The Waorani or Huaorani (proper name, spoken Wao-Rani , also Wao / Huao , means people or people ) are an indigenous ethnic group that lives in the rainforests of the western Amazon basin between the Napo and Curaray rivers in eastern Ecuador . It is believed that they are the original inhabitants of the Yasuní rainforest there. They speak a largely isolated language. At least two groups have voluntarily withdrawn from civilization: they are called Tagaeri and Taromenane .
The Waorani avoided any external contact for a very long time and were hostile to intruders, which is why they were not subjugated by the Incas , the Spanish conquistadors or by the Ecuadorians until the middle of the 20th century. That is why they - and all other free Indian tribes east of the Andes - were assigned the derogatory group name Awqa by the Quechua or Kichwa- speaking ethnic groups , in Kichwa Awka ( Hispanic Auca ), which among others. Means enemy, stranger, savage, barbarian, traitor, warrior, pagan . More recently, the name was only used for the Waorani. The Waorani see the name Auca as an insult.
Even today most of them live mainly from hunting and collecting as well as supplementary farming and horticulture . Until the 1960s they roamed the rainforests semi-nomadically . Today, most of the more than 3,000 Waorani (2012) who live in 18 local villages (2010) are settled. 80% of all Waorani settle voluntarily in the former mission protectorate, which does not even make up 10% of their total available living space.
The transition to sedentariness and the acceptance of several cultural elements of the lowland Kichwa - which have settled the border regions of Waoraniland since around 1960 - began with the massive missionary attempts of the evangelical Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) since 1955. The Waorani attracted worldwide attention with their extreme martial culture, especially through the murder of the first five SIL missionaries in 1956. Numerous fatal attacks on settlers and, above all, on employees of the oil companies continued into the beginning of the 21st century. In addition to the missionaries, the oil production that began in the 1960s had the greatest impact on the way of life and the habitat of the people in the entire Waoraniland.
Prehistory, Conquista and Colonial Era
Nothing specific is known about the prehistory of the Waorani, their ethnogenesis and the settlement history of their habitat. According to their myths , they came "a very long time ago" (settlement of the Amazon basin around 8-10,000 BC) from the east.
During the largely unsuccessful advance of the Inca into the Oriente of Ecuador in the 15th century , some ethnic groups adopted their language ( Quechua ) and some cultural elements, while the Waorani avoided contacts. The same applies to the sporadic attempts by the Spaniards to penetrate the Orient, which began in 1541 with Francisco de Orellana's Amazon expedition. In the period that followed - until the Republic of Ecuador was founded in 1830 - Jesuit missionaries founded a number of places at the foot of the Andes. Although this did not result in sustainable settlement of the surrounding area, there was increased migratory pressure , which, according to the American archaeologist Donald Lathrap, explains the withdrawn way of life of the Waorani (settlements on hills far away from the large rivers: poorer soils, but better enemy detection and escape opportunities; frequent Relocation of settlements). The very high propensity for violence in their warrior culture is also attributed to the steadily increasing migratory pressure since the conquest .
1830 to 1955: increasing confrontations
Even after Ecuador gained independence, there was no state-controlled settlement in the Waorani area until 1940. There was little interest in the Orient and they were content with civilizing and Christianizing the Indians as part of the mission by the Catholic Church , which, however, practically did not reach the Waorani.
The first massive contacts with strangers took place in the form of numerous bloody conflicts during the rubber boom from 1880 to 1915: The Waorani repeatedly attacked in the collecting areas along the Napo and Curaray rivers and killed mercilessly. This led to organized hunts for the indigenous people with the aim of their annihilation and extermination. After the end of the rubber boom, some former rubber collectors founded a few haciendas and estanzias on the two large rivers (around 40 locations today). Now the "Aucas" have been kidnapped, enslaved and held as slave labor. Nevertheless, there have always been and still are Waorani who voluntarily enter the bondage of a landlord (Patrón) in order to escape a blood feud or simply to satisfy their curiosity and gain experience with strangers. When they get tired of the work, they flee - mostly successfully - back into the woods.
Between 1920 and 1956 there were also frequent clashes between the Waorani and gold prospectors and private adventurers. From 1941 onwards, the war with Peru - in which approx. 40% of the Ecuadorian national territory was annexed - was the first to prompt the government to intervene in the settlement of the Oriente by settling former soldiers in the border area and establishing some military posts that are still there today Have consisted. Since then, the military has been present around the Waorani region.
In 1937, the dictator Federico Páez awarded oil production concessions to the Orient for the first time. Shell del Ecuador Ltda. receives a concession for 100,000 km². However, the armed resistance of the Waorani was so fierce that the prospecting work in their area was stopped again in 1950.
Withdrawal into voluntary isolation (Taromenane)
There is a presumption that the local groups known today as "Taromenane" (also Tarameni or Taromenga ) probably split off from the Waorani at the time of the rubber boom in order to escape the increasing conflicts. Since then they have been living somewhere in the southern Yasuní National Park area. In 1992 they were discovered by oil workers from the Petroecuador company during prospecting and seismic surveys. Ethnologists assume that they now differ linguistically and culturally from the Waorani.
1955–1982 Evangelical missionary work and migration movements
The “civilization” of the Waorani began in the 1950s at the instigation of evangelical missionaries from the US Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), the world's largest missionary society and sister organization of the Wycliff Bible translators. The then Ecuadorian President José María Velasco Ibarra relied on the SIL missionaries he had invited in order to integrate all lowland peoples into the "economic, civil and spiritual life of their fatherland in a fruitful way" . The Catholics failed to do this.
In early 1955, the SIL missionary Rachel Saint carried out linguistic and ethnological studies on the Waorani woman Dayuma , who had fled intra- tribe feuds with three other girls and had been working on the Ila hacienda for some time. Saint considered himself the only chosen one by God to evangelize the Waorani. Her brother Nate and four other young SIL missionaries ( Jim Elliot , Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian) wanted to dispute her fame and tried almost unprepared (nobody spoke Wao or knew the cultural peculiarities of the Waorani) to contact a group . On January 3, 1956, they set up a camp on the Curaray River. First they dropped presents from a plane over the huts. As far as can be reconstructed, contact soon came about, but from the start there were various misunderstandings that irritated the Waorani. When they noticed on January 8th that the strangers had hidden rifles in the sand, the Americans were killed by the Waorani with lances . The event later became world famous as the "Palm Beach Massacre" and was filmed several times.
