Huaorani of Ecuador Are a Fascinating Group Research Paper

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Huaorani of Ecuador are a fascinating group of people that have recently been uprooted from their traditional nomadic way of life and placed in social and political constraints. Inhabiting the Napo, Orellana, and Pastaza Provinces of Amazonian Ecuador, the Huaorani have been traditionally very isolated from the modern world. Even the Huaorani language is an artifact of isolation: it bears no resemblance to any other language known to exist in the world. The Huaorani currently number about 1,370 with an astounding 55% of the population under the age of sixteen, due to recent changes in social organization (Rival, 2000). While the Huaorani still rely on the bountiful Amazonian rainforest for food, medicines, and shelter, they no longer roam freely and set up camp at will. Due to illegal deforestation and oil exploitation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Huaorani have been forces to establish permanent settlements in areas that are still undamaged. The Huaorani have internally banded together and externally joined other indigenous peoples to form political organizations to protect themselves and their ways of life from current threats. Without help from outside parties, the traditional Huaorani lifestyle may be lost forever to logging and oil. The Ecuadorian Huaorani peoples are attempting to maintain a traditional lifestyle that modern societies could stand to learn a lot from, but they are in danger of losing all traditions as modernity encroaches.

2. Primary Mode of Subsistence: Foragers and Hunter Gatherers

a. Traditionally nomadic hunter gatherers

i. "Huaorani lifestyle… entails a high degree of nomadism associated with a mode of subsistence based on foraging" (Rival, 2002)

ii. "Before their "pacification" by an evangelical mission, the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the early 1960s, they lived in highly dispersed and transient collective dwellings located on hilltops away from rivers" (Rival, 2000)

iii. Hunting methods

1. "Their main hunting weapon is the blowgun. These weapons are typically from 3 to 4 meters long. The arrows used are dipped in curare poison, which paralyzes the muscles of the animal which is hit with it, so that it cannot breathe. Kapok fluff is used to create an air-tight seal, by twisting the fibers around the end of the dart or arrow"

2. "With the introduction of Western technology in the 20th century, many Waodani now use rifles for hunting"

iv. Plant gathering

1. Extensive botanical knowledge of rainforest plants

a. Can easily identify poisonous plants from those that are safe and useful

2. Know which plants to use for food, medication, mild hallucinogens and mild narcotics

b. Small amount of agriculture and land cultivation

i. "They cultivate but spend more time, and are far more interested in, hunting and gathering" (Rival, 2002)

ii. With the establishment of permanent settlesments, agricultural practices are on the rise

c. Presently shifting from nomadic hunter gathers to settlements, but main source of food remains rainforest plants and animals

i. "Although the advance of oil prospecting and the civilizing actions of SIL missionaries have resulted in sedentarization and riverine adaptation with the concentration of 80% of the population on less than 10% of the traditional territory, it is still through hunting and gathering in the forest that people secure their daily subsistence and retain their distinctive way of apprehending the world. Forest resources represent the bounty created by the daily consumption activities of past generations" (Rival, 2000)

ii. All food comes from the rain forest regardless of changes in social organization

3. Social Organization

a. Traditionally nomadic groups set up dwellings on the move

i. "Before their "pacification" by an evangelical mission, the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the early 1960s, they lived in highly dispersed, semiautarkic, and transient collective dwellings located on hilltops away from rivers. (Rival, 2000)

b. Present shift toward settlements and community living

i. "The Huaorani population has adjusted to demographic growth and increased population density by tapping new sources of food. Former enemies in mixed communities are willing to share with each other as long as sharing neither creates obligations nor requires the management of scarce resources. (Rival, 2000)

ii. However, through contact and cross-cultural interactions with the national society and more specifically, with missionaries and the impact of oil exploitation, this society has undergone changes in social structure. These changes are interrelated and have resulted in the deterioration of the living conditions of the Huaorani in general and of Huaorani women in particular. (Aviles, 2008)

iii. 55% population under age 16 (Rival, 2000), direct result of this new settlement living social structure…[continue]

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