Amazonia is very sparsely populated. There are scattered settlements inland, but most of the population lives in a few larger cities on the banks of the Amazon and other major rivers, such as in Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru, and Manaus, Santarem, and Belém in Brazil.
Historically, we know of hundreds of indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest, but many indigenous groups of South America have disappeared or been torn apart by the colonisation process, disease, alcohol, forced labour, war, deforestation, mining, and agricultural development.
For many hundreds of years the Amazon rainforest was a giant refugee for the indigenous population. There are still over 200 indigenous groups in the Amazon Rainforest speaking 180 different languages, each with their own cultural heritage. If you narrow your view to language families, you will still find 30 different language families in the Amazon rainforest. Like the flora and fauna, the cultural diversity in the region is very high, making it an even more rich and interesting part of the world.
The Wai-Wai (also written Waiwai or Wai Wai) are a Carib-speaking ethnic group of Guyana and northern Brazil. They are part of the Amerindian population that make up part of South America and are an indigenous group. Their society consists of different lowland forest peoples who have maintained much of their cultural identity except for Christianity which was introduced to them in the late 1950s
The Amerindian population of Guyana is approximately 31,000. The tribes consisting of nine major ethnic groups, including the Akawaios, Arawaks, Arekunas, Caribs, Makushis, Patamonas, Wapishanas, Warraus and the Wai-Wais are mainly found in the hinterland or the interior region.
The Wai-Wais are the smallest tribe in Guyana with a population of only about 170. There is only one Wai-Wai community in Guyana, which is in the most southern region of the country known as Konashen.
The explorer, Sir Robert Schomburgk, may have been the first non-Indian to have contact with the Wai-Wai in December 1837. He found one village on a tributary of the Essequibo river, along with two others on the Mapuera River in Brazil.
During the early 20th century, some of the Wai-Wai in Brazil moved further north. It is speculated that this is because of the influenza epidemic that nearly exterminated the Taruma tribe.
From 1933 to 1938, the Wai-Wai people moved deeper in Guyana's interior to avoid the outsiders working with the Boundary Commission.
The Yanomami are the largest relatively isolated tribe in South America. They live in the rainforests and mountains of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela.
Like most tribes on the continent, they probably migrated across the Bering Straits between Asia and America some 15,000 years ago, making their way slowly down to South America. Today their total population stands at around 38,000.
At over 9.6 million hectares, the Yanomami territory in Brazil is twice the size of Switzerland. In Venezuela, the Yanomami live in the 8.2 million-hectare Alto Orinoco – Casiquiare Biosphere Reserve. Together, these areas form the largest forested indigenous territory in the world.
The Yanomami first came into sustained contact with outsiders in the 1940s when the Brazilian government sent teams to delimit the frontier with Venezuela.