Setting: tribal warfare, Ecuadoran Amazon 20thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Robarchek/Robarchek 1998 p19
"In this notably violent part of the world -- the western Amazon basin -- the Waorani were among the people most feared. They were at war with all their neighbors, but their enforced isolation had left them with no access to the firearms that the surrounding groups possessed. Still, their fearsome reputation and their 9-foot palmwood spears kept the outside world at bay. They also raided each other. Blood feuds and vendettas arising from previous killings, from conflicts over marriages, and from accusations of sorcery persisted over generations and were a way of life and a constant threat.
"Over at least the past several generations, more than 60% of Waorani deaths have been homicides. While nearly 20% of those deaths were the result of warfare with outsiders, more than 40% grew out of internal vendettas." [references omitted]
* Robarchek/Robarchek 1998 p23
"In 1937, exploration for oil began in the Oriente when Royal Dutch Shell was granted a concession. Laborers, usually Indians hired locally, were set to clearing trails and sites for camps and seismic tests. Waorani attacked them at every opportunity. In 1942, the company reported that 'Aushiri Indians who inhabit the region between the Rio Napo and the Rio Curaray east of Arajuno, and whom it has proved impossibly to civilize, attacked our workers and killed three of them.' The next year, three more workers were speared to death.
"Even today, the personnel working at isolated drilling sites are vulnerable to threats and demands. Armed with spears or shotguns, Waorani often appear and demand food, pots and pans, and tools. A directive from one American oil company currently working in Waorani territory advises field staff that 'if the demand is urgent, offer the Waorani some food.'" [references omitted]
* Chenevière 1987 p143
"In the depths of the Ecuadorian forest live the few remaining survivors of an Indian tribe who call themselves Warani -- 'human beings' in their language. To their neighbors, they are Auca -- 'savages' in the Quechua idiom of the Incas, who gave them this name during their invasion of this territory many centuries ago.
"Their reputation for ferocity and belligerence has persisted throughout the ages. But their existence was unknown to white men until 1956 [CONTRA Robarchek/Robarchek 1998 p23], when the world press reported the massacre of five American missionaries by 'bloodthirsty Auca madmen.' Any approaching stranger has always run the risk of a bloody incident. The latest one occurred in 1985 near the banks of the Cononaco, where oil-drill workers stole some turtle eggs, a delicacy highly prized by the Indians. In their defense, it must be said that most often such deplorable outcomes have been caused by the ignorance of white men who unwittingly violated some tribal taboo or disturbed the laws of nature so sacred to the Indians."
* Kane 1995 p39
"The Huaorani kill outsiders for obvious reasons: to fend them off, or to steal their goods. But when it comes to killing their own -- who, until quite recently at least, they killed as often as they killed anyone else -- the Huaorani follow fairly strict rules. Almost always such killing is a matter of revenge, usually for the death of a child. The Huaorani consider all human deaths to have been caused by other humans, and require all to be avenged. A Huao does not kill alone; he must persuade other men in his clan to assist him. Each man makes a half dozen or more spears and personalizes them with carvings and feathers. Spearing is performed on moonless nights; rain is considered a good sign. The killing must be done face to face, and for several weeks afterward the killers must not hunt, eat meat, or sleep indoors."
* Oxford/Bish 2009 p52
"[A] Komi [is] a cord usually made of wild cotton. Because the Komi represents energy and power a Huaorani feels naked without it."
* Robarchek/Robarchek 1998 p81-82
"The traditional hunting technology of palmwood spears and blowpipes and curare-tipped darts is so effective that it is still in widespread use even today. Both blowguns and spears are made from the extremely hard and dense wood of the chonta palm. They are rough shaped with axe and machete, then carefully shaved, smoothed, and finished with a sharp, usually unhafted blade made from a fragment of an old knife or machete.
"Blowguns are crafted from two narrow, 9-foot staves of chonta, each grooved lengthwise down the center and carefully smoothed so that the halves fit perfectly together. The seam is sealed with beeswax and the full length of the blowgun is wrapped with a thin, flexible strip of bark peeled from a vine. The 1/4-inch bore is then painstakingly smoothed and polished with a wooden ramrod and fine sand.
"Darts are 15-inch slivers of palm frond midrib, carefully split and sharpened to a needle-like point. The tips are coated with curare, a paralytic poison derived from the Curarea tecunarum vine. To prepare the poison, the outer bark of the vine is shredded and placed in a cone made of leaves, and water is trickled through it. The dark fluid that drips out of the cone is collected in a clay pot and heated, cooled, and reheated until a scum forms on the surface. The dart tips are coated with this varnish-like substance and carefully arranged with the tips placed near a bed of hot coals to dry thoroughly."
* Chenevière 1987 p148
"This weapon is usually made from chontawood or a thick, stiff palm branch split in half and hollowed. The two hollow channels are continually compared to make sure they correspond exactly, before being tied together with vines and finally polished smooth. These nine-foot-long weapons are most precise at a target distance of over sixty meters vertically and one hundred meters horizontally."
* Kane 1995 p39
"Although rare today, spear killing is still practiced. In May of 1994 a Huaorani clan spear-killed a Quichua and two Shuar, and severely wounded two others, in a revenge attack triggered by the death of a Huaorani child. In any case spear killing remains a central fact of how the Huaorani see themselves. Many adults carry, and proudly display, spear scars from the battles their youths, and the old people still chant killing songs ...."
* Oxford/Bish 2009 p119
"Huaorani lances are formidable weapons in a hunter or warrior's hands. They are made from the extremely hard and straight-grained chonta palm, Bactris gaspaes. The design of the decorative feathers is individually-recognisable."
* Robarchek/Robarchek 1998 83-84
"The double-pointed Waorani spear is a formidable and deadly weapon. Roughly 9 feet long and 3/4 inch in diameter, spears are made from staves split from the trunk of the chonta palm. The wood is without grain and thus resists warping, and is extremely hard. The last 18 inches or so at each end is triangular in cross-section and tapers to a needle-sharp point.
"The shaft is decorated with feathers and, if the spear is intended for a human victim, is painted red with kaka, the pigment made from the same achiote seeds as are used for face paint. One end is barbed so that when the spear is imbedded, it is almost impossible to withdraw."
* International Museum of Cultures