Who are the Yanomami?
ya·no·ma·mi | yä-nō-ˈmä-mē
The Yanomami are an Amazonian indigenous people that subsist mainly by hunting-gathering and simple horticulture. The population is estimated at 36,000 individuals within a territory that spans the southeastern Venezuelan and northwestern Brazilian border. Historically, they have been known as one of the world's last remaining indigenous societies 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. However, many experts contend that there are villages that remain entirely isolated.
In recent decades, many regions of the Yanomami territory have been confronted with radical changes and threats to their survival. Since sustained Western contact began in the 1950s, the Yanomami of the Upper Orinoco has suffered the spread of novel infectious diseases, invasion of illegal gold miners, and engagement with complex political and economic policies that affect their traditional 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 new public health challenges such as introduced infectious diseases, malnutrition, poor hygiene, and limited sanitation. As a result, some have become notably more vulnerable to tuberculosis, malaria, and measles. Additionally, introducing processed foods like bleached rice and refined sugar poses novel health risks, such as a 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.