The Ashaninka are an indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest comprising about 120,000 members, making them one of the largest indigenous Arawakan groups. Their origin is in Peru and their ethnicity has a historical relationship with the Inca Empire. Today, they are distributed mainly in Peru (188,000) and Brazil (2,000), covering a fragmented territory of about 100,000 km² in the past.

In Brazil, the Ashaninka are found in seven indigenous territories, all located in the State of Acre, in the region of Alto Juruá. Demarcated in 1992 by the FUNAI (Fundação Nacional do Índio), the Kampa indigenous territory of the Amônia River borders Peru and contains about half of the Ashaninka contingent in Brazil. The population of this indigenous land lives, for the most part, in the village of Apiwtxa, on the banks of the Amônia River, a tributary of the Juruá River.

The Ashaninka have a long history of struggle, pushing back the invaders from the time of the Inca Empire to the rubber mining economy of the 19th century and especially among the inhabitants on the Brazilian side of the border, fighting against logging from 1980 to the present day. Proud of their ancient culture, animated by a strong sense of freedom, ready to die to defend their territory, the Ashaninka people stand out in the history of the Amazon. Their ability to reconcile traditional customs and values with the ideas and practices of the white world, such as those related to socio-environmental sustainability, is admirable.

The Association Aquaverde works with the Ashaninka and their leader and spiritual master Benki Piyãko on their legally protected indigenous territory on the Amônia River, as well as on territories bought back by the Ashaninka in Brazil.

Located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the Ashaninka have a traditional system of medicine that combines extensive pharmacopoeia with ritual practices to jointly restore the physical and spiritual balance that has been disrupted. Indeed, their medicinal practices are based on notions that establish a close link between human health and the health of the ecosystem, both physical and spiritual.

The health of the mineral, plant, animal and human worlds therefore depends on the continued availability, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, of specific resources from the entire ecosystem. In his region, Benki’s grandfather (Samuel Piyãko) was well known and considered a great shaman or sheripiari, whose knowledge is the result of centuries of observation of nature and has only been transmitted orally to selected individuals such as Benki Piyãko.


The Ashaninka People have a thousand-year-old heritage in the way they interact with their natural habitat. The relationship between all living beings is what they seek to develop and maintain in order to recreate the environmental balance that existed centuries ago.

This millennial heritage is an embodiment of the biological, psychological and spiritual wisdom that is passed on in families. It is through designated “pagés” or shamans that knowledge is transmitted to help heal ones health and that of the environment.

In order to maintain this awareness and the synergy between nature and man, Apiwxta, the the first Ashaninka association was founded over 20 years ago as an example for other tribes and communities, to safeguard their cultures and wisdom, while maintaining their economic freedom. Today, the association is one of the largest cooperatives, producing and selling the necessities to meet the needs of the community. Thanks to the arts, cultural objects, traditional clothing and much more, the community generates ressources and can therefore reinvest in sustainable projects.

Furthermore, Benki Piyãko has created two more organizations to serve the Ashaninka People.

Created in 2012 by Benki Piyãko, the Guardians of the Forest Association is composed of 20 young leaders with an overall aim of sustaining life in the Amazon forest. Facing a great problem of deforestation, river pollution, chemically treated foods, the young men and women have been trained in this respect. The areas of expertise include agroforestry, pisciculture, apiculture, vegetable farming techniques and many more. The overall vision of the association is to train and empower young leaders as well as local families to have a sustainable and self-sufficient way of life. The individuals of the team are also an example to other fellows of a healthy lifestyle. 

“The Center for Healing, Education and Spirituality Yorenka Tasorentsi” entails a course of study, as well as the learning of practices for the application and maintenance of traditional medicine, while promoting transcultural research and providing assistance to the local population and anyone who is need of healing. In creating this Centre, Benki Piyãko hopes to gather in one place a group of experts whose presence and cooperation does not only entail research, but whose dedication, help and assistance to the local population bolsters its most intense desire for living.


The Yorenka Tasorentsi institute is currently being developed by Benki Piyãko to embody Ashaninka knowledge and values in order to share them with the rest of the world. The preservation of the natural habitat and the environment being a major concern, all projects have a direct link between man and nature. The main line of action of the institution is to build a bridge between traditional knowledge and the modern world, bringing back what has been lost.

Yorenka Tasorentsi has two main objectives: to heal as many people as possible through medicinal plants and traditional rituals and shamanic practices; and to preserve the environment through reforestation, fish farming, beekeeping, saving extinct animals, etc. Three centres have already been created for this purpose (Yorenka Atãme, Beija-flor, Raio do Sol).

The Ashaninka firmly believe that a healthy environment can only be sustainable if one lives in a healthy body and vice versa. It is therefore their duty and responsibility to act on the basis of known facts and to help change the current situation.