10104 - Constitutive Diversity among the Waorani of Eastern Ecuador

The Waorani of eastern Ecuador were known for their isolation. A group of only about 500 people, speaking a language unrelated to any other, they were famous for having maintained a hostile relationship with all surrounding societies. In effect, until the 1958 pacification of the first of their four mutually belligerent territorial groups, all Waorani were at war with the rest of the world. Nevertheless, their culture contained elements that they themselves identified as having come from other peoples. Some of these elements were remnants of previous inhabitants of their territory between the Napo and Curaray rivers: Unable to make stone axes themselves, they made gardens with ax heads they found in the forest. Some were asserted to be transfers that came with captive girls abducted from nearby lowland Quichua settlements: One informant suggested that manioc mashers were introduced to the Waorani by this route. And some were adopted from surreptitious observations of neighboring non-Waorani: One Waorani man observed a lowland Quichua man building a homesteader-style house on stilts. He watched until he was sure he knew how to do it, then killed the house builder, took his tools, and built his own house on stilts. After contact, Rachel Saint, an American missionary encouraged intermarriage with lowland Quichua among her converts, a practice still somewhat contested by those who want to maintain ethnic and political boundaries. Such incorporation of practices and peoples by the Waorani continues today as they redefine what being Waorani means in a globalized world.

Keywords: Etnogénesis, diversidad constitutiva, indígenas

Author: Erickson, Pamela (University of Connecticut, Ud States of Am / USA)


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