The Ashaninka, A Threatened Way of Life

The Ashaninka are one of the largest indigenous groups in South America, their ancestral homelands ranging from Brazil to Peru. Since colonial times, their existence has been difficult — they have been enslaved, had their lands taken away or destroyed, and were caught up in the bloody internal conflict in Peru during the late 20th century. Today, a large communal reserve set aside for the Ashaninka is under threat by the proposed Pakitzapango dam, which would displace some 10,000 Ashaninka. (Jo Eede / The Atlantic)

Acre Province, in the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil. Ashaninka Indians apply face-paint each day, in a design that reflects their mood. Made from the seeds of the Urucum plant, the paint has a rich, red color. Men take just as much care of their appearance as women. (Mike Goldwater)

Ashaninka children look out over the River Breu from their hilltop home in the village of Simpatia. (Mike Goldwater)

Dark monsoon clouds gather over the Envira River in Acre Province, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

A large group travels upstream by boat, to visit neighboring Ashaninka. (Mike Goldwater)

A girl, after finishing her face-paint, in Acre Province, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

One of the chief’s sons works thread into a pattern on a hunting arrow on the River Amonia in Acre Province, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

A young Ashaninka boy practices his archery skills using arrows with blunt tips for bringing down birds. (Mike Goldwater)

Ashaninka girls will raise this orphaned baby pig. A litter of piglets was found by a hunting party after they killed two boars near the River Envira, in Acre Province, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

A lone Ashaninka crosses the river in a dug out boat in the early morning mist, near Simpatia Village, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

A friend applies the finishing touches to a girl’s face-paint. Ashaninka Indians apply face-paint each day, in a design that reflects their mood. Made from the seeds of the Urucum plant, the paint has a rich, red color. Sometimes they also use fire-black for details. (Mike Goldwater)

The approach to Eagle’s Canyon, sacred place of the Ashaninka. In their mythology, this is where the eagles collect those who die who then become eagles themselves. (Angela Cumberbirch)

A young Ashaninka couple with their first child, in Simpatia Village, Acre Province, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

A group of boys make combs from strips of bamboo near the River Amonia, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

The Ene River valley, in Peru. (Angela Cumberbirch)

A large group travels upstream by boat, to visit a neighboring Ashaninka community. (Mike Goldwater)

Lopez is hunting game in the forest canopy, near the River Breu, in Acre Province, Brazil. (Mike Goldwater)

An aerial view of part of the Ene River Valley, part of the Ashaninka’s homeland, in Peru. (Angela Cumberbirch)

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