Despite this event, Jim Elliot's widow Elisabeth Elliot and Nate Saint's sister Rachel continued their missionary efforts. Saint saw it as a divine sign that Dayuma happened to be a member of the Waorani group that carried out the massacre. She now used Dayuma as a language teacher and facilitator for the first successful contact, which took place in 1958. Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint lived among the Waorani for some time.
At the same time, due to a drought in other parts of the country, an increasing migration of impoverished townspeople and landless farmers (mostly Kichwa or Shuar ) to the Orient began. This development, as well as the success of the SIL, prompted the government at the beginning of the 1960s to launch the first land-grabbing program “for the immediate conquest of the Ecuadorian Amazon region” , which, however, got off to a very cautious start.
In 1969 the state allowed the SIL to set up a 1,600 km² so-called "mission protectorate" (Tehueno) in the southwest of the Waorani region. This permit coincided with various attacks by the Waorani on oil prospectors. The subsequent efforts of Rachel Saint and Dayuma (who increasingly took initiative) to relocate the Guikitairi-Waorani were unusually successful.
Until the mid-1970s, the protectorate increasingly isolated itself from the outside world in order to protect the Indians from "the diseases of the godless world". Saint and Dayuma "ruled" like rulers who prevented any contact with the Waorani by non-missionaries. However, many Indians wanted to determine this themselves and then left the "mission prison". They founded some new settlements in the original Waorani area.
1971–1978 there were forced resettlements from some villages (within the scope of the oil companies) to the protectorate, where 80–90% of the western Waorani now lived. The high population density in the small protectorate led to a drastic decline in prey animals and food crops, so that a famine arose. Among other things, the German biologist and ethnologist Erwin Patzelt denounced these circumstances in front of the Ecuadorian cabinet, so that in 1978 there was a ban on forced resettlement, the establishment of the national institute for the colonization of the Amazon lowlands (INCRAE) and the first formal recognition of those living there Ethnicities came.
Finally, at the request of various indigenous organizations and an increasingly anti-American stance in Ecuador, the SIL was expelled from the country in 1982. Nonetheless, many missionaries stayed and continued their work on behalf of other Protestant organizations. The dissolved mission protectorate (or due to a calculation error only 667 km² of it) became the first officially recognized Waorani reserve in 1983.
Since 1963: Oil production and cultural change
In 1963, the then military dictatorship again granted oil production concessions for a total of 14,000 km² in the Orient. Large parts of the Waorani area were also affected. In 1967, the two US companies Texaco and Gulf began mining north of the Río Napo. From 1967 to 1973 Anglo Ecuadorian Oilfields also looked for oil deposits in the Wao area. The noisy seismic investigations brought the Waorani into distress and, like 30 years earlier, there were numerous attacks with fatalities on the part of the oil workers. The subsequent exploratory drilling was positive at three out of ten potential deposits and the companies were determined to start production despite the threat of violence.
Since the end of the 1960s, a rapid and extensive settlement by around 5,000 colonists from all parts of the country took place between the Vía Tiguino pipeline road built by Texaco (then called "Vía Auca" road from Puerto Francisco de Orellana on the Napo to the south) and the existing mission stations Land with massive consequences in the occupied Indian territories: Until 1990 there was an uncontrolled settlement of timber, agricultural and tourism companies with considerable destruction in the rainforest areas on 350 km² of northwest Waoraniland. Many areas here have already been eroded down to the rock. In addition, significant social problems arose such as increasing crime, alcoholism and increasing diseases among the indigenous peoples due to environmental pollution as a result of oil production and previously unknown infectious diseases.
During this time, on the one hand, a number of other oil companies began their work and, on the other hand, oil production in the Orient met with increasing international criticism for various reasons. The trigger was in particular the oil disaster in the northern Amazon lowlands of Ecuador , in which between 1964 and 1992 over 60,000 t of oil residues and over 55,000 t of crude oil were released into the environment. Against this background, the ONHAE ("Organización de la Nacionalidad Waorani de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana") was recognized as the central political body of the Waorani in 1990 and the existing Waorani territory was very generously enlarged to a third of its former living space. In 2001, the territory in the northwest was again increased by 290 km² to a total of almost 8,100 km². In 2007 the ONHAE was renamed “Nacionalidad Waorani del Ecuador” (NAWE).
Withdrawal into voluntary isolation (Tagaeri)
In 1965 a Waorani group split off again and withdrew into isolation. Due to a bloody act within a family that arose from disputes over how to deal with advancing missionaries, settlers and soldiers, Taga, the son of a leader who was shot by soldiers, separated from the rest of his clan with 12 to 15 people. This local group is now called "Tagaeri" . When they retreated into the jungle, a number of scattered Waorani joined the group.
Conflicts with the isolated groups (Tagaeri-Taromenane)
In 1999, approx. 7,000 km² in the southern part of the Yasuní National Park and some parts of the Waorani territory bordering to the north were declared a “prohibited zone”, which can only be entered with a special permit ( “Zona intangible Tagaeri Taromenane” - ZITT). According to a decree by the then president, any extraction of mineral resources should be excluded there. Existing oil production concessions have been blocked. In the beginning, however, it remained with declarations of intent.
In 2003 there was a massacre of 15–30 members of the Taromenane by other Waorani who invaded the ZITT. The incident was never properly resolved and the known perpetrators were not prosecuted. It is possible that lumberjacks who wanted to log wood there illegally spurred the Waorani on so that they could work in peace. This and other incidents fueled the interest of the world public, so that the United Nations also dealt with them.
Under pressure from the UN, various measures in connection with the ZITT were taken from 2007 onwards: The area has now been officially delimited to an area of 7,580 km². At the end of Vía Tiguiono, a control station was set up on the ZITT border. The (civilized) Waorani communities based within the borders were contractually incorporated. A new committee monitored the implementation of the protective measures. In 2008, the recognition of the territorial retreats of the isolated peoples and their self-determined way of life and isolation with the obligation of protective measures was included as Article 57 in the new Ecuadorian constitution. The violation of their rights has since been considered a criminal offense and ethnocide .
