and their basic equipment, including the expenses of work meetings with Venezuelan authorities, processing of the results and the publication thereof in the Czech Republic and other countries (Venezuela). USD 53,000.-


Medium-term project:

5 years

Key objectives of the project:

Commence implementation of extensive solutions for the protection of Indian communities on the river Caura in co-operation with Venezuelan authorities with a view, for example, to preparing restrictions on prospecting activities. Establish regular medical service at the base of the Indian population in communities in close vicinity to the mid course of the Caura. 

Deliverables: Expert publications in the Czech Republic and in other countries, conferences, lectures, exhibitions 

Partners: Venezuelan institutions in the area of protection of Indian communities

                 Czech and Venezuelan universities


Long-term project:

5 years

Key objectives of the project:

Provide, in the following years, field medical care for other Indian communities on the river Caura. Find ad hoc solutions to protect those communities against the adverse effects of the industrial civilisation.

Deliverables: Expert publications in the Czech Republic and in other countries 

Partners: Venezuelan public administration authorities

                 Czech and South American universities



Cocco, padre Luis: Iyéwei-teri. Quince aňos entre los Yanomamos, Caracas, 1972

Coppens, Walter: Los Hoti, in: Los aborigines de Venezuela, Psrt 2, pp. 243-301. Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales, Caracas, 1983

Coppens, Walter: Guarismo Pinto, Virginia: Vocabulario Hoti, in: Antropológica 49, 1978

Gazeta Indigenista, 1975

Layrisse, Miguel and Gilbert, Johannes: Indian society of Venezuela: their blood group types. Caracas, 1966

Lizot, Jacques: Tales of the Yanomami: daily life in the Venezuelan forest, Cambridge Studies, in: Social Anthropology 55, Cambridge University Press, 1991

Napoleon, Chagnon: Yanamomo: The fierce people, New York, 1983

Overing, Joanna, Kaplan, M.R.: Wotuha, in: Los aborigines de Venezuela, Part 3, pp. 307-412, Caracas, 1988

Wilbert, Johannes: Folk literature of the Yanomami Indians, Los Angeles, 1990