This paper examines demographic and health impacts of the colonization of the upper Rio Negro region during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Smallpox, measles, and epidemic fevers plagued native populations, contributing to the depopulation of the region and depleting the Indian workforce crucial to the economic survival of the Portuguese colony and the Brazilian empire. It examines how colonists and scientists explained the biological vulnerability to smallpox and measles, two major killers of Indians during these periods, and also discusses the nature of the diseases that plagued Indian populations.
The sacred traditions of Kuwai are a central part of the cultural and spiritual heritage of northern Arawak-speaking peoples of the Northwest Amazon region living in an area from the upper Vaupés in Colombia, throughout the Içana River basin in Brazil, to the Guaviare and Inirida, river regions in Venezuela. This study aims to discuss some of the most important dimensions of this religious tradition. Concretely, by mapping the traditions and their variants; by discussing tradition 'mythscapes', that is, the sets of sacred sites inter-related by narratives and shamanic chants shared by ethno-linguistic groups; by elaborating on the most important meanings associated with the figure of Kuwai, having to do with patrilineal ancestors, cultural transmission across generations, nature/culture relations, and shamanism; and by looking at the cross-fertilization of cosmologies at the frontiers between the Kuwai religious tradition and non-Arawakan traditions.