The Waorani are called Sabela, Auishiri, Auca and Huao (also written "Waodani"), which means Human. They are legendary for their hunting skills with long lances and blowpipes, their extensive knowledge of the jungle and its diversity of plants and animals. The Waorani warriors, known and feared for their strength and ferocity, always defended their ancestral lands from the intrusions of others who tried to exploit the Amazon jungle and conquer its inhabitants.
Population and Language
According to ONHAE they have approximately 3,000 inhabitants distributed in 22 communities, of which 12 are in Pastaza. The Waoranis communities in Pastaza are: Toñampare (the most populated and important, has a school and college), Tzapino, Tihueno, Quiwado-Quihuaro, Quenahueno, Daimutaro, Wamono, Tigüino, Shiripuno, Huahano.
The language is Wao Terero, an unclassified language.
The first peaceful contacts with foreigners occurred in 1958, when evangelical missionaries from the Instituto Lingüístico de Verano (ILV) arrived in the areas where the Waorani lived.
In 1967, the Texaco company discovered oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon, near this territory. As Texaco expanded its operations, the Waorani warriors tried to expel these invaders with chonta (hardwood tree) lances. In response, the government of Ecuador and Texaco asked the missionaries to accelerate and expand their campaign to relocate and pacify the Waorani. With planes provided by Texaco, the missionaries searched the Waorani homes, and pressured and deceived the clans into leaving the areas where the oil company wanted to work. More than 200 Waorani were contacted and extracted from the trajectory of the oil teams, and taken to live in a distant Christian settlement.
Large areas of the forest that had been their home were invaded and degraded by outsiders. In addition to the oil infrastructure (wells, pipelines and production stations), Texaco built a road in the Waorani territory. Today, those areas are so degraded by oil field contamination and deforestation that the Waorani can no longer live there.
The "contacted" Waorani have decided to settle in cities like Puyo, or near the roads built by the oil companies. However, many still live in the forest, in harmony with nature, that is their source of life. At least one group, the Tagaeri-Taromenane, has resisted all kinds of contact.
The most traditional Waorani who have been contacted live in the remote communities of Bameno, Boanamo, Gabaro and Wema. These groups live in "La Zona Intangible", an intact rainforest refuge of great biological richness that extends over nearly 3,000 square kilometers of Waorani ancestral lands in the area now known as Yasuní. The Intangible Zone has been designated as a conservation area by the government of Ecuador, however it is threatened by invasive oil companies, settlers and illegal loggers.
The traditional basic unit or domestic group is the "nanicabo", formed by an extended family or multiple ones, made up of a number of six to ten families living under the same roof or "maloca". These domestic groups are self-sufficient, autonomous and organized around an elderly person from whose name the name of the domestic group is derived. The territorial unit or local group is called "waomoni", which is the union of several "nanicabos"; the "waomoni" are endogamous in nature, within which marriages between crossed cousins and alliance relations must take place.
There is a combination of traditional forms with new semi-nuclear settlement criteria. A large part of the communities are formed by two or three "waomoni" of different origin. A minority live either in "malocas agrupadas" or in "isolated domestic groups".
Their highest body is the Byle Waorani Council, which is the Assembly of the whole nationality. The largest organization of external representation is the Organization of the Waorani Nationality of the Ecuadorian Amazon, ONHAE, formed in the 1990s. ONHAE is a member of CONFENIAE and CONAIE.
In its territory the State has declared the Yasuní National Park, in which the Dícaro community, Garzacocha community, Ahuamuro community and Bahuanamo community (Cononaco Bameno) are settled. The Waorani do not have a property title, but a use agreement signed with INEFAN (today Ministry of the Environment). The Tagaeri territory was declared an Intangible Zone.
Traditionally, the Waorani nationality was nomadic. Today, temporary population migrations persist, while other communities are sedentary.
Their economy is based on subsistence in temporary orchards, in addition to hunting, fishing and fruit gathering. The natural environment provides them with resources for housing construction, handicrafts and food. Some have direct contact with the market, either through the sale of labor force to the oil companies or through the sale of their handicrafts. In activities of communal interest they practice the minga.
Men and women remained naked, the men with a small penis bra tied to their waist to make their travels through the jungle. Currently their attire has changed and they wear clothes. Men carry the bodoquera with them for hunting, with poisoned darts at the tip. Both men and women adorn themselves by piercing their ears and piercing them with balsa wood pegs.
The houses where they live ("onko") have a wooden frame and a roof covered with palm leaves. In them live between 10 and 15 people of the same family; inside this house there are no rooms, but there are spaces assigned to each family member.
These houses last a long time because the smoke from the fires in the kitchens waterproof the leaves of the roof and increase their useful life, also prevents insects from eating the leaves and other animals from settling there.