The Yanesha' or Amuesha people are an ethnic group of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Presently, the most recent census count puts their population at over 7,000 distributed among 48 communities located in Puerto Inca Province (Huanuco), Chanchamayo Province (Junin) and Oxapampa Province (Pasco). They are a relatively small group making up barely 2.91% of indigenous inhabitants located in the Peruvian Amazon. Their communities are situated in altitudes ranging from 200 to 1600 meters above sea level and can also be found along the shores of various rivers including the Pichis, Palcazu, Pachitea, Huancabamba, Cacazu, Chorobamba, and the Yurinaqui.
The Amuesha, calling themselves Yanesha', speak Yanesha', a language belonging to the Maipurean language family that also includes Ashaninka, the Yine, etc. Their first contact with the Western World came through friars who, in the second half of the sixteenth century, made an incursion into the region. However, it wasnt until the eighteenth century that missionaries (this time Franciscans) managed to establish steady relations with the Yanesha and other ethnic groups living nearby. The Father Francisco de San Jose founded various missions around Cerro de la Sal and Quimiri in order to convert the indigenous populations to Christianity. However, in 1742, indigenous people commanded by Juan Santos Atahualpa rebelled against the Spaniards and destroyed a number of missions, effectively cutting off outside contact for several decades.
Its not known for sure the population of the Yanesha' people at this time but they had certainly already begun to die off from European diseases. During the nineteenth century, the area inhabited by the Yanesha and other groups was reexplored by expeditions looking to establish routes to the lower Amazon and to colonize the area.
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