The Harakmbut are a highly divided people group who once consisted of up to 18 antagonistic subgroups, five of which remain to this day. The Harakmbut lived in relative isolation until the rubber boom at the turn of the 20th century, when epidemics of sickness spread by rubber traders decimated roughly 95% of the Harakmbut population. An outbreak of smallpox led the Harakmbut to establish contact with a Dominican mission in 1951 as they sought medical help. In the 1970s, the construction of a road and the arrival of logging and gold mining companies brought them into more contact with the outside world until the Peruvian government made their land into a reservation in the 1980s.
Two missionaries with the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) began working with the Harakmbut in 1957, and the New Testament was completed in 1986. Catholics and Baptists also made early efforts to reach the Harakmbut, and a Baptist mission planted several churches before pulling out in 1969.
In 2000, a mission agency worked with churches from the neighboring Shipibo and Yine tribes to evangelize the Harakmbut, while another agency sent a series of short-term teams to do chronological Bible storying from 2004 to 2009. Some house churches were planted during this period, but they are no longer meeting. Today, some scattered believers remain among the Harakmbut, but they are not actively practicing their faith, and the people group as a whole has developed a strong resistance to the gospel and to the presence of missionaries.
The Harakmbut live in the southern jungle region of Peru in the Madre de Dios department. They are spread out over a large area that spans the Pinipini, Queros, Madre de Dios, Colorado, Inambari, Quince Mil, Araza, Chilive, Malinousquillo, and Punkiri Rivers.
The Harakmbut live a daily subsistence lifestyle based on farming, fishing, and hunting. Principal crops include manioc, sugarcane, plantains, corn, peanuts, and pineapple. Some men participate in logging or mining for gold to receive minimal wages from companies in the area.
Traditionally, the Harakmbut decorated themselves with intricately painted red and black designs, sometimes painting their entire bodies from head to toe. Women wore skirts woven from tree fiber in addition to painting their bodies, and the people used feathers for adornment during special ceremonies. They traditionally lived in communal longhouses with palm thatch roof that stretched all the way to the ground, and they slept on thatch mats. Today, the Harakmbut live as individual family units in small houses.
Coming-of-age rites formerly played a big role in Harakmbut culture, and the people still change their names upon reaching adulthood to signify the change in identity that they undergo in leaving childhood behind.
The Harakmbut hold to animistic views that seek to discover spiritual causes for life problems and resolve them through shamanistic rituals. The Harakmbut fear the spirit world, as they believe all spirits are evil and intent on causing harm. The Harakmbut believe that all life descended from a mythical tree called Wanamey and that a great spirit holds all members of the universe in harmony.
Animals are of the utmost importance in Harakmbut culture, as the Harakmbut believe that people and animals share both ancestors and a special spirit connection. Sicknesses and tragedies result when the universal equilibrium is broken in the spirit world and must be balanced again. The Harakmbut reverence shamans (more commonly called "dreamers"), men who investigate the spirit world to solve real life problems.
The Harakmbut need renewed efforts at evangelization, discipleship, church planting, and leadership training. They need local opportunities for income other than logging and mining, as well as protection of their land and natural resources.
Please pray for the hearts of the Harakmbut to be turned once again to a desire for God.
Pray that the Harakmbut believers will pursue Christ, grow in sanctification and their knowledge of the Word, and share their faith with their families and friends.
Pray for renewed, Spirit-led mission efforts among the Harakmbut.
Scripture Prayers for the Amarakaire, Harakmbet in Peru.
|Profile Source: Pioneers
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|Madre de Dios region: Madre de Dios and Colorado rivers. Source: Ethnologue 2016
Primary Language: Amarakaeri
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