The Huaorani Warriors of Ecuador have a rich culture including Gender relations, Beliefs and Values, and Sickness and Healing. They are cultivators as well as hunters who live in the Amazonian Rainforest in South America. Most Huaorani make their homes in northeastern Ecuador, but interestingly are not familiar with normal Ecuadorian culture. According to BBC News World (2011) “The Huaorani have only had contact with outsiders in the last century. They are known to have killed oil workers in the 1940s, when Shell Oil had a station on their territory. Many Huaorani were relocated in the 1970s to make way for oil exploration” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12937408. The Huaorani are famous for being an aggressive, warlike community who disliked and killed Westerners. Huaorani and their advocates are involved in legal battles with oil companies that have built pipelines through their traditional lands. To this day, Huaorani continue to battle these pipelines. Even though living in the forest offered protection, they are hunters as well as cultivators and will kill to protect their way of life.
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Their populations of approximately 4,000 speak a Huaorani language, and studies have shown that this language is not associated with any other languages spoken in Ecuador. The Huaorani people have different features those of other tribes in Ecuador. The Huaorani people are sandwiched between the Curaray and Napo rivers which is notorious for the oil trap and logging which in Ecuador can get people in trouble with the law. This community is well known for the gruesome way they attack foreigners and other tribes around them to protect their culture. (Kaplan, Larrick, & Yost, 1980).
The Huaorani, Waorani or Waodani also known as the Waos are foragers. In their society women and men have equal gender relations. For the Huaorani people, the women and men are considered equal, comparing to their neighboring tribe, the Kichwas, where the women are not equal but less than men. Women are responsible for cultivating and harvesting the crops while the men hunt. As such, they are both foragers and horticulturalists hunting using their spears to kill animals and cultivate manioc and bananas. Although they make family decisions together the women are very strong and can take care of themselves. Traditionally, a Huaorani settlement pattern consist of self-sufficient and isolated residential units with an average of twenty to thirty members inhabiting each longhouse. Kinship and marriage were structured by bilateral descent and cross cousin marriages. Cross cousin marriage divides people into two types, parallel cousins which are considered as siblings and cross cousins who could be potential spouses. The women may leave their spouse if they choose to, unlike the other tribe. The Huaorani have low birth rate unlike their neighbors. The Huaorani people usually only have two or three children. The Huaorani people limit and control their birth rates because of the availability of food. The women made a special blend of tea from items in the forest to use as birth control to prevent children. Men and women cannot survive without each other’s presence because each has their own duties to fulfill within the tribe. Their main hunting weapon is the blow gun and the arrows used are dipped in curare poison to paralyze the muscles of the animals being targeted. The huaorani were against eating deer, because they thought that deer eyes look very similar to human eyes. Spears were used for person to person conflict and settling of scores especially with the Western civilization.
The Huaorani people made unusual outfits. There is a fruit, called achiote, which gives a red extract. They utilize this to paint items and their bodies as well as on special days. They use teeth of boars and the feathers of birds. The Huaorani men would consider a kome a form of cloth. This is a string like that ties to the foreskin and around the men waist. The Huaorani people have long hair in the back and their banes are cut all the way to the back of the ears. The Huaorani elder’s ears are pierced in a loop like ring. The various rings over time create a large drooping circle which hangs below the ear. Since this is an excruciating process present generations have stopped doing this. The pain is so unbearable that the bravest men have complained about the pain. This painful process normally begins in childhood.
The term Huaorani means “human beings” or “the people,” and they refer to everyone else as cowode or “non-humans”. According to the various studies conducted the Huaorani’s have come to be known for their way of isolating themselves from everyone by remaining in the forest. This way of life is due to their belief of the forest being a source of protection from anything and anyone that may cause harm to them. As a result, they believe everything outside of the forest is unsafe. This way of life forces them to hunt and gather food from their natural surroundings. Their beliefs and values play a major part on how they hunt and must gathering food for their daily diet.
According to the Huaorani people, there are specific animals that may not be hunted. This also includes monkeys, wild peccaries, and birds for this there are some animals that cannot be eaten by anyone. As to the belief and values, anything that has features similar to a human can fall in that category as well. A deer would be one example. Hunting to gain profit within the society is deemed as an unethical matter. In many cases the Huaorani people believe that the spirit of the animals killed continue to live in the forest. This affects the way of how hunting and eating is done within the Huaorani society. This belief and value limits the type of species they are allowed to hunt for food. On the other hand, the forest is generally important in society since it provide them with medicines and other sources of food. The Huaorani community possesses a lot of knowledge concerning the botanical and medicinal values of plants in the forest. Plants are considered a part of the life of this community, since they are a part of the forest. (Kaplan, Larrick, & Yost, 1980).
