Huaorani of Ecuador
The Huaorani Indians live in the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador, and they are a semi-nomadic horticultural society. They hunt wild game, gather fruits, and berries, but they also grow their own plants. They live off the land and have to move from time to time usually every ten years or so in order to not over use the area. They are feared by many people in their region because of their violent reputation, they are temperamental, and unpredictable. The men and women have different chores, but are treated equal when making decisions. They usually have only two or three children because there are not enough resources to support too many children. They live in an egalitarian social system.
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The first time that the Huaorani peacefully had contact with outsiders was back in 1958, when evangelical missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics convinced a Huaorani woman that was a slave to go back to the forest she lived in as a child and help them relocate her family to a settlement and convert them to Christianity (Baihua, 2009). Due to oil companies trying to take over as much of the land as possible in order to get more oil they continued trying to get the Huaorani people to move to settlements and convert to Christianity. The missionaries told them that their culture was sinful and savage, and tried to pressure them into giving up their traditions and way of life.
Since the missionaries tried to convert as many of the Huaorani as possible they have forced many deeper into the forest. They have retreated deeper in order to stay as pure to their tradition as possible. Many however did go with the missionaries and convert to Christianity which upset the rest that stayed true to the culture. The Huaorani tried their best to stay away from the outsiders, but the outsiders keep going after them and taking over more and more of their land. The oil companies continue to take over more land in order to find more oil.
The Huaorani face many issues because of the oil companies that have taken over a large portion of their land. The Huaorani faced new diseases that sickened, and killed many of them. Their homes were invaded and destroyed by the outsiders. The oil companies have built a road through the heart of the Huaorani territory. Since the oil companies have done this it has severely hurt the habitat in which the Huaorani hunt. The rainforest that they hunted and gathered from was depleting very quickly, which caused food shortages. The oil companies have their own camps built within the Ecuadorian forest, which has exposed the locals to all of the material items that outside world has. Things like stereos, televisions, alcohol, and other luxuries. “While some Huaorani have resisted the patrollers, others have become dependent on them, some even becoming oil company employees,” (Cuna, 2007, para.8).
“The Huaorani believe that when someone dies, the soul starts a journey towards heaven. On the way, in the middle of the path, a big anaconda is obstructing the way. Only brave souls can jump the boa and reach heaven. Whoever fails, returns to earth as a termite, and leads a miserable existence,” (Cuna, 2007, Para. 12). When it comes to death the Huaorani do not fear it, nor do they morn for the one’s that pass. They do not have a big funeral like Americans do. They simply bury their dead and go on with life, there are no condolences offered. They have no sense of time when it comes to age and things like this. If you were to ask a man or woman how old they were they would not be able to tell you...
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