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Readings (due October 16)

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To comment on the following readings, please first indicate your name, e-mail address, and the date of your post. Then, add your comments.


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The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall



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[Elen De Oliveria, emd10@geneseo.edu, 10/19]


1. Ideology- The Jivaro are the only known tribe ever to have successfully revolted against the empire of Spain as well as hold back all attempts of the Spaniars to reconquer them. They were known for their fierce warfare, but much of this had to do with their ideology. They believed very strongly in freedom and independence and were unwilling to be subservient to any authority.

2. change- With the Spanish conquest the Jivaro were subjected to increasing demands over the years. National laws were imposed upon them, and almost all of their land was seized. Jivaro children were being put in boarding schools and overall the Jivaro were being steared towards assimilation.

3. kinship&family- the center of jivaro life is the individual house, typically holding a family of nine people. Large space in the house is considered essential for hosting visitors as well as congregation against danger. Husband and wife sleep together, but there are extra beds for when the wife is menstruating or angry with the husband. The wife takes care of the husbands needs.



[Lanh Nguyen, ltn2@geneseo.edu, 10/20]

The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfalls

1. Religion/Myths: A Jivaro’s true soul is presented in the living individual’s blood. When one looses blood, it is viewed as a process of soul-loss.

2. Myths/Ideology: Jivaro interpret the presense of such creatures (owls, deer) at these old living places as evidence that the animals are temporarily visible embodiments of true souls.

3. Culture: Jivaro people have been regarded as unique and bizarre; being the most war-like people America.



[Jennifer Ritzenthaler, jkr5@geneseo.edu, 10/20/07]


"The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall"


1.Kinship-Each house has about nine occupants and tends to be isolated by a half-mile from the next. This is due to quarreling between neighboring relatives or depletion of wild game supply.

2.Religion-Bewitching, or bad, shamans derive social influence from fear, while curing shamans have less ominous power stemming from the idea that they are assets to the welfare of the community.

3.Kinship-Matrilocal residence is the norm but may be avoided if the suitor gives bride-price instead of bride-service. This occurs if the suitor is already married or the bride’s family lives in a place where he has many enemies.



(Cameron Mack, cfm6@geneseo.edu, 10/21)


The Jivaro - People of the Sacred Waterfall


1. Culture: The most intriguing aspect of the Jivaro culture had to be, for me, the fact that they were the only Native Americans to revolt against the Spaniards. The story Dr. Kintz told in class, about how they captured a governor and poured molten gold down his throat was strangely entertaining. Their brutal lifestyle enhanced their chances of resisting the invading forces, making them very difficult to subdue.

2. Kinship: The idea of the individual homes of the Jivaro people being the most essential part of their lives was interesting to me. Considering that there were usually around nine people within these homes, it is surprising that there wouldn't be a more central meeting location. When larger meetings are in order, they are done within the individual homes. Having this unique system of community did protect against aggression towards neighbors and other poor feelings.

3. Religion: I enjoyed reading about the Jivaro view of their souls. They believed that ones soul is contained within their blood. Therefore, if one loses blood they are losing their soul. This odd view of the soul was as unique as their shaman, too.



{Isobel Connors, icc2@geneseo.edu, 10/21}


1. IDEOLOGY:  When a person dies in the Jivaro culture, the relatives are responsible for taking care of the body.  They hollow out a tree trunk for a coffin, in which the dead is placed for five or six months until fully decomposed.  Once all that remains is the skeleton, the bones are placed in a jar and taken into the hut.


2. IDEOLOGY:  The Boa is an integral part of the Jivaro head shrinking ceremony.  They believe they must appease this animal in order to carry out the ceremony.


3. IDEOLOGY:  The Jivaro believe that shrinking the heads of their enemies seals in their supernatural power, and offers a closure of evil.






[Steph Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 10/22]


The Jivaro - People of the Sacred Waterfalls


1. KINSHIP: Polygamy is acceptable in Jivaro society. Uxorilocal movement occurs after marrying, but once the first child is born, the husband and wife move to a separate house closeby. The groom may substitute "bride-service" for bride-price by giving a shotgun to his father-in-law if he feels that matrilocal residence may be disadvantageous to him; this may occur because he already has an established household and this woman would be his second wife, or if she is his first wife but her neighborhood contains some of his enemies.


