Huaorani of Ecuador
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Huaorani of Ecuador
The Huaorani of Ecuador are one of the smallest Ecuadorian tribes and have historically dwelt in the remotest eastern region of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Comprising roughly 2,500 people who live in “temporary settlements in an area of almost 20,000 sq. km, completely covered by rain forest, they are surrounded by related and alien tribes/ethnic groups with a total population of an estimated 150,000” (National Geographic, 2003). Living in the Amazonian rainforest, they are one of the most isolated ethnic groups on earth. The natural resources in the area in which they live, most notably petroleum, has generated unwanted attention from the outside and compelled them to be fierce defenders of their territories and their way of life. This research paper will explain how life in the Amazon itself, the beliefs and values of the Huaorani, kinship relations, and social changes of these people effect the way they think, live and act in order to survive and maintain a strong culture. Additionally, it will emphasize the role that economics and international politics plays in the lives of the Huaorani people. Life in the Amazon
Many of the Huaorani, indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon, live like their ancestors did centuries ago. They are hunters, gatherers and horticulturalists. Much of their food, their clothes and their cures for illnesses come from the forest which is rich with diverse plants, fruits and nuts. Along with the food they gather from hunting and foraging, they plant gardens to sustain themselves and their families. Their ancestral territory, Yasuni National Park, “is home to the most biodiverse forest known on earth” (Finer, & Huta, 2005). In recognition of its biodiversity and cultural heritage, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) formally designated Yasuní National Park a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989. The area is located in the northwest Amazon, where the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains and the Equator unite. Yasuní comprises a large expanse of the world's most diverse tree community, “the highest known insect diversity in the world, record levels of bird and amphibian species, a remarkable 11 primate species, 23 globally threatened mammal species (such as the white bellied spider monkey, the giant otter and the Amazonian tapir), and numerous other "species of concern," such as the woolly monkey, the ocelot (a kind of small leopard), the blue-headed parrot and the scarlet macaw” (Finer, & Huta, 2005). It is no wonder that indigenous people admire the forest that has sustained and nourished them for decades. However, due to one of its vast natural resources, oil, the biodiversity of Yasuni is being endangered. Some of the world's leading biologists, including Jane Goodall, E.O. Wilson and Stuart Pimm, agree that Yasuní may be the most biodiverse park in the world and in a February 2005 letter to the president of Ecuador they, and other members of a group dubbed the Scientists Concerned for Yasuní, concluded “that the greatest threat facing this biodiversity is new oil access roads that open up remote areas to colonization, deforestation and over-hunting” (Finer, & Huta, 2005). The advent of the multinational oil companies brought drastic change to Huaorani life. “Major oil access roads built by Texaco in the 1980s and Maxus in the 1990s opened up Huaorani territory to major oil development” (Finer, & Huta, 2005). Although the Huaorani gained legal title for a large section of their ancestral territory when the government of Ecuador created the 6,000 square kilometer Huaorani Ethnic Territory, which shares a long border with Yasuní in 1990, they have had to fight legal battles with oil companies to help maintain their way of life and their health as well. In 2003, the Huaorani and other...
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