The Cofan
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The Cofan

Endangered forest dwellers

Endangered forest dwellers

The Cofan, named after the Cofa Na’e (“Important river”) or Aguarico River, also known as the a’i (“Human”), are the last surviving remnants of the native tribes of the Amazon basin. They live in harmony with the forest, masters and keepers of it’s secrets.

Since oil and gold were discovered in their lands almost a century ago, the area has been devastated by western companies and the fragile ecosystem endangered. Today, the Cofan are fighting for their rights to protect their traditional lands and culture.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is South America

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Medium

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

After farming one area, the Cofan will move on and only come back once the fertility of the land has naturally regenerated. Their main foods are corn, plantains, manioc, bananas and fish. But after oil exploitation, the Cofan have struggled to sustain their own traditional food production. Though they are fighting to bring back this way of life.
Home

Home

Traditional Cofan houses are built as one with the forest. With beautifully thatched roofs and stilt foundations, these homes blend in with surroundings. These days, some Cofan enjoy electricity produced by solar panels.

Culture

Social Structure

Kinship is the foundation of Cofan social structure. And those who are not of pure Cofan descent can become kin through rituals.

In a benefits-like system, resources are all shared equally within a village.

Religion

The Cofan practice a mixed religion, blending their traditional animist beliefs with the Christianity brought to them by the colonial conquerors.

Traditions

Weaving hammocks is a great tradition of the Cofan. As well as their sacred medicine and hallucinogen, Yagé, given by the spirit and drank once or twice per week, even by children. In fact, they are famed for preparing many natural medicines, knowing well the remedial characteristics of the local flora.

Language

The Cofan language can be split into two main dialects; the Aguarico spoken in Ecuador and the San Miguel spoken in Colombia.

Art

Due to the threats they face, many traditional Cofan arts are disappearing or have already gone. But the community is now using tourism to help bring back these once great wonders, by promoting them and creating a sustainable economy.

Celebrations

Yagé is a key element of Cofan celebrations as well as daily life. The Taita (Shaman) will drink it so that he may have visions and revelations to further healing processes.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The Cofán Survival Fund is working hard to protect the land and heritage. Their American founder Randy Borman was born in the Cofan community during the 50s and has an incredible story.


Photos copyright / Cofan Survival Fund

Photo credit / Wildlife Reserve, Ecuador
iStock.com/marcelina1982

Photo credit / Boat in the Amazonian jungle
iStock.com/Mauro_Scarone