Despite the ZITT, the acts of violence could not be completely contained: in 2009 an isolated group killed a settler family on the edge of the prohibition zone and in 2013 two more bloody clashes between contacted and isolated groups of the Waorani were documented. 18 to 30 taromenans were killed in the ZITT and two young girls were kidnapped.
Due to the isolation of the Tagaeri-Taromenane, criminal prosecution of such acts is extremely difficult or is not even initiated by the responsible police or military forces.
In 2007, President Rafael Correa proposed an unusual deal to the UN General Assembly: In return for the international community of states paying an international solidarity compensation amount of 3.6 billion dollars, Ecuador would be allowed to exploit the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field in northern Yasuní. National Park (outside the Tagaeri-Taromenane prohibition zone) to protect the environment and the indigenous ethnic groups. There were 20–40% of the Ecuadorian oil reserves valued at 7.2 billion dollars. supposed. This proposal goes back to an idea of the NGO Yasuni-ITT initiative . Several countries (including Germany) had indicated their approval. The new development aid minister Dirk Niebel withdrew the promise and ignored any calls on the subject.
Despite global support from environmentalists and human rights activists, Correa had to declare the initiative to have failed in 2013 because not even a fraction of the compensation amount was raised. In the same year, parliament decided to approve oil production.
The first oil platform was opened in the ITT in September 2016. The daily amount of crude oil extracted is 23,000 barrels, by 2022 it should be 300,000 barrels.
In most publications, all isolated peoples of Ecuador are collectively referred to as “Tagaeri-Taromenane”. Strictly speaking, however, these are only the two family groups whose existence is known. It cannot be ruled out that there may be other isolated groups in the border area with Peru, such as the Huiñatars and Oñamenane .
For the Tagaeri taromenans the following population figures are assumed:
- 50 Tagaeri (1990)
- 300 taromenans
It is possible, however, that the Tagaeri no longer exist as an independent group due to multiple violent conflicts since the turn of the millennium. It is speculated that the survivors joined the Taromenane.
Relatively little is known about the Taromenane, because due to their self-isolation and rejection of peaceful relationships with outsiders and their only isolated contacts and usually violent clashes with contacted Waorani, oil workers, woodcutters and other outside actors, little information is available about them. In addition to the fact of their existence, assumptions about their number of people, history and living environment are based more on speculative assumptions than on well-founded facts. Ethnologists speculate that the Taromenans are culturally related and ethnically related to the Waorani, but independent people with specific characteristics and their own territory, which consists of at least three local groups, each presumably around 50 to a maximum of 100 people (= total 150-300 people) who have similarities as well as differences in their material culture, language and way of life with the Waorani. In addition to the thesis already expressed that it is a family group that split off at the end of the 19th century, there is another hypothesis that assumes a recent migration of a group distantly related to the Waorani from Peru.
The greatest danger for the isolated groups is currently from illegal loggers who, in search of precious wood - often with the consent and help of settled Waorani groups - penetrate deeper and deeper into the Yasuní and the ZITT. In the hinterland of numerous rivers on the edges of the area, all profitable types of wood have already been felled and the advance has repeatedly led to conflicts and violent clashes with the Tagaeri taromenans. In addition to overexploiting the wood, they drive away the wild animals with the noise of the chainsaws and also hunt with rifles for their food.
Although some bloody clashes between isolated and sedentary groups are known, the functionaries of the political Waorani representation NAWE (“Nacionalidad Waorani del Ecuador”) advocate the sustainable protection of the protection zone. They know that they owe their vast territory and numerous privileges over other Oriente ethnic groups to the existence of the very small local communities of their warlike relatives, who are in the media focus of human rights activists and other non-governmental organizations around the world .
Developments and trends
The cultural change among the Waorani is mainly determined by three factors: the activities of the missionaries, oil production and political initiative.
Since the middle of the 19th century, the Catholic mission (first Jesuits, 1922 Josefiner , 1953 Capuchin ) has been sporadic in the Wao region. Their orientation is evident from the quote from the Bishop of Coca:
“You don't need church services. They need affection, justice, and land. Jesus will come at the right time. [...] We need a gradual and carefully prepared approach. [...] There is neither conquest nor conversion. "
The work of the American Summer Institute of Linguistics (Spanish: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano), whose missionaries were granted far-reaching privileges by President Ibarra in 1992 (financial aid, visas for SIL members, tax exemptions, concessions for the Air traffic in the Orient, authorization to transmit radio and radio waves, etc.). This evangelical organization has a fundamentalist-conservative ideology with a provincial, puritanical tradition. The culture of the Waorani is seen (among other things because of their nudity and sexual permissiveness) as the "personification of the devil", from which the indigenous can only escape with the help of God, the Bible and economic success through work.
Except for the Palm Beach massacre and the murder of the first Waorani missionary Toña, the efforts of the SIL missionaries showed measurable success: In the first 15 years of the SIL [until about 1975] the number of violent deaths fell by 60% u. the annual population growth increased by more than 100%. The cause was the interruption of the decades-long, bloody intertribal feuds. The mission organized exemplary health care (Vozandes hospital in Shell-Mera), established schooling for the indigenous peoples and ensured mobility (SIL airline "Alas de Socorro"). In addition, the evangelical ideology that attributes capitalist values is fundamentally helpful in incorporating into the modern world.
What the Christians regard as an unprecedented conversion success is interpreted by many ethnologists as the only possible escape from the critical spiral of violence of intertribal conflicts that threatened to lead to genocide . The Waorani woman Dayuma is assigned a particularly important role: She had achieved a high level of prestige among the Waorani due to her special development among foreigners . Until then, all outsiders were referred to as cowores (cannibals) who had to be killed in order not to be killed and eaten yourself. Therefore, they were surprised that Dayuma (and two other Waorani girls) had managed to survive among them for so long and, moreover, to have gained freedom and access to coveted civilization goods. This opened up a whole new perspective for their people.
Although the missionaries make considerable efforts to this day to skillfully convey the Christian faith (for example by rewriting the traditional - immoral and vulgar - songs with Christian content; several days of "church days" in the settlements with biblical films, baptisms, etc .; internment of young people for months In boarding schools in other regions of Ecuador; memorizing Bible verses; American teachers; only speaking Spanish; attractive rewards for learning successes) there was no actual Christianization. The biblical contents are not taken seriously, Christian moral concepts are not recognized, church services are only rarely attended and churches are neglected.
