Matsigenka People of Peru

Matsigenka People of Peru

Written by Alana Jolley

July 9, 2016

Matsigenka People of Peru

The Matsigenka People of Peru would not have a homeland if ecologists had their way.  Should there be permanent indigenous settlements in National Parks? This was a question posed to Duke University ecologist, John Terborgh, in a National Geographic, June 2016 article. The question relates to Peru’s Manu National Park and the indigenous Matsigenka people pictured above. Photograph: By Javier Florez

The Matsigenka people live in a rain forest, in the Manu National Park in southeastern Peru. The Amazon-Andes Mountain region is near Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital. The population of this group in the past was 7,000-12,000 strong. However, the current NG article states that, “no more than a thousand” of these people now live in the Manu National Park.

The Matsigenka are a subsistence culture.  They farm by ancient methods, and use bows and arrows to hunt.  John Terborgh’s scholarly answer to the question above was, “No.” He hopes the Matsigenka will eventually leave their current homeland. If so, more questions: will this be good for the rain forest? And will it be good for the Matsigenka? After all, they do hunt endangered species of monkeys. The elders of the Matsigenka say those that leave come back having forgotten their skills to live in the natural environment. Those who don’t leave wish for schools and more modern elements. This is a dilemma many cultures have faced in the past.

The Matsigenka will lose their culturally developed aspects if they are separated from nature by leaving the Manu National Park. Like all indigenous peoples, they believe nature and humans are one entity.  Read the full article about this age-old controversy regarding the separation of humans from their counter-part, nature, “both philosophically and as a conservation strategy . . .”

Afterwards, how would you answer the question asked of Terborgh? Please comment in the appropriate place, either on Facebook or at


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