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[vc_row][vc_column width=”5/6″][vc_column_text el_class=”lead”]Many of our rapés are sourced from the Katukina. But without further explanation this is neither wrong nor right. Identifying the Katukina based on their name is difficult, since different groups have been designated with the same name at various time and places over colonial history.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

This text relates to the group that are known to be great masters of flora and fauna, and especially known for their healing practices with rapé and  kambo. They belong to first tribes that travelled outside of their territory to spread their plant wisdom and shamanistic healing practices.

Given names and own names

In fact, ‘Katukina’ is a generic term that refers to three geographically close, but linguistically distinct groups. This traces back to the first white settlers in the region, who classified their indigenous neighbors either as ‘tame’ or ‘rebellious’. Katukina relates to the former, while ‘Kaxinawa’ is associated with the rebellious. It is being thought that indigenous groups adopted names to escape the prosecution of Brazilian settlers on rebellious Indians.

For the ‘Katukina’ people, their name doesn’t have any meaning. They rather refer to the six clans into which they divide: Varinawa (people of the Sun), Kamanawa (people of the Jaguar), Satanawa (people of the Otter), Waninawa (people of the Peachpalm), Nainawa (people of the Sky) and Numanawa (people of the Dove). 

Location & demography

Katukina villages can be found in two Indigenous Territories (IT). The Gregório River IT, which they share with the Yawanawá tribe, and the Campinas River IT. The Katukina only counted 177 people in 1977, but have experienced a population growth of approximately  80% over the last two decades.

Contact with white settlers

The area which the Katukina inhibit is rich in rubber trees. This is why it was quickly invaded by Peruvians and Brazilians during the Rubber Boom in the late 19th century. As a consequence, Katukina people were scattered over the area and eventually forced into working in rubber tapping industry.

Katukina Rapé

The rapé produced  by the Katukina have a profound and deep grounding effect. They appear from light brown to dark brown colour. The aroma vary from fresh and floral to dark and earthy tones.


The popularity of the secrection of the sapo-verde (Phyllomedusa bicolor; giant leaf frog) known as kambô has exploded in recent years. The Katukina played an important role in the spreading of shamanistic wisdom and traditional use of kambô. The are engaged in lectures, and apply it at shamanistic gatherings and alternative therapy clinics. In this way kambô-teachings has helped the Katukina to positively affirm their ethnic identity. (Lima, 2012)

‘Kambô, as well as other native medicines, is based on the principle of the transmission of energy from the shaman to the person who receives the treatment. The indigenous people know different ways to give this vaccine and every tribe has developed different rituals. The Katukina  (…) take kambô burns several times a night before hunting. The number of burns, the frequency of the treatments and the intention varies in each tribe.

The main reason to take kambô is to remove panema, which is translated as bad luck, depression, laziness, sadness, or a condition attracting difficulties and disease. When nothing is going right then it is the right moment to take kambô, according to the tribes. In some tribes, kambô is also used as a tool for the young, to teach them discipline.’  (Lattanzi 2013)


There is debate on the rights of indigenous people being the original owner with regard to intellectual property rights. Brazil is taking the lead in the development of new medicine based on indigenous knowledge of natural resources of the Amazone. ‘The theft of biological resources from the country’s native habitats for commercial use’ is termed biopiracy.  The poison could be dangerous if administered wrongly, Chief Fernando of the Katukina warned. And its use, the letter added, is nothing less than biopiracy; if economic gain is generated by the remedy, the Katukina tribe should get a cut.’ (NYT,  may 30, 2006)

Sources of information

‘Poisonous Tree Frog Could Bring Wealth to Tribe in Brazilian Amazon’  The New York Times, may 30, 2006
Lattanzi, Giovanni. “Kambô: scientific research and healing treatments.” (2013).
Lima EC, Labate BC. “Kambo: From the Forests of Acre to the Urban Centers” Erowid.org. May 31, 2012.

This text is written by Mike and originally posted on a sister site of ours.

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Wakingherbs is a family project established in Ecuador. We work from Ecuador and The Netherlands where we have an office and distribution centre.