As various observations show, most Waorani today call themselves Christians for pragmatic reasons, as this has advantages over the “outside world”. In fact, God and Jesus were only added to their spiritual ideas as additional spirits. God stands as the second - often less powerful - god next to Waengongi , the traditional creator god. From the beginning the missionaries tried to equate Waengongi with the Christian God. Therefore, the translation of the Bible ("The Word of God") to Wao tededo was also "Waengonguï nänö Apaenegaïnö" ("The word Waengongis")
In terms of the external impact of the evangelical mission, the SIL is accused of having made itself a servant of US interests and a pioneer for the oil companies with this form of pacifying the Indians.
Consequences of oil production
The most significant consequences of oil production occurred between 1967 and 1992 in the area of the Vía Tiguino as part of the exploration by the Texaco company , which was significantly involved in the oil disaster in the northern Amazon lowlands of Ecuador at this time . Even today, the 120 km long runway, lined with pipelines, is covered with sticky oil residues, which were deliberately applied against the dust and for the purpose of inexpensive disposal. There are still leaks in the pipelines (on average more than one leak per week) and exploding former boreholes (due to the gas pressure from the chambers below), which had been insufficiently sealed by Texaco. The biggest accident of this kind occurred in 1993: the "Cononaco 19" borehole exploded and led to a major fire. In 1996 a borehole exploded near the Waorani settlements of Wamuno and Quihuaro. Today, along the street, there are increased health problems among the population, as well as alcoholism and prostitution.
Although accidents and consequences of oil production are to be lamented elsewhere as well, the Waorani territory has been largely spared in relation to the total area to this day.
- 2 oil spills in May 2012: Burst valve in the Cononaco oil field: 10 barrels of crude oil run into the river and poison the water of three rivers. In the Yasuní, some Tagaeri taromenans get sick from poisoned fish. There was also a line break with 2,000 gallons of diesel flowing into the Rio Tihuino
- Discharge of the toxic mixtures of oil, water, formation water, acids, alkalis and salts, which are produced during drilling, cleaning and cutting, into the nearest body of water or nearby in 500 m² large, unprepared production pits - so-called piscinas ("swimming pools").
- Soil and water pollution with carcinogenic benzene in the vicinity of pipeline leaks, piscinas and production sites. There is an increase or the first occurrence of chronic ailments such as rashes, stomach and intestinal diseases, breathing difficulties, headaches, allergies, concentration disorders, fatigue, cancer, child mortality, deformities and childhood diseases
- Natural gas flaring at the boreholes: For decades, gas flares up to 30 meters high have burned, corrugated iron roofs in acid rain, contaminated water and soil with soot and hydrocarbons, which leads to fish deaths and lower fruit yields. In addition, the sun's heat accumulates under the soot cover, which in turn reduces the frequency of rain
- Systems, machines, tanks etc. that are no longer required are left behind in the forest
- Whole villages were sold to develop new drilling sites
- Oil exploration runways (e.g. on the Rio Cononaco) and pipeline routes were previously kept free of vegetation with plenty of herbicides. This contaminated the soil for decades.
These ecological and health consequences as well as a lack of political control (oil production is purely profit-oriented and therefore without minimum protection standards), corruption, violence and human rights violations led to various social tensions. The Waorani territory and their indigenous rights were repeatedly disregarded.
Petroleum in the Orient: Background and Outlook
Since crude oil makes up half of Ecuadorian exports, the topic is highly political and the interest in the Waorani for politics and business is only secondary. This is the only way to explain that the government is downplaying the dangers and tolerating dubious "alibi measures" for restructuring by the companies involved. For example, troops of hired colonists poured half a meter of earth into the piscinas without any protective measures, channeled the pollutants into the next river or buried them in plastic bags elsewhere in the forest.
Due to the international attention and considerable damage to the image of the oil multinationals, there have been improvements since the 1990s: access roads are much narrower and free of oil residues, new pipelines run underground, oil sludge is to be broken down by bacteria, contracts, environmental and development plans in between The companies and the population are closed and some oil companies support the Waorani financially in their concession area in various ways (although the sums used are criticized as being far too small).
Since socially and ecologically neutral oil production is not possible in rainforest regions and since the dwindling resource crude oil will probably increase in value in the future, it is to be feared that the positive trend will not continue in the long term.
So far, oil production in the Amazon lowlands has not led to the hoped-for upswing. With regard to the proportionality of the oil production and the indigenous peoples influenced by it, it is also worth noting that the estimated $ 1.4 billion oil reserves in the Waorani area in 1995 are only sufficient for 13 days of US car traffic.
The Waorani have by far the largest legally recognized territory of all indigenous peoples in Ecuador. In addition, they and the Kichwa on the lower Napo enjoy special residential and usage rights in the 9,823 km² Yasuní National Park. As in the North American Indian reservations, the indigenous peoples have official land rights as landowners (“Propiedad Comunitaria de la Tierra”), but ultimately do not have comprehensive territorial rights under Ecuadorian law. They are only entitled to use the land surface. Only the Ecuadorian state has rights over the airspace, underground resources and oil reserves in the region. Therefore, under the motto “Monito Ome Ecuador Quihuemeca” (Our Land in Ecuador), the Waorani have been demanding more extensive land rights, greater influence and decision-making power over their territory from the state for years.
There are now a number of Waorani organizations that are committed to different things. Only the “Nacionalidad Waorani del Ecuador” (NAWE), which was founded in 1990 under the then name “Organización de la Nacionalidad Waorani de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana” (ONHAE), is officially recognized as the central political body. Another influential association is the Waorani women's organization "Asociación de Mujeres Waorani de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana" (AMWAE), which distinguishes itself from ONHAE / NAWE through its own political goals, activities and projects.
What they all have in common is the demand for greater autonomy . However, this is made considerably more difficult by the still formative segmental company structure . The NAWE functionaries therefore focus on the interests of their own clan and the individual local communities all have their own ethnic identity and associated divergent ideas.
As a heterogeneous society, they do not have a unified opinion and do not hold a united position. Rather, your segmentary society is divided into individual interest groups who, depending on the situation, are for and against oil production and sometimes negotiate and cooperate with the oil companies and sometimes resist them.
