The Secoya tribe is a native people in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon. The word Secoya means 'river of colors' (sieco = color, Siaya = river). The Secoya are part of a much larger ethnic group in the Amazon known as the Western Tokano. Tokano people live in the northwest of Brazil, in the southwest of Colombia between the Caqueta and Vaoupes rivers, and on the northern border between Ecuador and Peru.
The Secoya speak the language Paicoka, which is part of the Western Tucanoan language group. Paicoka means litteraly "the voice of the people" (pai = people, coka = voice or language). Paicoka is part of the Western Tukano linguistic family. The old language in the Amazon has names for thousands of different plants. According to studies which have been carried out by the scientists Carlos Pablo and Yepez Ceron, the Secoya uses the largest number of plants in the world. Paicocka is also a spiritual language, used by other tribes to chant mantras during Yage ceremonies.
The Secoya perform a very special ceremony for spiritual enlightenment: a ceremony of Yagé (‘Yah-Hey’). The ceremony serves multiple purposes, such as diagnosis and treatment of diseases and communication with spirits in the afterlife. The ceremony takes place in a special yage house, where all Secoya gather after adorning themselves with stripes on their faces made from freshly picked achiote and curi (which coloured red and yellow). Their lips where dyed black, and they wore new tunics, decorated with feathers, crowns and necklaces. The ceremony is leaded by a shaman, who provide them with the yage drink and who guides them through the entire process.
Traditionally, the Secoya live in Malocas, (or Tuikihue, in Paicoka). Malocas are large houses directly build on the ground where different families live together as a clan. These homes are built according to cosmic orientations. As such, they also served as ‘architectural agenda’s’, with some pillars oriented to the solstice and others to the equinox. This particular orientation was useful to carry out agricultural practices. The exact dates for sowing and planting are essential for crops. In particular, the Secoya are able to plant unique varieties of corn. These will only be planted in a short period each year in order to ensure a good harvest.
The Secoya show us the importance of nature, and that we should treat it with respect. For example, is it really necessary to print your documents, or can you help save those trees? If we combine forces, we can make an impact!