The Kuntanawa Tribe

Seu Milton and Dona Mariana.

The Kuntanawa were reportedly wiped out due to the violent targeting of indigenous peoples during the rubber plantings that were incorporated in Acre between the late 19th and early 20th centuries known as raids. The last known descendants of this society are part of a large family, previously referred to as “the caboclos of Milton” in association with their forebear’s name (Milton Gomes de Conceição). This ethnic origin has since been embraced, leading to a strong sense of indianity. It is backed by their lineage and exclusive history: the recent endeavours to create and uphold the Alto Juruá Extractive Reserve; dealings with nearby native peoples; reviving ceremonies involving ayahuasca and Kuntanawa rapé; in addition to feeling the effects of racial and political discrimination.

The name

The ethnonym was originally written Kontanawa, which means “coconut people”. This is also how government documents and the press refer to them.

Extrativist Reserve Alto Juru

The name Kontanawa, or Contanaua, is the most frequently cited (Tastevin, 1925 and 1926, Macedo, 1988, Aquino and Iglesias, 1994) in bibliographical references.

The group has recently begun pronouncing its name Kuntanawa and
engraving it like that. In the Pano languages, more specifically in the Hashta Kuin (spoken by the Kaxinawa), the word kunta is associated with the fruit coco or palm fruit (Scheelea phalerata). Kuntanawa means “people of the palm fruits”.
The Kuntanawa, in 2008 estimated to number 400 individuals, make their home on the banks of the upper Tagus River, contained within the Extractive Reserve (Resex) of Alto Juruá in far western Acre. They have sought legal recognition as a distinct ethnic group and rights to the land they inhabit- that is part of the Resex demarcation. This Indigenous People has progressively grouped itself into villages, with the main one named Sete Estrelas or Seven Stars.


Since the 1960s, Tejo rubber tappers have been aware of ayahuasca as a result of neighbouring indigenous cultures. However, it was not until the late 1990s that Milton and his sons had their first encounter with the ancestral beverage. The stories of Dona Regina had new meaning in this context and it reinforced the strong ethnic identity between the “caboclos de Milton” group emotionally and positively. Subsequently, they had more significant contact with the ancient drink after they took part in two trips. In 1989, they joined singer Milton Nascimento to Kampa Indigenous Land near the Reserve area. Two years later, members from their group were part of survey teams to register people from the Reserve who traveled by high river Tagus commanded by Antonio Alves and Terri Aquino.

kuntanawa ceremonial tobacco
Tobacco and Ayahuasca.

During those trips, they encountered renowned pajés and attended ayahuasca sessions with them. Afterward some of Milton’s sons started to make preparations for ritualistic consumption of ayahuasca and conducted ceremonies with it regularly.

Furthermore, shamanic meetings involving representatives from neighboring Indigenous Lands began to take place at rubber tapper assemblies since 1989; one night was always predetermined for those who wanted to experience ayahuasca under shamans such as David Lopes Kampa.

Kuntanawa Rapé Snuff

Through the contact with neighbouring tribes they also got introduced to Rapé and over the years have mastered the art of making Rapé. Kuntanawa Rapé has become a famous brand so to speak highly appreciated by connoisseurs and Snuff aficionados. The Kuntanawa family has a few members that are very knowledgable in medicinal plants from the region and this has led to the amazing variety of Kuntanawa Shamanic Snuffs that are being produced by members of the tribe. Sacred Connection offers a wide selection of top quality Kuntanawa Rapés.

Kuntanawa Shamanism

Kuntanawa Celebration
Shamanistic celebration.
Several accounts tell of contacts, induced by consumption of ayahuasca, with entities from the Indigenous universe. Osmildo, one of Milton’s sons and current leader in the fight for the recognition of indigenous people in 1991, frequently wore accessories associated with the Indigenous culture like necklaces and hair bands. In ayahuasca ceremonies, he often sang songs in the Indigenous language that he had learnt from his friends on his journey to visit and register Indigenous Lands across Amônea, Jordão and Breu Rivers. His ambition was to become a shaman. Both Pedrinho – another son of Milton – and he began to make ayahuasca with which they both had particularly intense experiences that authorized them to become shamans.Over time, a mostly male family nucleus was formed around Milton; it continues to convene regularly for ayahuasca rituals. Today, led by this drink believed sacred by their people, Kuntanawa shamans explore far-reaching realms and bring back body paintings, songs and ethnobotanical know-how to their kinfolk. Supported by Ashaninka shamans and guided by ayahuasca visions, Kuntanawa shamanism blossoms: young Kuntanawas—grandsons of Milton learn from ayahuasca and the guidance of the more experienced to “listen” to nature in quiet, outdoor rituals. Songs relating the Kuntanawa story are composed and become known to all the people; indigenous songs are also sung under the inspiration of the ritual drink, and also the ayahuasca songs of the Kaxinawa and Yawanawa “kinsmen”.  It is under the visceral experience of this drink held as sacred to these peoples that Milton and his sons claim to be accessing deeper dimensions of Kuntanawa indianity. Ayahuasca can not be dismissed as a powerful mechanism of subjectification throughout the ethnic Kuntanawa emergence.