The Araona currently live in a territorial area between the rivers Manupare and Manurimi, delimited approximately by the parallels 12º and 13º South latitude and by the meridians 68º and 67º West longitude The Araona population in 1999 was 93 persons, with a majority of the male sex The Araona live in a settlement (Puerto Araona) located in the Department of La Paz, Province of Iturralde, at the headwaters of the river Manupare.

Their houses are constructed approximately 15 minutes distant from each other. This makes the settlement quite disperse, with families separated in the forest. The tradition of constructing housing separated by the jungle, could have its origin in the character of peacefulness in which the Araona are accustomed to living. One can observe four types of buildings. The first is the permanent house, where the family spends most of its time; another is the occasional construction of shelters for hunting and fishing in places that offer the possibility of finding meat; another curious house made by the Araona is the "nahuiletae" a small shelter designated for women. Finally there is the "babatae" or temple for the Araona gods that is constructed with great care using special materials such as the jatata leaf. The territory possesses abundant rivers and curichis that offer the Araona points of reference for the supply of food.. Given that the habitat is located in remote forests the Araona have very infrequent contact by land with the regional population. The only method of linking and contact with the non-indigenous population is through the river Manupare, to the Madre de Dios, on which one finally arrives at Riberalta, the largest population center of the Northern Amazon of Bolivia.

The first reference of the Araona -through contact with the Araona who at the time lived along the river Madre de Dios - was made by Fransiscan Missionaries Manuel Mancini and Fidel Codenach in January 1867 Due in part to the fact that the visit was carried out at the start of the conquest of the North, the Franciscans did not start a mission in the community, a decision determined by the difficulties and risks that conditions presented.

At the start of the conquest of Northern Bolivia, rooted in the discovery of rubber in the jungles of the National Colony Territory, the Araona made up the most extensive indigenous group in the region. Information offered by the industrialist Antonio Vaca Déz in "Historia de la Colonización del Río Orthon" (1888) recognized that this indigenous peoples (Araona) populated the majority of the Bolivian rivers of the northeast. Chronicles of travelers of that time agree in showing that the Araona were located in distinct parts of the region. Some rubber industrialists, -such as Vaca Díez - initiated friendships offering them gifts of tools and other useful objects. In return, the Araona gave them news about the existence of the rivers where rich areas of rubber were located. During the era of rubber exploitation, the Araona and other indigenous groups were taken from their villages and forced to work as man power. There they were used as guides for the teams of rumbeares to find rubber trees, as well as to hunt and fish for the "white" workers.

The current Araona survivors come from the families that managed to escape their captors, that held them in conditions of slavery.. Since that time, approximately in the year 1910 until 1964, the Araona lived as nomads, hiding themselves from the rubber workers in the territory between the rivers Madre de Dios and Manupare.

Members of the Linguistic Institute of Verano and the New Tribes Mission, achieved friendly contact with 31 Araona that were found on the river Amarillo (Jahamanu), afraid of the white people and maintaining a nomadic lifestyle. In 1964 these institutions grouped themselves around a population center on the bank of the Manupare, with the intent of evangelization.

The information contained in this piece was obtained from the VAIPO website. The information was edited and modified considerably for this site.

The VAIPO website: A Spanish version can be reached from the main page.