2. POLITICS/ECONOMICS: Jivaro men create friendships by exchanging goods - trade formalizes the strongest social units for males in the same generation. These men often live in the same neighborhood and sometimes reside in the same house; these housholds are subsequently the most unified of any other housing unit.


3. IDEOLOGY: Jivaro people believe that most illnesses (aside from "white man's diseases") and nonviolent deaths are caused by witchcraft. They trust that the true guiding forces in life are supernaturally controlled, which creates a societal need for shamans. These individuals aid others in dealing with such powerful life forces by crossing over to the "real" world as bewitchers or curers and taking hallocinogenic substances. -END-


[Larkin Kimmerer, llk5@geneseo.edu, 10-22]

The Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls

1. ECONOMY: The Jivaro have trading partners, or amigri, which are the strongest male partnerships. It is like a friendship but it serves as a trading partnership to disperse wealth throughout the community, not to hoard possessions.

2.ENVIRONMENT: The Jivaro have adapted to their environment by producing crops year round. They grow manioc, sweet potato, and other tuber plants that thrive in an environment that lacks a real dry season.

3.POLITICAL ORGANIZATION: In 1964 the Jivaro founded the Federation of Shuar Centers which represents the interests of the Jivaro in the outside world. This is an adaptation made to the changing outside world so that the Jivaro can both modernize and retain their traditions.




[Dan Lilly, djl5@geneseo.edu, 10/22]

RELIGION: I thought it was strange that a deceased person's spirit travels back to the house they were born and lives there in a spirit house, invisible to the living. It is nice though, that the spirits of the deceased live with their families.

POLITICS: I think its amazing that most deaths are considered homicide. In our culture, a murder is a very surprising and traumatic act, but for them, its rather commonplace.

CHANGE: Tools that seem simple to us, such as machetes and steel axes, have made a huge difference in among the Jivaro, making it possible to fell much larger trees and in much greater amounts.





[Anne Kim, ak13@geneseo.edu, 10/22]


The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall


        1.       IDEALOGY/SYMBOLISM: This article discusses how specialists are interested in certain use of drugs because certain hallucinogens can enable a supernatural world to become more real than the tangible world for people.

        2.       KINSHIP: This book talks about themes of familiarity, responsibilities and perogatives based on kinship roles and social opposition of males and females. There are cases where people marry cross cousins, practice polygomy, and reside matrilocally. The system of kinship has its own preferences. For example, the people get to decide what is or what is not acceptable behavior.

        3.       SOCIAL CHANGE: The Jivaro people never had the chance to encounter the outsiders except for brief trading. The pioneers brought over an abundant supply of the material culture, such as, machetes, shotguns, and metal pots.




 [Dan McConvey, dpm5@Geneseo.edu, 10/22]


The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall


1. ENVIRONMENT: It is interesting that the Jivaro enemies, the acuara suara and the sumu suara live downstream from them.  These enemies live in an area that is much more navigable by means of river travel, whereas the Jivaro travel by foot.  The Jivaro are a warrior culture which is similar to how the Yahi were perceived by their neighbors in the lowlands.  It would be interesting to see if being in less navigable parts/escapable parts, has influenced the Jivaro’s warrior attributes like living on the foothills did the Yahi.


2. SOCIAL CHANGE:   The introduction of machetes and steel axes has changed the way that the Jivaro navigate the forests and clear areas more easily than their previous stone axes.  I wonder if making the Jivaro a more navigable culture, in correlation with the environment, would eventually make the culture less warrior-like.  The presence of easier escape routes may slowly affect their defensive and resistant mindset.


3. KINSHIP AND MARRIAGE:  Men in the Jivaro culture usually want to have two or more wives.  The ratio of adult females to adult males is 2:1.  This is interesting, because the rate of killing between males has not only made an unbalanced gender distribution, but furthermore affected how the Jivaro practice marriage, observed in this practice of polygyny.  



[Kaitlyn Northrop, krn3@geneseo.edu, 10/22]


The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall


1.) Change-  After the Spanish conquest, the Jivaro had to deal with many new demands.  They now had national laws and their land was being taken from them.  Their children were being put into new schools and their entire culture was quickly being taken from them.

2.) Kinship- The Center of the Kivaro life was the house.  I thought it was interesting how they told about how the man and wife sleep together but how there were extra beds for when the wife is upset with the husband.