The Huaorani people hold animist religious views, they believe spirits inhabit their forest, and that the Huaorani originally descended from the union of a jaguar and an eagle. The Huaorani people believe that a large serpent, when they pass on to the afterlife, is guarding the way to the spirit world and they must escape in order to enter the heaven. If unable to escape the serpent the dead would return as an animal. For this reason there is a limit on what animals that may be hunted for food. Unfortunately, this taboo has resulted in an even more limited amount of resources to hunt. Huaorani people are not allowed to hunt and eat certain animals such as the jaguar. This is because the jaguar is a significant and outstanding creature in the spirit world. They believe that the jaguar and the eagle have come together to create mankind. Some elders have the capacity to communicate with the spirit world generally adopt Jaguar sons. Jaguar sons were able to communicate both medical and spiritual knowledge. As a result, from this belief the Huaorani people highly respect the jaguar and hence they should not be hunted. (Man, 1982)
When the Huaorani people die and pass over into the afterlife, they believe that a person should embark on a journey to get to heaven. During this journey, there would be a serpent in the middle of the person’s journey. Only the strongest could jump over the serpent to get to heaven. The soul’s that do not make it over would descend back to earth as an animal. The Huaorani’s are feared by everyone around them because of how violent they were known to be. The Huaorani people are fierce and unpredictable. They seem unemotional and which made it very difficult for anyone to interpret their mood or behavior. The Huaorani were feared greatly because they would violently kill with vengeance anyone who stood against them. Generally any conflict with the Huaorani resulted in the other person being speared.
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In the Waorani world there would be no difference between the present life and the life after death. The Huaorani once saw the world as a big forest. The basic entity for their culture dependency and existence remains in the enormous rain forest. The forest is their home. Since the outside world is considered to be a risk factor they remain in the forest for protection of all things that may cause harm to them. They consider the river and the trees a part of their life. This is what they are taught to understand as they raised up in the Huaorani community.
The Huaorani people believe that animals exist spiritually and physically. They say that when you die a great serpent is waiting for you to prevent you from crossing over into heaven. All spirits that fail returns to suffer on earth. On earth these animals are recognized, respected, and cannot be harmed. They believed in the presence of animal spirits. The animal spirits are released when an animal is killed and harm its killer if it is not properly placated. The animal’s spirit may cause physical harm to the killer and potentially others. As the Huaorani people hunt for survival, they prepare the curare for the dead animals.
Mengatoi are special people that live within the Huaorani community. The Mengatoi are believed to be able to transform into jaguars and also have the ability cure diseases and illnesses. If the Mengatoi has an ill patient, they will make dark colored psychoactive potion from a Banisteriopsis vine called Mi’i. This potion is made to cure the sick. The Mengatoi will then take the potion while sitting with the patient who is ill. Then as the Mengatoi is mediating and communicating with the animal spirits on behalf of the ill patient to make the person go back to feeling as their normal self again. The healing process must take place in the hours of darkness to take. Therefore, the process always takes place at night in the hours of darkness. The Mengatoi will follow the jaguar spirit which will lead them to a plant which in return will be the cure for ill stricken patient. They may take and blow peppers on the patient’s chest, or the Mengatoi’s may suck on the persons head and then simply spit the sickness onto the ground. At the end of the process, the Mengatoi will give the patient a prescription of the herbs for them to take in the days to come.
The Huaorani people are no longer travelers and presently have a permanent community. The settlements are made of five groups which are the Tagareri, Onamenane, Huinature and Taromenane. They isolate themselves at their own free will from our civilization to prevent unwanted influence. Technological advances have transformed the world and the Huaorani prefer to remain isolated with the forest. According to the Huaorani people, the forest is a safe haven from danger and the unknown supernatural. They only treasure what they do best which is hunting, gathering, and protecting their environment. They believe that plants and animals are connected by a spiritual as well as physical life force. Therefore they value the presence of animals and respect them when they are hunting because they believe that when someone dies they come back in animal form. This tribe has an ordinary way of healing their wound and sicknesses with herbs found in the Amazon. (Man, 1982)
For the Huaorani, the forest is home, while the outside world is considered unsafe: living in the forest offered protection from the witchcraft and attacks of neighboring peoples (Southernexplorations.com). In the U.S. hunting is more of a hobby or leisure activity rather than a source of survival. But to the Huaorani hunting is a major part of their survival. They are known to have killed oil workers in the 1940s, when Shell Oil had a station on their territory. And in 1970s many Huaorani were relocated to settlements to make way for oil exploration http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12937408. Culture includes knowledge, beliefs, values, laws, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by people as a member of one’s society. Due to the global demand for oil the Huaorani society and culture has changed forever. I believe the Huaorani had a right to kill the corporate giants who invaded their territory interrupting their primary mode of subsistence as well as their culture and way of life. Huaorani and their advocates are involved in legal battles with oil companies that have built pipelines through the rainforest of South America. To this day, Huaorani continue to battle these pipelines.