The Puinave people live in the eastern part of Colombia, mainly by the Inírida and Guaviare rivers (Reserves: Almidón- La Ceiba, Bachaco – Buenavista, Caranacoa-Yuri-Morocoto, Coayare-El Coco, Paujil y Chorro Bocón). They live mainly in the Guainía department but are also present in the departments of Guaviare and Vichada.
Also known as the Guaipunare, Puinave, Uapi or Wantyinht. Puinave people call themselves “children of Guarirom”. They make their living from fishing, growing yuca (in family-size plots), and gathering wild fruits. The Puinave people have gone through a complex process of cultural assimilation during the 20th century, mainly through the intervention of religious communities and evangelical missions. As a consequence, their cosmology, social organization and traditional medicine practices and rituals have experienced substantial changes.
First contacts between early colonizers and the Puinave people, historically settled in their territory, were registered during the first European explorations. During the 17th century, the first Catholic missions were founded, although it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that a powerful western influence was exerted on them. During this time the North American missionary Sophia Müller carried out her evangelic activities, reorganizing the Puinave people in villages, leaving behind their semi-nomadic ways, which implied a radical change in their way of life, customs and traditions.