3.) Culture- I thought it was interesting how the Jivaro are described as the most warlike people, yet the have so many in depth beliefs about death and the soul after death.






[Dilek Canakci, dc11@geneseo.edu, 10/23]


The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall


Ideology: They were amazing people that fought for their freedom and kept their identity alive.


Marriage: Women are forced to stay within their gender role in order to be accepted by their families.


Religion: They beliefs about the souls were unique and interesting. The belief of shrinking the heads of their enemies were mind-blowing because it represented how important their culture was for them.  


Alfred Dilluvio ajd12@geneseo.edu 10/23


The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall


Culture: The Jivaro are such an interesting group of people because of their strong resistance to any sort of subjugation. I'm amazed that they have retained their cultural traditions in spite of takeovers and invasion attempts at other groups of people. Their warrior mentality, accompanied by a strong belief in their alliance with helpful spirits, makes this group of people scary to some.


Culture: The introduction of steel blades and machetes did much for the mobility of the Jivaro. I wonder if the increase in technology makes them more or less likely to ally themselves with the spirit world. With newer more efficient technology, the need to have help from the spirits may not be so great.


The practice of shrinking heads is interesting for obvious reasons. However, I don't understand how humans can wear the head of another proudly. In no other class, have i ever heard of a group of people who delighted in killing as much as these guys.


[Heather Warren, hrw1@geneseo.edu, 10/22]


The Jivaro, People of the Sacred Waterfall


  • Ideology:  The practice of men marrying more than one woman does not initially seem all that strange but with this culture, it is caused by the uneven distribution of gender from warfare.  This, interestingly enough also helps prevent over population as well as any one individual accruing too much wealth since they will then become a target since they are so prestigious.
  • Ideology:  The practice of shrinking heads is just SO COOL!!  It is really amazing how they do it and why.  I think that it is most interesting that they consider the source of a person’s soul / essence to be contained in the head rather than the heart or other organs.
  • Change:  I think that it is amazing that the Jivaro have been one of the only cultures that were successful in revolting against the Spanish, especially since they made such a huge impact as to make people stay away from them for such a long time.


[Skye Naslund, sjn1@geneseo.edu 10-23-07]


The Jivaro:  The Sacred People of the Waterfall


1-Ideology:  To the Jivaro, the souls that they gain from their ancestors are in the form of animals about which certain characteristics are associated.  Because of this when the Jivaro see animals they consider them souls outside of a body. 

2-Kinship:  The idea of separation between Jivaro family units was for a number of different reasons.  Not only was it to protect ones family from the quarrel of neighbors, but also to ensure that the supply of food would be sufficient in the area surrounding ones home to keep their family well nourished. 

3-Ideology:  The concept of gaining lives though shrinking and wearing the heads of enemies one has killed is unique to the Jivaro culture.  They believe that in gaining a head they adopt the soul of that person and therefore have an extra life. 







[Rebecca Coons, rsc2@geneseo.edu, 12/17/07]


The Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfall – With Jivaro culture it is interesting to look at the ties between political life and religion, especially seen in the practice of shrinking heads. This ritual is obviously spiritual in essence but it has political implications as well. I also agree with Heather in that it is interesting that they believe the spirit to reside in the head rather than the heart like so many cultures.



Student Powerpoint, Shuar/Jivaro



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[Steph Aquilina, sma8@geneseo.edu, 10/17]


Student Powerpoint, Shuar/Jivaro


1. IDEOLOGY/SYMBOLISM: The three souls represent the rites of passage that Jivaro people must complete. The first soul is that which simply sustains physical life; the second involves an active effort to see the “real” or “spiritual” world (as opposed to the dream-like state in which all others function), requiring adolescent boys to engage in a solo voyage and consume a potent drug; the third is an avenged soul, released when a person is killed.

2. IDEOLOGY/SYMBOLISM: Head shrinking is done when a Jivaro person has killed an individual. Jivaro people believe that wearing the shrunken heads of those they have killed represents their victories and they are convinced that shrinking the heads minimizes the murdered individual’s third soul from avenging his death.

3. KINSHIP & MARRIAGE: The suicide rate is vary high among women and adolescent boys. Women may threaten suicide as a tool for gaining power, such as when they want to prevent their husbands from choosing a second wife. If a woman's family does not support her, she ends up taking her life - an act that represents her lack of authority. END


Hendricks, To Drink of Death. The Narrative of a Shuar Warrior


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