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Huaorani Spear with Barbs

Huaorani Indian Tribe

Warriors of the Amazon - Page 3 of 6

In 1956 the Huaorani were contacted by missionaries of the Summer Language Institute (SIL) and the process of evangelization began. The missionaries translated the Bible in Huao Terero. They taught the Huaorani it was shameful to walk around naked as they were accustomed, making them ashamed of their traditions and lifestyle and that they should not be nude or naked. The influence of missionaries became very apparent to me when I was playing cards with young adults in a Kichwa community in the jungle just outside Huaorani territory. I was accompanied by a young Huaorani man who had been my guide in a trip to Huaorani territory. To make the game more entertaining, I proposed that whoever loses, get punished (made to do something funny, like sing, dance, or act silly). My guide immediately let me know that he was not allowed to dance, because in the Bible it is written that dancing is bad. When he was punished, my Huaorani guide started singing a religious hymn learned from missionaries. Huaoranis were lured to live in fixed areas (reservations) where the missionaries built houses and schools, thus destroying their nomadic lifestyle, and disrupting their social structure. The missionaries paved the way for oil companies to enter Huaorani territory and start drilling. Money, clothing, and new diseases made the Huaorani dependent on consumer goods and western medicines. In exchange for salt, sugar, and Nike shoes, they gave missionaries and oil companies permission to do pretty much whatever they wanted on their land.  Some communities live close to the oil company camps and the outside world, and consequently have suffered more cultural degradation than those that live in more isolated areas. In these more accessible communities, there is typically much alcohol abuse and violence, and the indigenous people living there have become more materialistic, seeking luxuries such as stereos, modern houses, and televisions. However, there still exist a few communities located deep in the jungle, near the frontier with Peru, where people walk around naked, hunt with "cerbatanas" (blowguns) and spears, live in traditional houses, do not drink alcohol (even despising its use) and barely speak any Spanish.


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