Religion and Mythology of the "Jaguar People"
The ethnic religion of the Waorani (which is part of the "Andean Eastern Fringe " cultural area ) is - like their entire culture - difficult to grasp, variable and pragmatic. It explains some of life's riddles, but remains contradictory and inconsistent. Traditionally, religion plays only a minor role in everyday life. There are no moral concepts that are religiously constituted, nor are there any binding ceremonies that every Waorani must perform. Two (not strictly managed) rituals are intended to stimulate people to growth, maturity and reproduction: the wedding ceremony and the ear piercing made from the wood of the balsa tree , which marks the married person.
Waengongi is called the creator god. However, until his missionary work he was neither worshiped nor feared. Afterwards he was equated by the Christians with the God of the Bible; but mostly retained by the Waorani as the traditional main god. The spirit world consists on the one hand of evil spirits (Wene) , which are sent out by malevolent necromancers (Ido) to bring death and destruction; and on the other hand from the animal spirits of the dead.
The jaguar is considered to be the keeper of the spiritual world, while the dog is considered to be its fiercest competitor and disruptor of the human soul. He embodies the momentous changes in belief and the entire world of ideas in the course of cultural change .
There are various spiritual specialists who, under the influence of the psychedelic drug Ayahuasca, believe that they can establish contact with the spirit world: The aforementioned Ido allegedly sends illness and death in this way; while the good specialists claim that they can determine the location of the prey in a spiritual way, predict the well-being and woe of distant relatives or the threat of robbery. They call themselves “fathers” or “mothers” of a certain animal species - which lives in them - and send out their “children”. These are the animals themselves, with whom a spiritual connection is then established in order to obtain the desired information. Since the jaguar plays a particularly important role in the mythology of the Waorani, the “Jaguar father” (Menye Waempo) and “Jaguar mother” (Menye Baada) are also considered to be particularly powerful mediators. On the other hand, if someone is accused of being an ido, they are in danger of being killed.
In the first place, the Waorani religious ideas revolve around death and killing due to their warlike culture. For them, every death is the result of an act of violence that was somehow committed by an ido or a "cannibal" ( cowore , stranger). They therefore constantly feel like victims and see the latent danger as the greatest obstacle to freedom of action and the right to life.
If the ritual is carried out correctly, the deceased are fetched by a jaguar, who then turns the corpse into a jaguar pup. A man becomes a cat, a woman a hangover. In addition, there is also the idea of paradise as a place of unlimited hunting opportunities (this idea could go back to Christian influences).
Life is seen as a continuous process, the success of which is based on the harmonious interaction of various living beings and natural elements. This intimate relation to nature is also reflected in the idea of the animals living in humans (see also Alter Ego > Ethnology) and in the myth of origin, in which the sacred kapok tree occupies a central position. In contrast to many other myths, this myth is told in a fairly uniform manner. Below is a summary:
- The sun (Naenqui) and stars (Nemoidi), who live in the heavens (Onae), gave birth to twenty “tribes” who then lived far apart on earth (Injipoga) and spoke different languages. These “tribes” are considered to be humans in the form of animals. The sacred kapok tree grew on Injipoga , in which at that time a demonic eagle lived, which ate all animals that came too close to the tree. The animal tribes wanted to avert this danger. However, this only succeeded - after a few unsuccessful attempts by various animals - the spider and the beaver. The spider wove a web around the sleeping eagle, and the beaver eventually felled the tree. The eagle was killed in the process, but it was transformed into the rivers and the forest with all of today's animals. At the same time, the jaguar tribe transformed into the Waorani. All other animal strains that the eagle had not eaten became the enemies of the Waorani. The jaguar people learned their lesson and decided never to fell the sacred tree again.
Today 80–90% of the unisolated Waorani are officially Protestants and 10–20% are Catholics. However, the old ideas still exist - partly mixed with Christian ideas - and the necromancers operate in secret and are still being consulted. The teachings of the Christian religion are not given great importance in life.
Constitution and culture
The Waorani are of a stocky, muscular stature with an average height of 1.55 m. As an adaptation to the tropical climate, this short stature, like the African pygmies, indicates a very long development time in the tropical rainforests.
A number of initial reports of contacts with previously isolated Waorani attest that the “uncivilized” have extremely robust health as well as above-average stamina and flexibility into old age. The permanent direct contact with their natural environment has also led to particularly pronounced sensory performances. Their knowledge of the complex ecological relationships and processes in their environment is very extensive. Since they don't know any script, their memory is also extremely efficient. When reproducing knowledge or myths, they are very careful not to make mistakes. Young Huaorani, for example, playfully learn up to 60 Bible verses by heart in a short time.
The ethnologist Heiko Feser describes the Waorani as "funny people" who see cause for joy and amusement in all things - but also in the sense of open glee. In addition, pragmatism - sometimes in the sense of very changeable "truths" - combined with a lot of patience and tolerance are their outstanding cultural standards . Their "cold orientation" to natural conditions and fixed traditions explains why they often appear to Westerners to be disorganized and aimless. Nevertheless, they are very interested in technological innovations and trade relationships. When it makes sense to them, they can be extremely adaptable.
Since the increasing pressure from foreign conquerors and settlers, the Waorani have developed an increased propensity for violence - also within the individual local groups. They are easily aroused and raise their guns unusually quickly. Many ethnologists, however, assume that they used to live in peace for long periods of time and that blood feuds and wars were the exception, due to the equally existing, highly valued values of “generosity”, “cooperation” (except with strangers) and “ reciprocity ”.
Before contact with global society, the Waorani were a textbook example of an egalitarian society , in which every member had free access to all resources and no one had permanent power over others. Anything could be made from the materials available and the food was shared equally among all members. Most leaders were the oldest married couples in a local community. However, they were only a " primus inter pares recognized" and exercised no real rule of (→ Acephalous society ) .
Apart from that, the traditional culture was extremely heterogeneous , as the individual groups tend to separate due to their pronounced individuality and consequently develop their own patterns very quickly. It is therefore almost impossible to make generalized statements about their various subcultures . Therefore, the following points did not necessarily apply - or still apply today to the isolated - to all local groups:
- Except for the hip cord (komi) of men, under which the penis foreskin is clamped, both sexes do not wear any clothing
- Much emphasis is placed on beautiful hair.
