Huaorani of Ecuador

in Community

The concept of culture is very important in determining the behaviors of communities. This is because from a general perspective, culture is the way of living of a community. Scholars have defined culture as a collective and learned figurative system of policies, values, morals, viewpoints and thoughts that shape and influence perspicacity and conducts of individuals. The ways through which a particular culture makes a live have diversified effects on other aspects of culture in the community. Studies on culture have been expanded by the way ideas and thoughts are organized and interpreted. Whether a culture is classified as forager, horticulturalist, pastoralist, agriculturalist, and/or industrialist has some direct influences on the other cultural behaviors which include; social organization, kinship, economic organization, social change, gender relations, political organizations, and beliefs and values among others. This study will look at how primary modes of subsistence of Huaorani of Ecuador's culture influence other aspects of culture (Woods, 1975).

The Huaorani people also called Waorani are the indigenous Amerindians who reside in the Amazon region of Ecuador country in South America. These people have distinct characteristics from other tribes of Ecuador. The general population of this community is appropriately 4,000 who speak Huaorani language. Studies have indicated that the language spoken by the Huaorani people is totally unrelated to other languages in this country. The Huaorani community has their ancestral lands located between the Curaray and Napo rivers a landscape which is heavily threatened by the practices of oil trapping and logging which are illegal in the country. Importantly, the Huaorani community is well known for its efforts in protecting their culture from indigenous enemies and other settlers (Naylor, 1996).

In the past, the Hauorani community was hunters and gatherers who lived in forest hunting animals as a means of subsistence. This practice has changed drastically as a result of advancement in technology and interaction. Presently, this community lives in forest as their permanent settlements. The Hauorani community is comprised of five groups namely; the Tagaeri, the Huinatare, the Onamenane, and the two groups of the Taromenane. These groups have isolated themselves from other people in the outside world (Zeppel, 2006).

According to the belief systems of the Huaorani people, the whole world was once a forest and hence they consider the forest as their home while the outside world is considered as very unsafe. As result of this, this community has isolated itself from other communities that live outside the forest. According to them, the aspect of living in the forest offered protection from witchcraft and other attacks from their enemies. Just like many of the hunters and gatherers, the forest and rivers are considered as the most significant aspect in life among the Huaorani. Cultural anthropologists who have studied the Huaorani community have put forward that, animals and plants according to the beliefs of the Huaorani people have a spiritual as well as a physical existence. Importantly, there is a concept of respecting animals even though they are hunted in the Huaorani community because these people believe that when people die they return to earth as animals and more specifically termites. The Huaorani people hunt animals as their means of survival but they still believe that the spirits of the dead animals have to be placated otherwise they will cause harm to the humans. In their hunting practices, they put a lot of considerations in snakes and jaguar. This is because snake is considered to be the most evil force in this community's cosmology while the jaguar is considered as the most significant majestic marauder. The Huaorani community possesses a lot of knowledge concerning the botanical and medicinal values of plants in the forest. In this case, plants are considered as part of the life of this community and portray their characteristics (Woods, 1975).

Beliefs and values of the Huaorani people and how they influence the practices of hunting

Studies have indicated that the Huaorani people are widely known for their complete isolation from other people by completely staying in the forest. This practice has been brought about by the belief that the forest is their protector from their enemies and predictors. As a result of this, the outside world is considered as very unsafe. Importantly, this aspect of complete staying within the forest explains clearly their mode subsistence which is hunting and gathering. There are set of beliefs and values that influence the practice of hunting and also eating habits. In this case, the Huaorani people believe that when people die they are guarded by a large python and all those people who are not able to escape the trail of the snake are unable to enter into the spirit world. On this basis, these people get back to the earth inform of animals. This has resulted to hunting taboos where some animals are not supposed to be hunted. These limitations in hunting practices influence their modes of subsistence as they are limited to hunt and eat certain animal species and avoid others (Surralles & Hierro, 2005).

Additionally, the Huaorani people are not supposed to hunt jaguar and hence are restricted from eating its meat. This is because jaguar is considered in this community as the most significant and magnificent forecaster in the Oriente.  History of the Huaorani community has it that these people descended from a mating between a jaguar and an eagle. Elders metaphorically adopted ‘jaguar sons' who were able to communicate both medical and spiritual knowledge. As a result of this belief the Huaorani people highly respect the jaguar and hence they should not be hunted. Anyone who kills a jaguar has killed a prophet of the forest. This would result into a calamity as the spirits are angered by this act (Naylor, 1996).

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Huaorani of Ecuador

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This article was published on 2011/06/02