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Victims and Warriors

Victims and Warriors: Violence, History, and Memory in Amazonia

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Victims and Warriors
    Book Description:

    In 1956, a group of Waorani men killed five North American missionaries in Ecuador. The event cemented the Waorani's reputation as "wild Amazonian Indians" in the eyes of the outside world. It also added to the myth of the violent Amazon created by colonial writers and still found from academia to the state development agendas across the region. Victims and Warriors examines contemporary violence in the context of political and economic processes that transcend local events. Casey High explores how popular imagery of Amazonian violence has become part of Waorani social memory in oral histories, folklore performances, and indigenous political activism. As Amazonian forms of social memory merge with constructions of masculinity and other intercultural processes, the Waorani absorb missionaries, oil development, and logging depredations into their legacy of revenge killings and narratives of victimhood. High shows that these memories of past violence form sites of negotiation and cultural innovation, and thus violence comes to constitute a central part of Amazonian sociality, identity, and memory.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09702-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    In September 2005 I made a trip to Amazonian Ecuador to visit the Waorani village of Toñampari. A few days after arriving, I joined my old friend Toka and his family on a fishing trip a few hours downriver from his village to visit his parents’ house. It was on the final night of my stay that several children in the house gathered around my friend’s elderly father, Awanka, listening to him tell stories. Awanka, who is known for his skill in storytelling, spoke about past times when many babies died as a result of witchcraft, leading to a cycle...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Civilized Victims
    (pp. 27-49)

    In this chapter I begin to explore the links between historical representations of the Waorani and indigenous forms of social memory that define Waorani people as victims or “prey” to violence. The story above was told in the late 1950s by Dayuma, a well-known Waorani elder who became a key figure in relations between her people and Christian evangelical missionaries in the years that followed. During much of my fieldwork she lived in Toñampari, where I came to know her well. While her story is unique insofar as she was among the first Waorani to live with kowori people in...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Becoming Warriors
    (pp. 50-75)

    The oral histories discussed in the previous chapter bring violence into focus both as a marker of social difference and a way in which kowori are incorporated into indigenous forms of sociality. However, the victim’s point of view and the process of “civilization” described by older adults are only part of Waorani social memory. Understanding the diversity of indigenous representations of the past requires a shift in focus from the language of elders to the embodied performances of young people in urban intercultural encounters. In this chapter I explore specific situations where people remember their ancestors not as quintessential “victims”...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Like the Ancient Ones
    (pp. 76-97)

    The public performances of warriorhood described in the previous chapter and the generational changes of which they are part have an important gendered dimension. While both women and men take part in these performances at village schools and in the city, young men are more closely associated with the imagery of violence that defines Waorani people in these intercultural contexts. They also tend to have more experience with kowori people and Ecuadorian cities than do Waorani women and elders. This is partly the result of young men working for oil companies, their dominant presence in urban indigenous politics, and the...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Lost People and Distant Kin
    (pp. 98-120)

    In May 2003, after having spent most of the previous year in Toñampari and other Waorani villages along the Curaray River, I was visiting the frontier city of Puyo when a group of young men from the Waorani political office approached me at an open-air restaurant frequented by local indigenous leaders. They told me the latest news: a group of Waorani men had attacked the longhouse of an “uncontacted” group living in voluntary isolation within the Waorani reserve. Visibly concerned, they explained to me that a large but unknown number of people were killed in the raid, which was carried...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Intimate Others
    (pp. 121-146)

    Whether distinguishing victims from perpetrators and Waorani from kowori people or envisioning kinship relations with “uncontacted” groups, the kinds of remembering I have described are as much about mutual experiences as they are social differences. In Toñampari, where my hosts interact with and evaluate the practices of their Waorani and kowori neighbors in their everyday lives, Quichua people are a key point of reference in Waorani discussions of violence, translocal relations, and everyday interactions. For decades they have been the archetypical kowori—a category that I translate at different points in this book as “outsiders,” “enemies,” or simply “non-Waorani people.”...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Shamans and Enemies
    (pp. 147-166)

    Even as a growing number of kowori have come to live in Waorani villages, Quichua people continue to have a prominent place in local discussions of enmity and violence. This sense of alterity can be seen in Waorani ideas about shamanism, a practice that is associated closely with Quichuas. Building on my analysis in the previous chapter of the dual status of Quichuas as people who are both distinguished by Waorani as morally different and desired as spouses, in this chapter I consider how Quichuas have become the primary source of both shamanic curing and witchcraft accusations. This seemingly paradoxical...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Victims and Warriors
    (pp. 167-180)

    Whether mourning the loss of kin, performing as “wild” Amazonian warriors, or describing Christian missionaries, Waorani ways of remembering violence evoke as much a sense of mutual experience as they do social and political divides. In all of the contexts described in this book, these memories reveal a specific cosmology and way of life through which Waorani people engage and come to understand relations that transcend the remote location of their villages. Just as shamans, kowori outsiders, and “uncontacted” people become targets of violence, so too are they remembered in certain contexts as kin. We have seen that, for many...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 181-184)

    Some of the recent events described in this book have continued to unfold in Ecuador. The most important of these is the arrest and imprisonment of seven Waorani men involved in the latest revenge attack against the Taromenani. After many months during which the government was criticized for delaying their investigation into the massacre of some thirty Taromenani in March 2013, the following November national police entered a Waorani village in the Yasuní National Park in a helicopter to make the arrests. Along with the initial arrests, one of the two girls abducted in the raid in March was taken...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 185-196)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 197-198)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-216)
  17. Index
    (pp. 217-230)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-234)