- Women remove all of their body hair
- mutual lousing and eating of the parasites
- The fruit of a pepper plant is often used to stain teeth black to prevent rotting
- Geometric body painting with Achiote seeds: warriors dye their feet and ankles red, women wear a "face mask" on festive occasions
- Large balsa wood stakes in both earlobes, dyed white with river plaster, mark married couples. However, they are not always worn.
- Newborns are examined by their grandmother for diseases or deformities. If it is healthy, she symbolically breasts it. If it is sick, it is brought into the forest and released. The afterbirth is buried in the forest. After all this, the mother goes straight back to her day's work.
- Singing (alone or together, spontaneously improvised, monotonous melodies and repetitive texts) and dancing (separated by sex, often all night, at parties for days, often " polonaise " or extremely wild dances similar to pogo ) are extremely popular
- numerous festivals throughout the year
- unfermented chicha ("spit beer") is the most popular drink for all occasions
- When moving, the huts are burned and the place is never entered again. Household items are also burned, except for weapons, baskets and hammocks
Ownership, possession, trade
All things on a settlement site are freely available to every member of the family group. The manufacturer of a thing gains a higher status , but neither ownership nor privilege of the thing. Every traditional Waorani has a moral obligation to tolerate the unsolicited use of "his" things. At some point the beneficiary gives back something of equal value without regulating the time and scope. Such non-reciprocal relationships create neither competition nor dependence, neither creditors nor debtors. Individual land ownership was completely unknown to the Waorani.
The barter with strangers based - unlike in Europe - on a demand system : A desired product is the "buyer" requested , not by the "Seller" offered . This creates an indefinite obligation to provide consideration at the buyer's discretion. There are no prices, no conversion into units of value and no (agreed) profit ; the trade is based entirely on mutual trust and most of the time it is more like a perpetual loan in which things of the same kind, quantity and quality are returned. However, most Waorani are very generous as they value their reputation. On the other hand, unsolicited offers or gifts are interpreted as subservience and are often not honored. Likewise, the refusal of a requested good amounts to an insult. It used to be easy to give something similar back at some point as anyone could make everything themselves. In the case of civilization goods (such as guns, ammunition, dynamite, machetes, axes, garden tools, rice, sugar), however, this can be very difficult due to the lack of availability, so that they are either stolen or exchanged for game .
law and order
Traditionally there are no chiefs or other leaders with conferred power. The reputation based on economic success or special talents determines a person's influence on the local group. Those who acquire a higher rank in this way display it with the largest blowpipe and the longest arrows. Such persons are temporarily recognized as leaders. In addition, everyone has equal access to resources. These factors protect against internal disputes.
However, it looks completely different to other Waorani groups or even strangers:
Practically every disease is traced back by the isolated groups to evil spirits, which are said to have sent a sorcerer from another clan. If it cannot be banned by a knowledgeable person, blood revenge campaigns will ensue. The Waorani tribe at the time of first contact had one of the highest internal kill rates ever observed in a human society. It is estimated that around half of deaths among Waorani men and one-third of deaths among women were from intratribal killings.
In addition, at least until the contact was made, there was a radical attack philosophy: "If you don't kill, you will be killed". Therefore, every young Waorani was inexorably raised to be a warrior and bloody hardened. Among other things, severed limbs from enemies were taken into the village so that the children could "kill them again". All young men and occasionally women participated in attacks and mostly had to accompany their fathers by the age of 10 or 12, hide themselves during the attack and then spear the dead bodies. The first active participation in an attack was considered a test of courage and was a kind of initiation to be seen and respected as a warrior. Individual groups of the Waorani sometimes spent weeks and months on the run, both after they had suffered attacks and after self-directed attacks. The ongoing attacks by nomadic Waorani on sedentary groups suggest that these behaviors still exist today.
The traditional material culture is primitive, but highly efficient in terms of the effort used for production and the subsequent use (list sorted by raw materials):
- Hardwood of the peach palm : blowpipe , 3.50 m long spear lance, fish spear, knife
- Fronds of different palm trees: blowpipe arrows, "disposable" Backpacks covering the huts
- Tear-resistant palm fibers ( Piassava , Chambira) or lianas: baskets, fish and carrying nets, hammocks, cords and ropes
- Tree bark: baby sling
- Sheets: plates, lids, packaging material, sun protection
- Clay: thin-walled clay pots for the chicha
- Calabashes : drinking vessels
- Tree trunk: Kichwa-style dugout canoe, no boats until the 1960s
- Stone: axes that are presumably not made in-house, but rather artefacts from a historical culture from the 11th century that are found in the forest
- Naranjilla fruit: shampoo
- Seeds of the kapok tree: "cotton" for the rear end of the blowpipe arrows
The traditional residential building is the 50–80 m² “long house” made of two to three meter high piles that form a slightly arched gable roof that extends to the ground and is covered with palm fronds . The house has two entrances on the short sides: a main entrance to the “village square” - around which a total of one to three long houses are grouped - and a back entrance to the forest (where the toilet made of two tree trunks is also located). There are no other openings. The floor is made of tamped earth. Sometimes there are partition walls that give the individual families more privacy. Various supplies and up to eight hammocks, which are used for sitting and sleeping, hang on the roof structure.
Family groups: Onko and Nanicabo
The traditional longhouse communities are all far away from the great rivers on heights that are found in large numbers here on the lower eastern slope of the Andes. There the soils are worse for plant cultivation, so that cultivation can hardly be carried out in the immediate vicinity of the settlements; however, the chance of encounters with strangers in this situation is lower and approaching enemies can be recognized earlier.
A long house (onco) serves as an apartment for an extended family group of a maximum of 20 people. At one settlement there are usually two - sometimes more - oncos.
Such a group is made up of two to three patrilineal , related-by marriage or befriended nuclear families, which in turn consist of five to nine people (a man with one to three wives - who are often sisters - each with one to five children and possibly grandchildren and Husbands of married daughters). Sons leave the family group to marry into another group or to start a new one. Three to five such settlement areas within a few hours' walk each form a so-called neighborhood core (nanicabo), which is "managed" by a founding couple. According to this, a nanicabo consists of around 100 to 200 people. The ethnic identity of the traditional Waorani is based on these Nanicaboiri, so that foreign Nanicaboiri - despite the same language and culture - are in principle regarded as enemies. The traditional longhouse communities are becoming increasingly rare, as they can only be found among isolated groups. Around 1957 there were probably four Nanicaboiri with a total of around 500 Waorani.
