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People of the Rainforest

People with Spanish ancestors who live along the rivers of the rain forest are called riberneros or mestizos. They live in small villages or farms. They speak with Spanish accents and have dark skin and dark hair. They wear clothes much like we wear in the United States in warmer weather. They live a very simple life, usually cooking outside whatever they can find from the forest, grow in a small garden, or trade in the city for.

People who are native to a place (their ancestors haved lived there thousands of years) are called indigenous. In the Amazon rain forest, one group of indigenous people is called the Yagua Indians. They have their own language and customs. They sometimes sell things they made or got from the forest to tourists to make money. The Yagua Indians of Peru are an indigenous group of people that live in the rain forest in the Amazon Basin near Iquitos.

These people live a very simple life making handicrafts such as wood carvings, seed necklaces, simple dolls, flutes, baskets, and miniature blow guns. They exist by fishing, hunting, and living off the land. They do not use a monetary system but rather barter for items such as clothing, towels, and red lipstick. Some of these items they keep for themselves and some of them they use to trade again for other supplies with the people that travel up and down the river.

The native dress of the Yagua Indians consists of skirts of palm fiber. They use blowguns to hunt monkeys and other small animals of the forest. The darts are carried in a quiver made from carefully folded palm leaves. The darts themselves are made of palm-leaf midrib and tuffed with silk cotton. As more and more people come to the forest area the culture of the Yagua Indians seems to be changing. Appointments must be made for groups of tourists to come to the village to trade. When a scheduled visit is arranged the members of the community don their native dress of "grass" skirts. When visitors are not around the Yagua Indians can be seen wearing jeans, shorts, and typical western clothing.

The river is very important to the lives of the people. They use rivers for washing clothes, bathing, fishing for food, and for water for cooking. Since there are no roads in the forest, the rivers are the main ways to get places. Adults and children travel by dugout canoes that are hand-made from special trees. Children as young as 5 years old know how to paddle a canoe.

Children attend schools in villages along the rivers. A typical school you might find in the rain forest is a one-room building where one teacher teaches students in many grades. They are a lot like schools in the United States 100 years ago. Usually the teacher lives in a house near the school, which is painted blue so people can identify it easily. Many times mothers helps the teacher at the school. The government owns all the schools in the Amazon Rain Forest in Peru. Most schools don't have very many supplies for students and teachers to use. Even when schools from the United States raise funds and send books to the rain forest, the very damp air makes the books wrinkle and fall apart pretty quickly.


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