The Nukak [nɨkâk] people (also Nukak-Makú) live between the Guaviare and Inírida rivers, in the depths of the tropical humid forest, on the fringe of the Amazon basin, in Guaviare Department, Republic of Colombia. They are nomadic hunter-gatherers with seasonal nomadic patterns and in addition they practice a shifting horticulture in small scale. An “uncontacted people" until 1981, they have since lost half of their population, primarily to disease. Part of their territory has been used by coca growers, ranchers and other settlers and occupied by guerrillas, army and paramilitaries. Responses to this crisis include protests, requests for assimilation, and the suicide of leader Maw-be’. Some 210–250 are estimated to live in provisional settlements at San José del Guaviare, while about as many live nomadically in the Nukak Reservation (Resguardo).
The Nukak have already suffered the devastation of their population by malaria, measles and pulmonary diseases since their contact with the New Tribes Mission and other outsiders beginning in 1981; now, coca growers, left-wing FARC guerillas, right-wing AUC paramilitaries and the Colombian army have occupied their lands. These Indians have therefore become embroiled in Colombia’s armed conflict. In 2006, a group of nearly 80 Nukak left the jungle and sought assimilation along with cultural preservation. As one of the migrants, Pia-pe put it, “We do want to join the white family, but we do not want to forget words of the Nukak.” In October 2006, leader and Nukak Spanish speaker Maw-be’ committed suicide by drinking poison; friends and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) described him as in desperation in his inability to secure supplies or a safe return to their homeland for the Nukak.