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Indigenous peoples in Venezuela

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Title: Indigenous peoples in Venezuela  
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Indigenous peoples in Venezuela

Indigenous peoples are concentrated in the southern state of Amazonas and in the Andes of the western state of Zulia.

Indigenous peoples in Venezuela form about 1.5% of the total population,[1] although many Venezuelans share some indigenous ancestry. Indigenous peoples are concentrated in the southern Amazon rainforest state of Amazonas, where they make up nearly 50% of the population,[1] and in the Andes of the western state of Zulia. The most numerous indigenous people, at about 200,000, is the Venezuelan part of the Wayuu (or Guajiro) people who primarily live in Zulia between Lake Maracaibo and the Colombian border.[2] Another 100,000 or so indigenous people live in the sparsely populated southeastern states of Amazonas, Bolívar, and Delta Amacuro.[2] There are at least 26 indigenous groups in Venezuela, including the Ya̧nomamö, Pemon, Warao people, Baniwa people, Kali'na people, Motilone Barí, Ye'kuana,[2] and Yaruro.


  • History 1
  • Political organization 2
  • Legal rights 3
  • Languages 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Natives of Cumaná attack the mission after Gonzalez de Ocampo's slaving raid. Colored copperplate by Theodor de Bry, published in the "Relación brevissima"

It is not known how many people lived in Venezuela before the Spanish Conquest; it may have been around a million people[3] and in addition to today's peoples included groups such as the Auaké, Caquetio, Mariche, and Timoto-cuicas.[4] The number was much reduced after the Conquest, mainly through the spread of new diseases from Europe.[3] There were two main north-south axes of pre-Columbian population, producing maize in the west and manioc in the east.[3] Large parts of the llanos plains were cultivated through a combination of slash and burn and permanent settled agriculture.[3] The indigenous peoples of Venezuela had already encountered crude oils and asphalts that seeped up through the ground to the surface. Known to the locals as mene, the thick, black liquid was primarily used for medicinal purposes, as an illumination source, and for the caulking of canoes.[5]


External links

  1. ^ a b Van Cott (2003), "Andean Indigenous Movements and Constitutional Transformation: Venezuela in Comparative Perspective", Latin American Perspectives 30(1), p52
  2. ^ a b c Richard Gott (2005), Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Verso. p202
  3. ^ a b c d e Wunder, Sven (2003), Oil wealth and the fate of the forest: a comparative study of eight tropical countries, Routledge. p130.
  4. ^ Others include the Aragua and Tacariguas, from the area around Lake Valencia.
  5. ^ Anibal Martinez (1969). Chronology of Venezuelan Oil. Purnell and Sons LTD. 
  6. ^ Thomas, Hugh (2005). Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan. Random House. p. 189.  
  7. ^ "Alcaldía del Hatillo: Historia" (in Spanish). Universidad Nueva Esparta. Retrieved 10 March 2007. 
  8. ^ a b c Gott (2005:203)
  9. ^ a b Gott (2005:204)
  10. ^ See Los Hijos de La Luna: Monografia Anthropologica Sobre los Indios Sanema-Yanoama, Caracas, Venezuela: Editorial Arte, 1974
  11. ^ Van Cott, Donna Lee (2006), "Turning Crisis into Opportunity: Achievements of Excluded Groups in the Andes", in Paul W. Drake, Eric Hershberg (eds), State and society in conflict: comparative perspectives on Andean crises, University of Pittsburgh Press. p.163
  12. ^ Alcida Rita Ramos, "Cutting through state and class: Sources and Strategies of Self-Representation in Latin America", in Kay B. Warren and Jean Elizabeth Jackson (eds, 2002), Indigenous movements, self-representation, and the state in Latin America, University of Texas Press. pp259-60
  13. ^ a b Van Cott (2003), "Andean Indigenous Movements and Constitutional Transformation: Venezuela in Comparative Perspective", Latin American Perspectives 30(1), p51
  14. ^ a b Van Cott (2003:63)
  15. ^ Van Cott (2003:65)


The main language families are


Ultimately the 1999 constitutional process produced "the region's most progressive indigenous rights regime".[14] Innovations included Article 125's guarantee of political representation at all levels of government, and Article 124's prohibition on "the registration of patents related to indigenous genetic resources or intellectual property associated with indigenous knowledge."[14] The new constitution followed the example of Colombia in reserving parliamentary seats for indigenous delegates (three in Venezuela's National Assembly), and it was the first Latin American constitution to reserve indigenous seats in state assemblies and municipal councils in districts with indigenous populations.[15]

Prior to the creation of the 1999 constitution of Venezuela, legal rights for indigenous peoples were increasingly lagging behind other Latin American countries, which were progressively enshrining a common set of indigenous collective rights in their national constitutions.[13] The 1961 constitution had actually been a step backward from the 1947 constitution, and the indigenous rights law foreseen in it languished for a decade, unpassed by 1999.[13]

Legal rights

The National Council of Venezuelan Indians (Consejo Nacional Indio de Venezuela, CONIVE) was formed in 1989 and represents the majority of indigenous peoples, with 60 affiliates representing 30 peoples.[11] In September 1999 indigenous peoples "marched on the National Congress in Caracas to pressure the Constitutional Assembly for the inclusion of important pro-[indigenous] provisions in the new constitution, such as the right to ownership, free transit across international borders, free choice of nationality, and land demarcation within two years."[12]

Political organization

In October 1999 Pemon destroyed a number of electricity pylons constructed to carry electricity from the Guri Dam to Brazil. The Pemon argued that cheap electricity would encourage further development by mining companies. The $110 million project was completed in 2001.[9]

In 1913, during a rubber boom, Colonel Tomas Funes seized control of Amazonas's San Fernando de Atabapo, killing over 100 settlers. In the following nine years in which Funes controlled the town, Funes destroyed dozens of Ye'kuana villages and killed several thousand Ye'kuana.[9][10]

[8] For the remainder of the nineteenth century governments did little for indigenous peoples, and they were pushed away from the country's agricultural centre to the periphery.[8].Simon Bolivar and in 1817 were brutally taken over by the forces of War of Independence found their missions of strategic significance in the Capuchins withdrew in the 1760s, while the Jesuits Under Spanish colonization, several religious orders established mission stations. The [8]

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