The Sapara are an ancient people, which have lived in what is now the Ecuadorian Amazon for millennia. During that time, they have developed an inseparable relationship with the land on which they live that directly defines their identity. Their knowledge of their environment (and thus themselves) through their language, stories, songs, and culture was recognized by UNESCO in 2001 as intangible cultural heritage.
Right now, they are on the brink of disappearing. Between Ecuador and Peru, there are less than 600 Sapara left and only 5 of them still speak the Sapara language.
The Sapara believe that everything has a spirit and in the spirit world that they access through dreams, they see the Earth, rivers, trees, and everything as human beings just like them. They understand that they are not superior, nor are they owners of the land or the forest; they are equals to all other life. They live in relationship with the forest and maintain a spiritual connection to the forest spirits so that they may have good relations with their environment. Simply put, one of the foundations of Sapara culture is mutual respect of each other and their environment.
Part of their relationship to the forest around them is understanding the plants as equal beings and understanding how they can be food, medicine, sacrament or other use. Rather than understanding their environment as distinct and separate, they see the holistic value in everything so they don’t harvest any plant or hunt any animal without recognizing that there is a limit to how much they can take and how often in order to maintain balance and good relations with their environment.
The world of the Sapara is based on recognizing the sacredness of all things – living or inanimate or even invisible.
If you would like to learn more, here are some books about Sapara language and culture:
ANDRADE, C. (2001). Kwatupama Sapara. Palabra zápara. Puyo: ANAZPPA, Ediciones Abya-Yala.
BIlHAUT, A. (2011). El sueño de los Záparas: patrimonio onírico de un pueblo de la Alta Amazonía. Quito: FLACSO Sede Ecuador, Ediciones Abya-Yala.
MOYA, A. (2007). Sapara. Los aritiakus, hijos e hijas del mono colorado. Quito: Editorial Voluntad, UNESCO.