Subsistence: hunting, fishing, gathering and gardening
The traditional subsistence economy of the Waorani is based primarily on hunting and gathering, partly on fishing and additional temporary horticulture (without slash and burn ) for two to three years each; sporadically on a number of small cleared areas, most of which are near the river bank.
The Waorani have a high meat consumption of an average of 200 g per day. It is mainly used by hunting with the blowpipe (Umena) and curare- poisoned arrows on monkeys ( woolly monkey , howler monkey , spider monkey ) and birds ( salvin -hokko chicken , Spixguan ), as well as with the spear (tapa) on white-bearded peccaries and other larger mammals covered.
The encountered in many marginalized peoples hunters hunting taboos to protect the wild stocks are not known in this form in the Waorani. So far, there has always been enough hunted prey in the areas of the isolated groups; There is a high natural abundance with an apparently inexhaustible abundance of game animals, food and materials. The extremely low population density also makes such restrictions unnecessary. In addition, there are no moral concerns about torturing prey, for example when children try out their skills in handling hunting weapons on captured animals. These animals are often not killed directly so that the meat does not spoil.
Fish is rarely caught - with small nets, the fish spear or with the help of the vegetable poison Barbasco .
The fruits are collected from a total of 155 palms, trees and epiphytes . The fruits of the buriti palm , lulo and chonta fruits (the latter also used to make chicha) are particularly popular .
The collection of these fruits, as well as other wild food, medicine and useful plants, natural products such as bark or fibers, seeds, roots, flowers, leaves, palm hearts , firewood and construction wood and resins play a central role. Beetle larvae (for example from the black palm borer weevil ) and wild honey are collected and consumed as delicacies.
Furthermore, manioc (yuca) (high yields with relatively simple cultivation, such as chonta for chicha production) and bananas, secondly chonta, tuber beans , cocoa , corn and peanuts are cultivated in the small garden areas . The fields can be up to two days' journey away from the settlement area. To create a field, the trees are felled, but not removed. They rot on the spot or are gradually used as firewood. In the vicinity of the longhouses, species-rich gardens (oncoboya) are created for the most important useful and medicinal plants for everyday use. Sometimes sweet potatoes and papa china are also grown here.
Chicha (not fermented by the Waorani and therefore non-alcoholic) is drunk from yuca or chonta fruits as an invigorating, strengthening and high-calorie drink. Thickened chicha is packed in a leaf and taken with you as travel provisions. It is mixed with river water for consumption. Squashed bananas mixed with water are also drunk. Otherwise, fresh drinking water can be obtained from cut lianas everywhere.
Since the evangelicals' resettlement measures, increasing contacts and technological innovations, many cultural elements of the Waorani are in an adjustment process ( acculturation ). Nevertheless, the Waorani have retained their ethnic identity, culture, practices and way of life as hunter-gatherers and their traditional subsistence economy is still fundamentally preserved. The Waorani still speak their own language and often change their place of residence. The modern means of transport (motor canoe, carpooling on the oil roads) tend to lead to an expansion of their wandering way of life. The traditional social structure and worldview of the Waorani has also largely remained intact.
In 1975 the Wao adopted the Kichwa lifestyle, identified with them and denied their origins. Since 2000 (as a result of international attention and support) they have been proud to be Wao again, although they have retained many elements of the Kichwa lifestyle. Since the 1960s, more and more “Compadrazgo relationships” (complex ceremonial-ritual partnerships between Waorani and other ethnic groups) developed. Today, almost every Waorani family has several such relationships, which often form marriage alliances that are even better suited to alleviating cultural tensions.
Not least because of the permanent resistance of the Waorani, their territory has so far been spared from the massive expansion of the agricultural industry, large livestock farming and plantation economy (palm oil production) into the Amazon lowlands.
As with all previously isolated peoples, contact with the western world mainly results in health problems due to previously unknown infectious diseases such as flu, chickenpox, measles, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and D; also sexually transmitted diseases from prostitution, alcoholism and accidents from the incorrect handling of muzzle-loaders and dynamite. Compared to other indigenous people in Ecuador, however, the Waorani have much better health care through the medical care of the oil companies and free use including transport to the Vozandes Hospital in Shell.
Present subsistence and economy
Although the traditional extractive economic forms and horticulture still play a major role in livelihood , the sedentary Waorani no longer live from it exclusively. Above all, the communities based on the oil roads have got used to a (partial) supply of purchased food or food deliveries by the oil companies. In addition, traditional technologies are increasingly being replaced by modern technologies: rifles are replacing spears and blowguns, and dynamite is replacing the fish poison Barbasco. Today hunting is also possible at night through the use of flashlights. These innovations bring a significantly higher yield, but also increase the risk of ecological damage; especially in the vicinity of larger permanent settlements with increasing populations.
In order to generate the necessary financial resources for the acquisition of modern goods, the Waorani have a number of sources of income at their disposal: For example, working for the oil companies as "machetero" (keeping paths open), guards, porters, boat drivers, assistant cooks or interpreters as (employed or illegal) Tourist guides, by collecting “visiting fees” for strangers (such as guides, NGO representatives, etc.) or by selling handicrafts, collectible products and game meat (to the oil workers and settlers) as well as (protected) animal species to tourists. First and foremost, however (especially on the Vía Tiguino), is the illegal timber trade (payments for access rights to their territory as well as assistance with the felling and removal of the precious wood). The marketing of agricultural products, on the other hand, would be difficult due to the remote location of the settlements. NAWE has also banned commercial cultivation and ranching for traditional reasons (although there is very little here and there). In contrast to earlier times, the Waorani now also keep plenty of chickens and a few pigs and dogs, which they obtain from the colonists.
The Waorani 's egalitarian social structure has been influenced from the first contact with the western world. At first it was the so-called "mediator women" like Dayuma who, through their knowledge and contacts with whites and their sources for modern things, achieved a status that would not have been possible before. They used this status - just as they had learned in debt bondage on the haciendas - to gain allegiance and obedience. After the resettlement in the permanent villages, the ONHAE functionaries took on this role. In addition, the introduction of modern objects - which not everyone owned and which could not be replaced at any time, like objects from one's own culture - harbored potential for conflict and thus social tensions from the start. This becomes particularly clear when the oil companies distribute special prestige objects to individuals. The problem worsened when the Kichwa huts were taken over, which, in contrast to the traditional longhouses, are only built for one family and have several rooms in which the property can be hidden inconspicuously. So the originally reciprocal system is broken more and more and greed , envy and conflicts arise .
