For at least a thousand years, the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador, the Oriente, has been home to the Huaorani (meaning ‘human beings’ or ‘the #people’). They consider themselves to be the bravest #tribe in the Amazon. Until 1956, they had never had any contact with the outside world.
TIGUINO RIVER, ECUADOR
The animist Huaorani believe the animals of their forest have a spiritual as well as a physical existence. They believe that a person who dies walks a trail to the afterlife, which is guarded by a large anaconda snake.
Those among the dead who cannot escape the snake fail to enter the domain of dead spirits and return to Earth as animals, often termites. Spirits are present throughout the entire world, which to the Huaorani, includes only the forest.
The Huaorani identify deeply with the jaguar, an important and majestic predator. According to myth, they are the descendants of a mating between a jaguar and an eagle. They will never hunt a jaguar. They will also never kill snakes, as they are considered an evil force and a bad omen, the anaconda in particular.
BAMENO VILLAGE, CONONACO RIVER
Hunting and fishing supply a large part of the Huaorani diet, as well as being of cultural significance. Traditionally, the creatures hunted were limited to monkeys, birds, and peccaries. Neither land-based predators nor birds of prey are hunted. Bananas, maniocs, peanuts, sweet potatoes, berries and fruits are on the menu. Fermented manioc is the main ingredient for their beer, which flows plentifully during festivities.
The Huaorani have many traditional hunting and eating taboos. They will not eat deer, as deer eyes look like human eyes. While a joyful activity, hunting has ethical implications. The Huaorani must kill animals to live, but they believe that animal spirits live on and must be placated or else they will take revenge. Therefore, a Shaman shows respect during the ritual preparation of the poison (curare) on darts. Hunting with such darts is not seen as killing, but as a kind of harvesting from the trees.
One of the most important things to the Huaorani is family life. In the long houses, extended families are very close. Everyone helps out: men, women and children. The men fell trees to clear fields for the women to tend. The food that they plant includes bananas, peanuts, sweet potatoes and maniocs. Once they have used the soil to its full potential, they leave the area to find another. They do this to allow the ground to heal. Women take care of the crops, clean the homes, and look after the children. Huaorani like to sing, dance and drink manioc beer.
HUAORANI, CONONACO RIVER
The Huaorani have a vast knowledge of plants and trees, with uses including poisons, medicines, hallucinogens, building materials and many more. The Huaorani groom one another, making the tradition an important social activity.
They take great care in planning ceremonies. Many of their ceremonial drinking festivities lead to marriages.
For at least a thousand years, the Amazonian rainforest of Ecuador, the Oriente, has been home to the Huaorani. They currently number around 2,000 and they are also known as Waorani or Waodani (meaning ‘human beings’ or ‘the people’).
The Huaorani consider themselves to be the bravest tribe in the Amazon. They are outstanding hunters and warriors who live in a world that is green, wet, and filled with the sounds of the forest. Until 1956, they had never had any contact with the outside world. They have fought hard to protect their land and culture and have shown no mercy to unwelcome intruders.
Usually, the men provide for the family by hunting. Their main hunting weapon is the blowpipe. These are typically 3 to 4 metres long. The men make and fashion all weapons. Huaorani spears are most often made from the wood of the peach-palm tree and have sharpened barbs on both ends. Blow darts are dipped with poison from the curare plant, which paralyses its victims. Blow guns enable tribes to hunt prey such as birds and monkeys from a distance.
Their accuracy is deadly.
The Huaorani typically wear their hair long. Face and body painting is done for a vast number of reasons, from religious ceremonies to scaring off evil spirits, or simply for aesthetic purposes. The paints come from trees and plants that grow in the area. Traditional dancing is an important part of life. Children are included in most dances to make sure that the dances are passed on to the next generation. In many situations, these dances involve the entire village.
The polygamous Waodani traditionally marry within the tribe.