Who are the Secoya?

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Who are the Secoya?

The Secoya people are an endangered tribe who inhabit the Amazon area, which extends over parts of Ecuador and Peru. They are renowned for their shamanic acumen and knowledge of medicinal plants, with traditional uses for over 1,000 different plants. They prefer to live along the small rivers of the jungle where the waters are calmer and where they take advantage of existing natural resources. They use the rivers to mobilize and to fish, so they are excellent builders of canoes and good travelers.

The word Secoya means ‘rivers of colours’ (Sieco meaning colours, Siaya meaning river). They are part of a much larger ethnic group in the Amazon, known as the Western Tukano. The Secoya speak the language Pai Coka, which is a spiritual language used by other tribes in the Western Tukano to chant mantras during Yage ceremonies.

Secoya Culture

The Secoya cosmology includes the sacred use of Yage, a hallucinogenic drink made from the Banisteriopsis caapi plant, also known as Ayahuasca. They hold sacred ceremonies that are presided over by a Shaman which serves multiple purposes, including the diagnosis and treatment of illness, the identification and punishment of enemy sorcerers, the calling of game animals, appeals concerning the weather, and communication with supernatural spirits and the dead. Ayahuasca is the medium through which contact with the spirit world is made.

The Secoya people dress in traditional tunic garments of different colours during various occasions. They decorate themselves with jewellery made of feathers and wooden objects, and for men it is traditional to wear a feather crown. They also paint their faces and bodies. with red paint made from achiote.

The Secoya have maintained much of their remarkably rich culture and most notably, their vast treasury of plant-use knowledge. Dr. Carlos Cerón, a renowned Ecuadorian ethnobotanist, published a study documenting the specific names and uses of more than 1000 plants still used by the Siekopai. These plants were registered over the course of only a handful of field excursions, leaving much of their knowledge hidden from the public.

Challenges faced by the Secoya

For the Secoyas, contact with the Western world has always been an issue and they suffer heavily from oil-related contamination. Most of the water is unfit for bathing or drinking due to river contamination. The Secoya can no longer rely primarily on traditional pursuits like fishing, hunting, and cultivating food crops. Because of this, the communities are heavily influenced by the production of African palms and the extraction of their oil, which has a negative impact on the remaining area of rainforest that the Secoya call home.

What can we learn from the Secoya?

The Secoya call the rainforest the ‘lungs of the world’ and they want to keep it free from pollution and destruction. They make us think about the consequences of our actions, and the impact we have on the world around us. They also inspire us to be more spiritual; to slow down, meditate and be present in our daily lives.

The Secoya are the inspiration behind our newest location, Amsterdam FOZ! The beautiful decor based on feathers, wood and plant reflect touches of the Amazon Forest, creating a beautiful environment for any business professional. Learn more about this amazing location and book an inspiring visit here.

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