Contacts, self-image and external image
Since the first contact with the "outside world" and reinforced by the worldwide media popularity, numerous actors have entered the life of the Waorani, all of whom have very different values and goals. Individuals and whole groups have had many bad experiences with strangers. Missionaries offer interesting contacts and support against new beliefs. Settlers - who do not know the ecology of the rainforest - come because of economic hardship or state incentives and clear and exploit the forest as they see fit for a better life. Adventurers, journalists and tourists seek exotic experiences, often without considering the consequences for the locals. Oil companies get concessions for exploration and often see the indigenous peoples only as annoying obstacles on the way to profit. NGOs of the environmental and human rights movement - but also indigenous organizations - have various idealistic (sometimes unrealistic) and / or ideological goals, which are often not coordinated with those affected and which cause a lot of confusion. They all lead to a complex scenario of conflict for the Waorani. The enormous resistance against foreigners, which has been successful for decades despite the small headcount of the ethnic group and their limited technological possibilities, is primarily rooted in their self-assessment as courageous, fearless and independent warriors who can determine themselves and have never really been conquered .
The image of the Waorani is shaped by diverse one-sided and contradicting ideas: For many Ecuadorians they are still primitive savages ("Auca"), but one is also jealous because they get so much attention from the public and so on to call large territory their own. In the media, they are still predominantly represented by outsiders. The representations of the Waorani move in a field of tension between exoticization , dramatization , stereotyping , romanticization , idealization and discrimination . In 1976, Mark Münzel referred to them as a “humiliated remnant group”.
In the summary of his dissertation "We defend our forest" , the ethnologist Philip Franz Fridolin Gondecki writes:
“The legitimation capital of the Waorani [is] essentially based on social convictions that they are a“ threatened people ”and“ victims of progress, capitalism and the depletion of nature ”, who have all of them at their disposal Defend resources and try to legitimately protect them. Without their prominent role in the conflict of interests between resource exploitation and environmental protection in the Yasuní, in which they function as central conflict actors and symbolic figures of the resistance against oil production due to their cultural, social and symbolic capital and appear and appear in external and self-portrayals as “guardians of Yasuni” , the Waorani probably did not receive such great media and public attention, sympathy and solidarity, which gives them moral power, publicity and legitimacy power, which they use in their power strategies specifically to justify, enforce and realize their own needs, interests and self-determined life plans . "
The language of the Waorani, the Wao Terero or Wao Tiriro , is generally considered an isolated language . According to Feser, the most well-founded attempt to assign the SIL employee Cahterine M. Peeke was successful, who placed this language in the Sabela language family .
Wao Terero is considered an endangered language . Through contact and marriages with Kichwas, Kichwa spread in the 20th century, especially in mixed families . Although there are still children who grow up with Wao Terero, Spanish is increasingly gaining ground as a means of communication thanks to Spanish-language schooling, migration and integration into Ecuadorian society. There are no books on Wao Terero. The only exception is a translation of the New Testament into the Waorani language, which first appeared in 1992 as a result of the activities of the Wycliff translators.
- The last hunters in Ecuador, Germany, 2012, 43 minutes, MDR
- TAROMENANI, El exterminio de los pueblos ocultos , Ecuador 2008, 59 minutes. Film by Carlos Andrés Vera about uncontacted peoples and their conflicts with Ecuadorian society (Spanish).
- Reconciled by death ("The end of the spear"), USA, 2005, 102 minutes
- Heiko Feser: The Huaorani on their way into the new millennium. Ethnological Studies Vol. 35, Institute for Ethnology at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, published by LIT Verlag, Münster, 2000
- Philip Franz Fridolin Gondecki: We defend our forest. Dissertation at the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Bonn , online version , University and State Library Bonn, published on January 22, 2015
- Erwin Patzelt : Last Hope Rainforest. Steiger, Innsbruck 1992, ISBN 3-85423-109-1
- Stephen Beckerman et al .: Life histories, blood revenge, and reproductive success among the Waorani of Ecuador . In: PNAS . tape 106 , no. 20 , 2009.
- Matt Finer et al .: Ecuador's Yasuni Biosphere Reserve: A Brief History and Conservation Challenges . In: Environmental Resources Letters . tape 4 , 2009 ( iop.org ).
- Flora Lu: The Common Property Regime of the Huaorani Indians of Ecuador: Implications and Challenges to Conservation . In: Human Ecology . tape 29 , no. 4 , 2001.
- Laura Rival : Trekking through History. The Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador. Columbia University Press, New York City 2002, ISBN 0-231-11844-9 .
- Laura Rival: The Growth of Family Trees: Understanding Huaorani Perceptions of the Forest . In: Man . tape 28 , no. 4 , 1993, pp. 635-652 .
- Wolf-Ulrich Cropp: In the heart of the rainforest - With the Indians of Ecuador . Frederking & Thaler-Verlag, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-89405-009-8
- Acción Amazonía / Ron Körber, The Huaorani. Mythology, way of life and problems of an Amazon people
- Photo series about the Huaorani in the 1960s and 1970s by Erwin Patzelt
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- ↑ a b c d e f g h i j k Richard Barry Lee, Richard Heywood Daly (eds.): The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers. 4th edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. 2010, ISBN 978-0-521-60919-7 . Pp. 101-104.
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- ↑ Ecuador's Yasuní Biosphere Reserve: a brief modern history and conservation challenge , Environmental Research letters, p. 9, accessed on October 17, 2017.
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- ↑ Alexia Zandra Fawcett: Documenting Language, Culture, and Cognition: Language and Space among the Waorani. Thesis (Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Linguistics), Bryn Mawr College, 2012. p. 27.
- ↑ Wængonguï nänö Apæ̈negaïnö, ante näni yewæ̈mongainta. New Testament in Waorani . 1st edition Sociedad Bíblica Internacional, 1992, 2nd edition Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc. 2009.