Werekena: a peculiar case

Among Baniwa, Baré, Mura and Werekena peoples, all of them are Nheengatu speakers. The last one, though, has a peculiar case, cause it’s the population which mostly speaks only nheengatu. The history of Werekena people, also mentioned as Warekena, goes back to Arawakan languages formation, from Caribbean and Central America to South America, especially at Venezuelan and Brazilian amazonic regions. English, Spanish and Portuguese borrowed a lot of words from Arawakan language Taíno, for example: barbecue, canoe, potato, savannah, etc.
Werekena use of Nheengatu its a example of the new status of this general language, after the hegemony of portuguese in Brazilian Amazônia, since late of nineteenth century. Since the growth of urbanization in amazonic cities of Brazil, some speakers of Nheengatu had migrate to inside, cause there is no more the same ways of traditional commerce in those centers.

Otherwise Baniwa speakers, that also use nheengatum, there are a few dozens speakers of Werekena, his native language, cause most of them has become to use the language disseminated by carmelite missionaries. Although there are some efforts towards its revitalization made by indigenous communities, ISA and FOIRN , Werekena its a endangered language. However, Werekena use of Nheengatu says about the popular question about Brazilian General Language: “Anyway, this is Nheengatu an indigenous language?” According to Werekena people, the correct answer is yes, thereby these indigenous groups prefer the general language related to missionaries than use Portuguese. Furthermore, this is the nheengatu population that has fewer speakers of Portuguese. So, the repressive status of nheengatu, related to death of brazilian native languages, is changing by some indigenous points of view.


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