The Sapara people

The Sapara Nation is in the Peruvian and Ecuadoran Amazon. They have lived in harmony with the natural world for millennia.

In 2001 UNESCO recognized the oral culture of the Sapara as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” Today the Sapara culture is on the brink of disappearance. Once a society of 200,000 people, there are now less than 600 Sapara, of which only four still speak the language.

The foundation of Sapara culture is mutual respect for one another and the environment. The Sapara actively recognize the sacredness of all things: living, inanimate and invisible.

They believe everything has a spirit. They live and work in the spirit and dream world in which all earthly things, including rivers, trees, creatures and humans have a spirit. The Sapara understand that they are neither superior to, nor owners of, the land or the forest. The Sapara people are equal to all other life forms.

The Sapara live in harmony with the forest, and they maintain a connection to the forest spirits. This nurtures their positive relationship with the environment. They treat plants as equal beings and understand how it is that they can be food, medicine and sacrament. The Sapara see the holistic value in everything. Nothing in their environment is detached or separate. When they harvest or hunt, they always respect the limit of how much they can take and how often. They maintain balance and a wholly reciprocal relationship with their environment.

Out of their ancestral wisdom the Sapara developed a precise language and culture that was and remains integrated with their rainforest environment. Their unique semiotics deepens the understanding of the plants and animals of the Amazon. Their stories, legends, songs and rituals have evolved through an oral tradition which forms a trusting, holistic heritage. The Sapara language carries their age-old memory and extends their living identity.

For thousands of years the Sapara have lived in harmony with nature, passing down their culture and traditions through oral storytelling. But a series of events seriously reduced their population: war with the Incas, the arrival of the Spanish and, lately, the exploitation of rubber in the rainforest. Intermarriage with the Kichwas, Mestizos and Achuar, led to the gradual loss of the Sapara language.

Today the Sapara face extinction. Their population has been reduced to 300 people in Ecuador and less than 300 in Peru. Since 2012 the Sapara have been threatened by new oil extraction projects generated by the state and transnational companies that seek to exploit oil blocks in their territories. If oil extraction proceeds the area’s forests and biodiversity will disappear, and with it the Sapara culture.

Today’s young Sapara generation has decided to change the course of their history, save their world and preserve their traditions. They have opened their territory to friends from the outside world, and are sharing their ancestral knowledge, customs, stories, food and experiences.

Thus, Naku North and our explorations on Salt Spring Island.