Aénts Chicham: new name of the Language family ‘Jivaro’ (2-21-20)

Linguistic group ‘Jivaro’ changes name to ‘Aénts Chicham’ (abbr. Chicham)

Jivaro changes to Aents ChichamA declaration to change the name of the language family formerly known as ‘Jivaro’ to ‘Aents Chicham‘ (or Chicham) was signed by a collective of Shuar and Achuar intellectuals/political figures and scholars during the collaborative congress ‘Yápankam: las voces de la investigación en la Alta Amazonía’ that took place in the rural village Sevilla Don Bosco in the Amazonian piedmont of Ecuador in April 19-21, 2018. The congress provided a public space to discuss how anthropologists and social groups that have long been the subject of research might achieve conditions of equality in the production of scientific knowledge.

The declaration addresses former, present, and future researchers, missionaries, the broad academic community and the general public and requests that the so-called ‘Jivaroan’ linguistic family [or jíbaro, in Spanish] long used for the dialectical continuum Achuar, Awajun, Shiwiar, Shuar and Wampis, be dropped and replaced with the expression ‘Chicham linguistic family’.

Jivaro changes to Aents ChichamShuar and Achuar participants declared that “Jivaro is a pejorative exonym born out of colonial confrontations, which we have never used to name our languages nor our collective identities”. By contrast, “the term Chicham derives from the root chichá-, ‘to speak’, and is translated as ‘what is spoken’, ‘word’, ‘discourse’ and also as ‘language’; aénts has a broad meaning, translated as ‘person’, ‘people’ or ‘beings’… this term refers to all beings capable of communicating or susceptible to being affected by our communication – the maíkiua plant (Brugmansia arborea) is aénts; the bird auju (Nyctibius grandis) is aénts.” Thus, the collective reminds us that the term ‘Aénts Chicham’ resonates deeply in the hearts of linguists and anthropologists who understand that communication goes beyond humans.

We urge researchers to take notice of this collective desire to be named properly. To learn more, please refer to the declaration published in the Journal de la Société des Américanistes, preceded by a short paper written by Grégory Deshoullière and Santiago Utitiaj about the motivations that led to this change.

(Information provided by Natalia Buitron-Arias; photographs by Ramiro Aguilar, FLACSO-Ecuador)