Who are the Yanomami?
ya·no·ma·mi | yä-nō-ˈmä-mē
The Yanomami are an Amazonian indigenous people that subsist mostly by hunting-gathering and simple horticulture. The population is estimated at 36,000 individuals within a territory spans across the southeastern Venezuelan and northwestern Brazilian border. Historically, they have been known for being one of the world's last remaining indigenous socieites to have been relatively isolated from the "outside world" or other non-Yanomami populations. More recently, their microbiome linked to their health status is earning them increasing popularity. Many experts contend that there are villages that remain completely isolated.
However, many regions of the Yanomami territory have been confronted with radical changes and threats to their survival. Since sustained Western contact first began in the 1950s, the Yanomami of the Upper Orinoco have suffered the spread of novel infectious diseases, invasion of illegal gold miners, and engagement with complex political and economic policies that affect their ancestral way of life.
Over the last several generations, hundreds of Yanomami communities have migrated and permanently, or semi-permanently, settled along major rivers throughout their territory. Consequently, these communities face a new set of public health challenges such as introduced infectious diseases, malnutrition, poor hygiene, and limited sanitation. Some have become particularly more vulnerable to tuberculosis, malaria, and measles. Additionally, the introduction of processed foods like bleached rice and refined sugar pose novel health risks such as decline in dental health, malnutrition, loss of microbiome diversity, diabetes and obesity.
The Yanomami Foundation focuses on communities at the interface of practicing traditional customs while navigating their rapidly evolving integration with the national society. The Yanomami critically need support to protect their way of life and maintain the health and welfare of the more vulnerable, less frequently contacted communities of the interior.
Choose an essay below to learn more about specific topics surrounding Yanomami culture, history, and current situations.