The Yagua people are an indigenous group living near the Amazon, Napo, Putumayo, and Yavari rivers in parts of Columbia and Peru. While the Yagua call themselves "Nihamwo," the Yagua name originated from two possible etymologies. The first being derived from a Quechua word, yawar, which means "blood" or the color of blood. This is likely due to the custom they have of painting their faces with blood-red seeds of the annatto plant. The second possible origin is the Spanish word, yagua, which means "royal palm." This term is believed to have been used by Spanish explorers in describing the Yagua because of their clothing made mostly of palm fiber.The Yagua villages are quite small, between 2 and 30 families, and they also few and far between. The vast distances between villages make it difficult to have consistent interaction with Yaguas, outside of the villages. While some Yagua people have adopted Spanish in order to trade with non-Yagua Peruvians, some of the children grow up only speaking Yagua and learn Spanish later in life due to economic pressure.
Yagua people are predominantly animists, believing in the supernatural forces animating all parts of nature, both living and inanimate. They worship mythical ancestors as Supreme Beings who created the world and spirits that reside in the world in water, earth, forest, and different levels of the heavens and underworlds. These spirits are either good, the hunting spirits, or evil, stars. Every village has a shaman that acts as a mediator between the two worlds.
Engagement // What's Happening Now
Bryan Webb recounts the journey of missionary Steve Ford who seeks to reach the unreached tribes in the Amazon. He states,
“Yet telling them is our responsibility. Christ gave the Church one overarching mandate: to go and keep going until every nation, tribe, language and kindred has heard the gospel. Steve and his team are doing all they can to reach these remote Amazon people. But for every village they contact, there are many more that remain untouched by the gospel.”
“He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (Luke 10:2, NIV).
Partnership // Move Beyond
Please spend a few moments in prayer for the following:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to stir in the hearts of the Yagua people and begin to break the soil so that they will be more receptive to the gospel message.
- Pray for missionaries like Steve Ford whose called to share the gospel with the unreached tribes of the Amazon.
- Pray the church in Peru will develop a vision for planting churches among Amazonian tribes and that Yagua believers will feel bold in sharing the gospel to their fellow tribespeople.