Wari'


Wari'

The Waricaca', also known as the Pakaa Nova, are an Amerindian nation indigenous to the Amazon rainforest.

They are native to the state of Rondônia, Brazil and were first seen by European settlers at the shores of the river Pakaa Nova, which is a right-bank-tributary of the Mamoré River. Europeans at one time used the name "Pakaa Nova" to refer to the Wari', because of the location where they first encountered each other. However, the people themselves prefer to be referred to by outsiders as "Wari'", a word in their language, which is part of the "Txapakura" family.

Population and location

Along with the Torá, the Moré (or Itenes) and the OroWin, the Wari' are the last of the Txapakura linguistic group. Other groups, such as the Urupá were exterminated by Europeans.

Up until the 19th century, the Wari' were present in the Amazon's Southeast, namely the basin of the Lage river (a right-bank-tributary river of the Mamoré River), the Ouro Preto river, the Gruta and Santo André creeks, the Negro river (all tributaries of the lower and middle courses of the right bank of the Pakaa Nova river), the Ribeirão river and the Novo river (tributaries of the left bank of the Pakaa Nova river).

In the early 20th century, continuous incursions by people of European descent in search of rubber trees forced the Wari' to relocate to the less accessible headwaters of the Mamoré River, to where they were confined until the "pacification".

Today, they live in eight settlements, located in five different Reservations within the state of Rondônia. Their present population is estimated in 1,930 individuals (1998 census).

Denomination and ethnicity

The Wari' have no word that defines them as a group or race. The word "Wari'", which is used by outsiders in reference to them, has a few meanings. It is the pronoun for the first person plural inclusive: "we", but it can also be translated as "people" and "human being". Other tribes that live in the region have always referred to them using that term, and they prefer that whites observe it as well.

The tribe is divided into ethnic subgroups, but no word exists to define an individual that belongs to a different group, and the term usually applied is "tatirim" (stranger). A person from the same ethnic subgroup is referred to as "win ma" (land fellow).

Today, the Wari' subgroups are: the "OroNao", "OroEo", "OroAt", "OroMon", "OroWaram" and the "OroWaramXijein". Some individuals still identify themselves with two other subgroups that no longer exist, the "OroJowin" or the "OroKaoOroWaji". "Oro" is a collectivizing particle that can be translated as "people" or "group".

Relations between subgroups

Present relations between subgroups are still influenced by the dynamics that existed before the "pacification" (see below). Each subgroup is intimately connected to a territory, which consists of a set of areas, all identified by name, each inhabited by a "local group".

The frontiers between territories are fluid, since an area associated with one subgroup can be incorporated into the territory of another subgroup if it is occupied by a local group that belongs to another subgroup. That is made possible by the semi-nomad characteristic of the people (see below).

Membership to any given subgroup is also not defined by fixed rules. Children may be considered members of either parent's subgroup or of the subgroup associated with the territory in which they were born. Cultural or ethnic identities are not things one is born to, but rather constructed during a lifetime, through the relations with one's relatives and neighbors. The Wari' experience what could be defined as a "multiple identity", since different people classify any given individual differently.

ociety

Every subgroup is organized around a set of brothers, each of whom is often married to a group of sisters. Polygyny, especially sororal polygyny, is the basis of Wari' family structure. Any village is made up of nuclear families and a separate house, called "the men's house", which serves as a dormitory for single adolescents and as a meeting place for adults.

A couple usually varies their place of residence, shifting between the woman's parents' and the man's parents', although no specific rule determines when the shift is made.

The Wari' are semi-nomadic, and their villages never remain in the same location longer than five years. They are, however, always located away from flooded areas but by the shores of small perennial rivers.

A maize swidden, whence the Wari' derive their staple crop, always surrounds the village. The location of ideal earth for corn growing (black earth or terra preta) plays a key role in determining where to set up a village. The importance of agricultural land is also reflected in the language, since a person from the same subgroup is called "land fellow".

Cannibalism

Currently, the Wari' arepeaceful, but before the pacification they warred with neighboring tribes. Their most notable victories occurred over the Karipuna, a Tupi ethnicity, and the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau. With the European "invasion" in the early 20th century, the focus of their warfare shifted and they lost contact with the old "wijam" (enemy).

The Wari' consider enemies as "former Wari'" who have distanced themselves to the point of severing cultural exchanges. In spite of that, a Wari' warrior did not distinguish between an enemy and an animal, thus felt no need to be merciful or gracious to a human enemy any more than they would an animal. The bow and arrow was the primary weapon in Wari' warfare.

Once the battles were over, the Wari' warriors would bring home the bodies of the fallen enemies whenever possible. Those bodies would served to the women and younger men who had stayed home, to strengthen the group. Those who had participated in the battle would retreat to the "men's house" and were subject to a quarantine, a period during which they would move around as little as possible, staying in their hammocks for most of the day and drinking only unfermented "chicha". The purpose was to "keep the enemy's blood within the warrior's body", thus giving him strength. Intercourse was also prohibited, as they expected the blood of the enemy to "turn into semen", thus allowing the strength of the enemy to pass on to their children in the future. The warrior was not allowed to partake of the fallen enemies, because it was believed that since he had kept the enemy's blood within himself, the act would be self-cannibalism and result in the death of the warrior. Children were also prohibited from eating dead enemies. The quarantine would end when the women refused to continue preparing "chicha".

Endocannibalism was also practiced within the Wari' tribe. Right after death, the closest relatives would hug and embrace the deceased person. The body would be left for three days, although there was no set span, then the body would be prepared respectfully, unlike the exocannibalism of the enemy. Their closest kin would not consume the body, but would urge their affines to eat. They would eat little tokens of flesh, in an attempt to overcome their grief at their loss.

References

* [http://www.socioambiental.org/pib/epienglish/wari/wari.shtm Encyclopedia of the Indigenous Peoples in Brazil]

* Conklin, B. (2001). Consuming Grief Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society. Austin, Tx.: University of Texas Press.


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