The Gran Sabana, an area of approximately 3,000,000 hectares (7.4 million acres), is home to indigenous people who are believed to be of Carib descent, the Pemón, who are thought to have migrated to the region possibly six hundred years ago, although archeological sites to the north have unearthed finds dating back almost 9,000 years.
The Pemón are divided into three distinct tribes that have their own dialects – Kamarakotos, Taurepanes and Arekunas. The Taurepanes live in the southern region of the Brazilian territory of Roraima and the Arekuna (northern Pemón) on both sides of the Venezuela-Guyana border. The Kamarakotos ostensibly live in Kamarata Valley at the foot of Auyántepui (one of the largest tabletop mountains in Canaima National Park).
The majority of the Pemón still practice slash and burn agriculture, a practice that, in the region often burns valuable rainforest is destructive to the local environment. The Pemón continue to hunt in the forests and savannas and fish the local rivers.
Their number has increased steadily since the colonization of the region by Creoles over the last fifty years or so and it is estimated that the total population of Pemón is now in the region of 20,000 with an estimated 3,151 of them living in the Kamarata Valley region. Although Catholic and Protestant missionaries have converted most Pemón to Christianity, many of their traditional beliefs, particularly surrounding the natural world, are still cherished. The Pemón people possess one of the most impressive oral literatures of any American indigenous people. The work of the Capuchin priest, Fray Cesareo de Armellada during the last century, is testament to this. Their heritage includes magical invocations, chants and rites, as well as didactic, moral and humorous tales.
The latest census in Kamarata (2019) – 3,151 population of which 1,102 are students. The children / youth are gradually losing their culture and heritage, education is key. Fundación Etnika / Angel Conservation hold these values highly in our programs.