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Preserving Indigenous Culture: The Zapara of Peru and Ecuador

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Preserving Indigenous Culture: The Zapara of Peru and Ecuador

A Zapara woman and her baby

In honor of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, we'll look at two endangered Amazon indigenous groups now.

A hundred years ago the Zapara people ruled a huge swath of the Amazon jungle of Ecuador . But by 1980 anthropologists considered them extinct -- wiped out by assimilation, violence and disease.

What the anthropologists didn't know was that a handful of Zapara were still hidden in the jungle -- a few in Ecuador , and a few more across the border in Peru . In 2001, the United Nations declared Zapara culture "a masterpiece of the intangible heritage of humanity" and awarded them 70 thousand dollars.

Producers Alan Weisman and Nancy Hand of Homelands Productions traveled to Ecuador to see if one shaman, a few aging native speakers, and world recognition can save a dying culture.

Distributed by the Public Radio Exchange

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