Yawanawa Rapé – Kanarô


Yawanawa Rapé – Kanarô

Yawanawa Kanaro follows the basic Yawanawa recipe of Tsunu ashes and natural tobacco. Kanaro, the yellow Arara, is traditionally the messenger bird from the astral plane. They have beautiful saité (story-telling songs). It tells of “saudade,” a word hard to translate, but essentially a longing for something or someone that is gone.

The maker of this rapé is Shaneihu, grandson of the famous pajé Yawa and son of chief Biraci. He was the last to do the one-year Muka initiation diet accompanied by his grandfather before he passed away. This is a very serious diet that gives spiritual credibility to anyone fulfilling it. He is also a very accomplished musician who recorded and produced the amazing CD Kanarô, to be found on spotify for those who like to listen to it, it comes highly recommended.

In the words of a member of the tribe:

“Our language is a specific language, it has its difference, it is not like any language that has a word and that word is translated, it is very complex. So it is with our songs. Kanarô does not translate. It has a sentimental translation. It is a song that speaks of the remembrance to relatives or someone you like very much, of the longing for these people. It is a song that brings the oldest melody of our civilization, where the man sings with longing for his family.”

And here, the words of Biraci, chief of the Yawanawa tribe:

“Kanarô is the yellow macaw, the only bird that crossed the immense river, at the time when the animals spoke, carrying and bringing messages from the people who had not managed to cross over from the other side on the very, very large alligator. Today, for us, Kanarô is a very special song. A song of great joy or longing.”

More About Rapé

Rapé is a shamanic snuff, usually made with tobacco, found throughout the Amazon. It is used in traditional Amazonian medicine and shamanism as a medicinal herb, and as a tool for shamanic journeying.

Although rapé usually contains tobacco, it can contain a number of different herbs and plants to alter the experience. In addition, the strength of the tobacco used can change depending on the blend!

Rapé is usually administered by a shaman, through a pipe called a tepi. Small quantities of rapé are blown up the nostrils, one after the other. The effect can be powerful and immediate!

You can also take rapé yourself, using a special pipe called a kuripe. You will lose out on the experience and knowledge of the shaman, who can impart energetic healing and guidance too.

Depending on the cultural group, rapé is used in different ways. It is often used recreationally as a stimulant, but is also used to enhance the power of other plant medicines, or on its own for its transformative power. It has a number of purported medicinal properties – its capacity to provoke purging means it has a reputation as a cleanser of toxins from the body, and a booster of natural immunity.

Use with respect and care; it is a tobacco product and can be habit forming!

The Yawanawa

The Yawanawá (yawa/white-lipped peccary; nawa/people) are a group belonging to the Pano linguistic family who today occupy the Gregório River Indigenous Land.

The Yawanawá community is in reality a conjunction of people that includes members from other groups: Shawãdawa (Arara), Iskunawa (nowadays known as Shanênawa, who live in a village close to the town of Feijó), Rununawa, Sainawa (generally known as Yaminawá, who live in the Bagé river region), and Katukina. This configuration is the end result of a sociological dynamic common to many Pano groups – alliances through marriage, capture of women during warfare conflicts, the migration of families – and a series of historical contingencies.

Rapé for the Yawanawa

Rapé is one of the most sacred medicines for the Yawanawá and they were instrumental in bringing it to the world. They call it rumã and in their mythology it goes back to the beginning of time, when their legendary king Ruwa became the first human to die. When they buried him, many sacred plants grew for the first time over his body, and one was the tobacco plant. The shaman decided to dry it and grind it into powder and so rumã was first made to help the people heal themselves and reach the spiritual planes. When the first white man came to theit tribal lands the first thing the chief did was give him Rapé to see what this man was made of. In their tradition many medicines can be used for good and evil depending on the intention of the person using it but not Rapé, it can only be used for good. Naturally this doesn’t mean that it cannot be overdone and be bad for your health.


Although today the most notable aspect of Yawanawá shamanism is curing, in the past the shaman’s functions were more varied and touched upon other aspects of culture such as warfare and hunting. In terms of curing, various techniques are practiced by the Yawanawá specialists – including curing chants and blowing – the foremost of which nowadays is ‘praying,’ called shuãnka. During the curing sessions, the xinaya – the name given to the practitioner – ingests ayahuasca and intones over a pot full of manioc caiçuma from which the patient will later drink.

An interesting aspect of this practice is that diagnosis of the sickness is made on the basis of the dream the patient had before falling sick. Just as different shamanic techniques exist, so too there are various names designating each type of specialist (yuvehu, kushuintia, shuintia). Shamanic initiation comprises four parallel processes: the realization of certain trials (sucking the heart of an anaconda, chopping down a bee hive); the fulfilling of strict periods of precautionary measures which include sexual abstinence and avoidance of certain foods; the ingestion of various kinds of hallucinogenic substances (ayahuasca, pepper, datura, tobacco snuff, rarë – a non-identified plant, and tobacco juice); and learning the specific knowledge involved in each technique, namely the curing chants and ‘prayers.’

Shamanic power is ambivalent since it simultaneously enables the capacity to cure and to provoke illnesses. Accusations of sorcery and poisoning among the Yawanawá occur both between and within groups, provoking periodic social tensions that may give rise to fissions. In 1999 the community possessed two chant specialists and five specialists in plant remedies.


The Yawanawá inhabit the southern part of the Gregório River Indigenous Land, sharing its nearly 200,000 hectares with the Katukina of Sete Estrelas village. This indigenous territory, located in the municipality of Tarauacá, was the first to be demarcated in Acre.

Hunting and fishing are two of the Yawanawá’s main economic activities. In the dry season fishing trips are organized in which almost the whole community participates and which transform into important social events (‘food festivals,’ as the Yawanawá describe them). During the rainy season, when large animals leave clear tracks, hunting becomes one of the main sources of food.

The basic foods obtained from the swiddens are manioc, banana and maize, but other produce is also cultivated, such as rice, sweet potato, papaya, pineapple and sugarcane.



Kanaro is the yellow Arara, the Yawanawa messenger bird from the astral plane.

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