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April 25, 2023 24 mins

Julio Tiwiram is a famous shaman in southeast Amazonian Ecuador. He is also a leading political figure among the Shuar people of Bomboiza. Growing up at the crossroads of social change and colonial conflict, his path to shamanism was anything but straightforward. 

As reported by Sebastián Vacas-Oleas, a social anthropologist working with the Shuar people of Bomboiza, we learn how a mysterious shamanic gathering helped Shuar people mobilize their traditional knowledge to fight for their land against settler occupation. 

SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is produced by House of Pod. Cat Jaffee was the editor for this piece, with help from producer Ann Marie Awad. Seth Samuel was the audio editor and sound designer. The executive producers were Cat Jaffee and Chip Colwell. 

Sebastián Vacas-Oleas is a postdoctoral affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford. He is also a lecturer and a visiting researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador. He is currently working as an editor on a Shuar-authored book of collected life histories, which includes the story of Julio Tiwiram and the events heard in this episode. Sebastián also helps coordinate a project with the Bomboiza Shuar Research Group, funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, to study Shuar ancestral locations, migratory movements, women’s gardening practices, and change in Indigenous relations with their land. 

SAPIENS is an editorially independent podcast funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. SAPIENS is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

Check out this related resource: 

·   You can visit Julio Tiwiram in Kupiamais, his home community, in the Bomboiza land reserve, where he sees patients in his home. You can read more about Bomboiza, its shamans, our forthcoming book, and other shared ongoing projects on

Episode sponsor:

·   This episode is included in season 5 of the SAPIENS podcast, which is part of the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Fellowship funded with the support of a three-year grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

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