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Siona youngsters in a seminar organized by the UDAPT
Population and Language
In Ecuador, the Siona population is approximately of 400 people.
The language is the Siona or Baicoca, belonging to the linguistic family Tucano Occidental.
The Sionas, as well as the Kofanes and the Siekopaai, were mistreated and exploited during the Rubber Age as well as during the Oil Age. Their process of sedentarization has had to do with the processes of evangelization, which, in addition to migration, changed the form of indigenous settlement from a dispersed way, into a nuclearization in villages.
In the sixties, the exploitation carried out by the oil company Texaco in the Orito River, located in Siona territory, generated a massive arrival of mestizo population employed as labor, as well as the construction of numerous infrastructure projects. The changes occurred by these facts throughout the region, especially the strong threat to the possession of their lands caused by the expansion of the agrarian frontier, forced many families to emigrate.
With the alliance of the Siona and Secoya peoples, the Organization of the Indigenous Siona-Secoya Nationality of Ecuador, ONISSE, was formed. Recently, the organizations separated and the Siona formed the Organization of the Indigenous Siona Nationality of Ecuador, ONISE, in order to protect their culture and strengthen their language and cultural identity. ONISE is a member of CONFENIAE and CONAIE.
Its economy depends on itinerant agriculture. They grow cassava, maize, rice, chontaduro, bananas, pineapple and oranges. They complement their diet with fishing and, to a lesser extent, with hunting with blowpipes or shotguns, the raising of chickens and pigs and the harvesting of wild fruits.
They make canoes out of hollowed-out logs to transport themselves along the rivers. They make hammocks and baskets out of fibers obtained from plants. The women practice pottery.
Currently, like their Siekopaai brothers, they carry out community tourism in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve.
The men use a long baton adorned in the sleeves with feathers of wild birds, necklaces, and three long hualcas that hang from the shoulders towards the sides, constructed with tusks of animals and wild seeds, a crown composed of feathers of birds and a spear like a symbol of defense and hunting. Today, their clothing has been transformed and men wear a colored tunic with decorations on their necks. Both women and men usually paint their faces and use nose rings, earrings and crowns made with feathers and seeds.
Today, they live in rectangular houses scattered along the river, where each house has a pier and a canoe. Guadua cane, wood and some palm leaves are used to build the houses.