The Yanomami are an indigenous people of hunter-farmers-gatherers living in the Amazon rain forest across the southeastern Venezuelan and northwestern Brazilian border. The population is estimated at 36,000 individuals with 14,000 living in Venezuela and 22,000 in Brazil1. They are a dynamic people with a broad spectrum of lifestyles. At one end, many individuals are attempting urban life since recent years. However, there are many communities thriving in isolated deep within the Amazon with little impact from foreigners. In Venezuela, sustained Western contact began in the 1950's and since then, due to the exposure and permanent engagement with outsiders, a large number of communities have undergone many changes and transformations. The Yanomami of this project live in a region known as the Upper Orinoco of Venezuela, a municipality of the Amazonas State. The communities in which the project is based are located around Mavaca, Platanal, and Padamo. Catholic and Protestant missionary posts have been operating in these region for decades. Currently, they are at the forefront of providing intercultural education and training for the Yanomami people of these areas.
Empowerment through intercultural education
Very few Yanomami are well trained in intercultural interpretation and translation from Spanish to Yanomami and vice versa. As more Yanomami identify themselves and engage with the Venezuelan national society, intercultural interpretation-translation has become an increasingly necessary skill especially for the future leaders and their ambition to represent, preserve, and protect the cultural integrity of the people.
Many Yanomami youth are currently matriculated in intercultural bilingual schools that provide an education based on Venezuelan curriculum as well as traditional Yanomami folk knowledge. However, the education materials, most notably the textbooks, are highly out of date and have lost relevance in reflecting on the students’ contemporary lifestyles, needs, and environment.