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The Andwa Nationality officially launches “Kupukwano” dictionary

Strategic Area: People
Content Type: News
Country: Ecuador

The official launch of the Andwa Language Dictionary, Kupukwano, was held at the emblematic Amazon State University, in the province of Pastaza, with the participation of representatives, leaders, and young people of the Andwa Nationality. 

The event was organized by the President of the Andwa Nationality, Daniel Dagua. It began with a conversation, attended by Felipe Serrano, Director of Nature and Culture International Ecuador, who moderated the space, together with the panelists Jorge Gómez Rendón, researcher and academic; Efrén Nango, leader of Education, Science and Research at the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE); and Trotsky Riera-Vite, Nature and Culture technician. 

Felipe Serrano Director of Nature and Culture International Ecuador moderated a conversation with the panelists including Efrén Nango from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon CONFENIAE Photo by Lanceros Digitales

The conversation started by emphasizing the importance of strengthening ancestral languages.

The moderator mentioned that “the knowledge of the ancestors is transmitted through language”, focusing on the relationship between nature and culture: “nature cannot be separated from culture, even more in the Amazon, where the jungle depends on the people and the people depend on the jungle,” Felipe Serrano stressed. 

With this introduction, Serrano began the dialogue with Trotsky Riera-Vite, to learn about the research that the latter carried out in the book Nunkán Náari. Shuar place names of Zamora Chinchipe. Riera-Vite, based his presentation on the case of Zamora Chinchipe, where many names of mountains, rivers, towns, animals, and plants come from or originate from Shuar-Chicham. “By rescuing traditional names, identity is reconstructed, and linguistic and territorial rights are claimed”, all of this, Riera-Vite pointed out, is part of recovering language. 

Then, Efrén Nango, began his speech clarifying that although the languages of the eleven nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon are being threatened, he has witnessed a reaction from the nationalities to recover, revitalize and reintroduce their language. For him, there is a meaning behind each letter, and it is related not only to cultural identity, but also to cosmogony, worldview, rights of nature and defense of the territory. 

A view of an interior page of the Andwa Language Dictionary Photo by Lanceros Digitales

But what will happen to the ancestral Amazonian languages in the future? 

Jorge Gómez Rendón, researcher and academic at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, answered the question and described that from a linguistic point of view, a discouraging panorama is observed. The loss of language and linguistic displacement is faster and faster, “languages are lost from one generation to the next,” said Gómez Rendón. 

However, faced with this reality, he is optimistic, because he considers that the vitality of languages is not exclusively linguistic, but rather has other aspects. “I declare myself an optimist because the nationalities are beginning to give the political value that language has, as an element not only of their identity but of their power,” said Jorge Gómez Rendón. 

“I declare myself an optimist because the nationalities are beginning to understand the political value that language has, as an element not only of their identity but of their power.”

Jorge Gómez Rendón.

The Andwa Dictionary is part of a process of reintroduction, not revitalization, since there are no longer native speakers of the language, and has only been possible thanks to the political will of the leadership of the Andwa Nationality. For Gómez Rendón, this is the only possible way that ancestral languages can survive. 

In a speech emphasizing his love for his Katsakati-Andwa language, Daniel Dagua, President of the Andwa Nationality, officially introduced Kupukwano, the Andwa Language Dictionary.

He explained that the dictionary initiative had a consultation process within the Governing Council, that responded to an investigation that began in 2018 with the support of Nature and Culture International. 

Daniel Dagua President of the Andwa Nationality

“We are young people who have started to rescue our language which is in danger of extinction. We are going to continue empowering it,” mentioned Dagua. 

The event ended with a sample of dance and music of the Andwa Nationality. In addition, the participants shared a variety of pineapple, sweet potato, yucca and chonta chichas. 

The Andwa Language Dictionary, Kupukwano, is available on our website: