Jivaroan peoples

Jivaroan peoples refers to groups of indigenous peoples in the headwaters of the Marañon River[1] and its tributaries, in northern Peru and eastern Ecuador. They speak one of the language family of the same name.[2]

The Jivaro people are famous for their head-hunting raids and shrinking the heads. These raids usually occur once a year in one particular Jivaro neighborhood. The raiding parties usually only attack one homestead per raid, killing the men, spearing the older women to death, and taking younger women as brides.

War deaths caused by warfare
Percentage of male deaths due to warfare amongst the Jivaro, as compared to other indigenous ethnic groups in New Guinea and South America and to some industrialized nations.

Jivaro also engage in hunting activities. These activities usually involve a husband and wife hunting with a blow gun and poisoned dart, dabbed with the poisonous plant curare, which stops the heartbeat of the animal. Jivaro usually hunt for monkeys and birds, but they do not rely on hunting as their primary food source.

Pwanchir Pitu, Shaman et chef spirituel du peuple Achuar
Pwanchir Pitu, Achuar shaman


The principal groups are:

Some have also named the following:

Moreover, the Shiwiar are a group of Achuar speakers living along the Corrientes River, next to Quechua speakers; many Shiwiar also speak this other, unrelated, language.



The Jivaroan worldview is built upon the idea that both animate and inanimate objects hold souls that cannot be seen by our common eyes. These souls contain power, or karáram, that the Jivaroan people believe can be contained and harnessed within one’s self. Harner talks about these souls, called arutam:

“A person is not born with an arutam soul. Such a soul must be acquired, and in certain traditional ways. The acquisition of this type of soul is considered to be so important to an adult male’s survival that a boy’s parents do not expect him to live past puberty without one. By repeatedly killing, one can continually accumulate power through the replacement of old arutam souls with new ones. This “trade-in” mechanism is an important feature because, when a person has had the same arutam soul for four or five years, it tends to leave its sleeping possessor to wander nightly through the forest. Sooner or later, while it is thus drifting through the trees, another Jivaro will “steal” it. Accordingly, it is highly desirable to obtain a new soul before the old one begins nocturnal wanderings. This felt need encourages the individual to participate in a killing expedition every few years.”[4]

Killing becomes a vital part of the Jivaro culture. Men are only marriageable after becoming hunters within their communities. The more one kills, the more power one has, granting one immunity of death.[5] Violence is a huge part of Jivaroan culture in respect to this type of soul belief. Harner talks about the main systems of belief within the Jivaroan communities:

“Jivaro souls beliefs constitute one of four major autonomous systems of verbalized thought so far noted in their culture. The other three are the systems of crop fairy (nungui) beliefs, and kinship system. Since belief in one system is not explicitly based upon belief in another, an adequate understanding of Jivaro soul beliefs can be achieved without recourse to the beliefs regarding nunui, witchcraft, or kinship.”[4]

Gods and Deities

The Jivaroan people have a polytheistic religion. The Jivaro god, Tsungi, is the god of shamanism, and the Jivaro goddess, Nungüi, refers to mother earth. Nungüi is described as being a short and heavy-set woman, dressed in a black dress. According to Jivaro belief; if Nungüi dances in a woman's garden, it will be productive during the harvest season. Living deep underground, she emerges at night to dance in the gardens. Women sing to Nungui to ask her to protect the gardens, and they carefully weed the gardens daily to appease her. Jivaro believe in a protective spirit that comes to them through spirit visions. This spirit, known as Arutam is thought to protect them from injury, disease, and death.[6] The Jivaroan gods and goddesses are deeply tied to nature. There are different creators and gods that explain the origins of man and animal, the occurrence of natural events and relationships that exist in daily life. Their creation myths support their violent culture as “it is dominated by a series of battles among the gods and an essential duality of where people are the victims.”[7] Among the deities are spirits that are known to provide wisdom and protection to the person they are tied to. Some commonly seen animals are the anaconda, pangi, and the giant butterfly wampang.[8] These animals can assist shamans in healing or bewitching people. Through the Jivaroan worldview, it is believed that sickness and death are caused by attacks on one’s spirit by malevolent shamans.[8] The healing shamans will hold ayahuasca ceremonies and perform different rituals to counteract the work done by witchcraft.



See: Shrunken Head

Jivaro Gardening

Unlike many other cultures, the Jivaro cultures place more emphasis on gardening (horticulture) than they do on hunting. This is due to the unpredictable nature of hunting in the Amazonian region, where the Jivaro call home. As a result, a ritualistic approach to gardening sprouted from the Jivaro cultures.

Despite the reliable, elaborate system of horticultural development the Jivaro have developed, they still believe the act to be “…as fraught with uncertainty as hunting” as Michael Brown stated in a paper titled, “Aguaruna Jivaro Gardening Magic in Alto Rio Mayo, Peru.” He then went on to say that in order, “To encourage the growth of their cultivated plants they sing magical gardening songs, perform a set of ritual acts when planting a new garden, and observe certain taboos connected with garden work.” Much like similar beliefs and rituals associated with hunting, the Jivaro believe that spirits reside in the plants and they need to be encouraged to grow by various songs, chants, and dances.

Due to the belief of spirits residing in the plants, the garden is regarded as a place of great spiritual significance. Like the inside of a temple, the garden is a place where one receives sanctuary.

"It is one of the few places where a woman can go alone without attracting curiosity and suspicion. It offers privacy from prying eyes and ears and is therefore the site of a certain amount of intra- and extra-marital sexual activity" (Brown, 171)

Ayahuasca Ceremonies

Ayahuasca ceremonies play a large role in the Jivaro culture. These ceremonies are used for healing practices usually directed toward enchanting spirits. Here, Bradley C. Bennett makes note of these healing practices,

"During Healing Ceremony, only shaman and patient drink Natem and will participate in the singing and chanting while the shaman will perform different actions to the patients body thought to heal the spirit.[9]"

The shaman goes about relieving the patient of any harmful spirits that may be attacking his or her body. The Jivaro also believe in an act of what may be considered telling the future or telling time. Bennett makes another note of the Jivaro and their ayahuasca ceremonies, where a Jivaro will hire a shaman tell tell of far away friends and family.

"The Jivaro shamans, Under the influence of ayahuasca, often believe that they are seeing distant relatives or sweethearts. These distant persons apparently have to be individuals with whom the shaman is already acquainted, so that he can "know whom to look for." Also it is normally necessary for the shaman to be already acquainted with the distant locale and the route to get there, and preferably he should know the appearance and location of the house of the person being sought." [3]

The Jivaro have been practicing these ceremonies for hundreds of years, keeping them held close to their roots. The ceremonies of the ayahuasca brew continue to be practiced this day.

The Shuar believe that the first being, Tensak, casts a spiritual dart that to curse or heal a person. Bennett recorded that the Tensak "exists in a higher plane of existence that can be seen when in the shaman state."[9] Bennett also observed that, as a shaman works to heal spirits and counter bewitching shamans he will consume Banisteriopsis caapi, tobacco and alcohol to help enhance and fuel his trip from the Natem.

Confounding factors

Anthropologists have recognized these languages[which?] as distinct peoples, but have called attention to two confounding factors. The first has to do with nomenclature: Jivaroan language speakers typically identify themselves either by their language's word for person (shuar) or by the name of the river on which they live. Consequently, historical sources record either one name for all, or a plethora names of many small Jivaroan tribes, each the name of a different river.[2][10]

The second reason has to do with social organization. Prior to Ecuadorian or Peruvian colonization and Christian missionization in the 20th century, the principal unit of Jivaroan social organization was the polygynous matrilocal household or cluster of matrilocally-organized households. Notably, although Jivaroans shared the same language and culture, each household or cluster of matrilocally organized households were politically and economically autonomous.[2][3] Thus, in 1938 Matthew Stirling commented that:[2]

the Jivaros scattered over this vast territory of approximately 22,000 square miles (57,000 km2) are of similar appearance physically; they speak a single language and their customs, beliefs and material culture are closely interrelated. With this, however, their unity ends. The scores of small independent groups, living for the most part on the headwaters of the tributary streams, are constantly at war, one group with another.

He also said that:

...they live in widely separated household groups with very little consciousness of any sort of political unity. Such groupings as exist are continually shifting location, separating, amalgamating, or being exterminated.[2]

Prior to colonization and the presence of Christian missionaries, Jivaroan speakers were not organized into any stable and clearly bounded polities or ethnic groups.

In response to European colonization and missionization, Jivaroan speakers have formed nucleated settlements that are organized into political federations: the Federación Interprovincial de Centros Shuar and the Nacionalidad Achuar de Ecuador in Ecuador, and the Organización Central de Comunidades Aguarunas del Alto Marañon and the Consejo Aguaruna y Huambisa in Peru.


The word "Jivaro" is likely a corruption of the indigenous word, Shuar.[11] During the Spanish colonial period, "Jivaros" were viewed as the antithesis of civilized. The word Jíbaro thus entered the Spanish language; in Ecuador it is highly pejorative and signifies "savage"; outside of Ecuador, especially in Mexico and Puerto Rico, it has come to mean "rustic."[1][2]


  1. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jeveros" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 360.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Stirling, Matthew. 1938 Historical and Ethnographic Materials of the Jivaro Indians Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 117, 2
  3. ^ a b c Harner, Michael. 1972 Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls. ISBN 0385071183.
  4. ^ a b Michael, Harner (1962). Jivaro Souls. American Anthropologist. pp. 258–272.
  5. ^ Sieverts, Henning (2011). Jivaro Headhunters in a Headless Time. Walter de Gruyter.
  6. ^ "Jivaro - Introduction, Location, Language, Folklore, Religion, Major holidays, Rites of passage". www.everyculture.com. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  7. ^ Leeming, David (2010). Creation Myths of the World. Santa Barbara.
  8. ^ a b Harner, Michael (1968). Sound of Rushing Water. Natural History.
  9. ^ a b Bennett, Bradley. Hallucinogenic Plants of the Shuar and Related Indigenous Groups in Amazonian Ecuador and Peru.
  10. ^ Karsten, Rafael. 1935 The Headhunters of Western Amazonas. The Life and Culture of the Jibaro Indians of Eastern Ecuador and Peru, Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Littararum VII(l). 2-3
  11. ^ Gnerre, Maurizio 1973 “Sources of Spanish Jívaro,” in Romance Philology 27(2): 203-204. Berkeley: University of California Press.

External links


The Achuar are an Amazonian community of some 18,500 individuals along either side of the border in between Ecuador and Peru. As of the early 1970s, the Achuar were one of the last of the Jivaroan groups still generally unaffected by outside contact.

The name Achuar means “the people of the aguaje palm”.

Aguaruna people

The Aguaruna (or Awajún, their endonym) are an indigenous people of the Peruvian jungle. They live primarily on the Marañón River in northern Peru near the border with Ecuador and several of the Marañón's tributaries, the rivers Santiago, Nieva, Cenepa, Numpatakay and Chiriaco. Currently, they possess titled community lands in four of Peru's regions: Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto, and San Martín. A significant Awajún population also lives in the Alto Mayo river basin in the Department of San Martín. According to Peru's 1993 Census the Aguaruna numbered approximately 5,000. World Census data for 2000 lists their population at just over 8,000.The Awajún resisted efforts to incorporate them into the Inca and Spanish empires. Their reputation for fierceness and the difficult terrain in which they live prevented them from being incorporated into Peruvian national society until the late 1950s—and later still in some parts of their territory.

The real origin of the Aguaruna people is still a mystery. In accordance with the racial characteristics of the majority, some anthropologists suppose that they came down the Andes centuries ago and adapted themselves to the geographical conditions of the region. Others believe that they are emigrants of Central America who came either by the coast or through rivers. They established themselves in a zone much wider than the one they occupy now. Apparently this zone also included the actual Jaén. It is also said that they were influenced by cultural groups that were immigrants from the islands of Melanesia.They have always had the reputation of being brave warriors, standing out for their skills in war. Physically there are differences between the aguarunas and the other inhabitants of the Peruvian rainforest. Their average height is taller – especially between men – and their physical constitution denotes strength.The Aguarunas have a traditional, ideological and material culture, and they communicate with each other in their own language. For this reason, there is a book called the Vocabulario aguaruna del Amazonas (Aguaruna's Vocabulary of the Amazon) written by Mildred L. Larson and published by SIL International in 1966. The Aguarunas are located in the geographical area of the Marañón river, that is to say on the banks of the Marañón river and of its tributaries, the rivers Santiago, Nieva, Cenepa, Numpatakay and Chiriaco.


From the Greek: "Antipater".Antipas can refer to:

Herod Antipas, an ancient leader of Galilee and Perea

Antipater the Idumaean, the founder of the Herodian Dynasty, father of Herod the Great, and grandfather of Herod Antipas

Antipas, Cotabato, a municipality in the Philippines

Antipas of Pergamum, martyred bishop of the early Christian Church, referred to in the Biblical book of Revelation

Mount Antipas, a place mentioned in the Book of Mormon

Antipas (tribe), one of several Jivaroan peoples indigenous to the upper Amazon

A third season episode of Millennium (TV series)

Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas

Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas is based upon cultural regions, geography, and linguistics. Anthropologists have named various cultural regions, with fluid boundaries, that are generally agreed upon with some variation. These cultural regions are broadly based upon the locations of indigenous peoples of the Americas from early European and African contact beginning in the late 15th century. When indigenous peoples have been forcibly removed by nation-states, they retain their original geographic classification. Some groups span multiple cultural regions.


Ecuador ( (listen) EK-wə-dor; Spanish: [ekwaˈðoɾ]; Quechua: Ikwayur; Shuar: Ecuador or Ekuatur), officially the Republic of Ecuador (Spanish: República del Ecuador, which literally translates as "Republic of the Equator"; Quechua: Ikwadur Ripuwlika; Shuar: Ekuatur Nunka), is a country in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland. The capital city is Quito, which is also the largest city.What is now Ecuador was home to a variety of Amerindian groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the 15th century. The territory was colonized by Spain during the 16th century, achieving independence in 1820 as part of Gran Colombia, from which it emerged as its own sovereign state in 1830. The legacy of both empires is reflected in Ecuador's ethnically diverse population, with most of its 16.4 million people being mestizos, followed by large minorities of European, Amerindian, and African descendants. Spanish is the official language and is spoken by a majority of the population, though 13 Amerindian languages are also recognized, including Quichua and Shuar.

The sovereign state of Ecuador is a middle-income representative democratic republic with a developing economy that is highly dependent on commodities, namely petroleum and agricultural products. It is governed as a democratic presidential republic. One of 18 megadiverse countries in the world, Ecuador hosts many endemic plants and animals, such as those of the Galápagos Islands. In recognition of its unique ecological heritage, the new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. It also has the fifth lowest homicide rate in the Americas. Between 2006 and 2016, poverty decreased from 36.7% to 22.5% and annual per capita GDP growth was 1.5 percent (as compared to 0.6 percent over the prior two decades). At the same time, inequalities, as measured by the Gini index, decreased from 0.55 to 0.47.


The Huambisa are an indigenous people of Peru, living on the upper Marañón and Santiago rivers. In 1841 they drove all the civilized Indians from the neighboring mission, and in 1843 they killed all the inhabitants of the village of Santa Teresa, between the mouths of the Santiago and Morona. They are fair-skinned and bearded, sharing with the Jeveros a descent from the Spanish women captured by their Indian ancestors at the sack of Sevilla del Oro in 1599.

Ilex guayusa

Ilex guayusa ( or ) is a species of tree of the holly genus, native to the Amazon Rainforest. One of three known caffeinated holly trees, the leaves of the guayusa tree are dried and brewed like a tea for their stimulative effects.

List of Indigenous peoples of South America

The following is a list of indigenous peoples of South America. These include the peoples living in South America in the pre-Columbian era and the historical and contemporary descendants of those peoples.


Mayna may refer to:

Mayna (inhabited locality), several inhabited localities in Russia

Mayna (Rohtak), a village in Rohtak District of the State of Haryana in India

Mayna (plant), a genus of plants in the Achariaceae family

Mayna (tribe), one of several Jivaroan peoples in the upper Amazon

Myna (film), a 2013 Kannada film

Mercedes de Jesús Molina

Blessed Mercedes de Jesús Molina (Maria Mercedes de Jesus Molina y Ayala; 24 September 1828 - 12 June 1883) is a Roman Catholic blessed from Baba, Ecuador. She was a missionary who devoted her life to the care of abandoned children and founded the order of the Sisters of Mariana de Jesús. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 1 February 1985.

National Museum of Brazil

The National Museum of Brazil (Portuguese: Museu Nacional) is Brazil's oldest scientific institution, which was installed in the Paço de São Cristóvão (Saint Christopher's Palace), inside the Quinta da Boa Vista, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The main building was originally the residence of the Portuguese Royal Family between 1808 and 1821 and was later used to house the Brazilian Imperial Family between 1822 and 1889. After the monarchy was deposed, it hosted the Republican Constituent Assembly from 1889 to 1891 before being assigned to the use of the museum in 1892. The building was listed as Brazilian National Heritage in 1938 and largely destroyed by a fire in 2018.

Founded by King João VI of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves on 6 June 1818, under the name of "Royal Museum", the institution was initially housed at the Campo de Santana park, where it exhibited the collections incorporated from the former House of Natural History, popularly known as Casa dos Pássaros ("House of the Birds"), created in 1784 by the Viceroy of Brazil, Luís de Vasconcelos e Sousa, 4th Count of Figueiró, as well as collections of mineralogy and zoology. The museum foundation was intended to address the interests of promoting the socioeconomic development of the country by the diffusion of education, culture, and science. In the 19th century, the institution was already established as the most important South American museum of its type. In 1946, it was incorporated into the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.The National Museum held a vast collection with more than 20 million objects, one of the largest collections of natural history and anthropological artifacts in the world, encompassing some of the most important material records regarding natural science and anthropology in Brazil, as well as numerous items that came from other regions of the world and were produced by several cultures and ancient civilizations. Built up over more than two centuries through expeditions, excavations, acquisitions, donations and exchanges, the collection was subdivided into seven main nuclei: geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biological anthropology, archaeology, and ethnology. The collection was the principal basis for the research conducted by the academic departments of the museum – which are responsible for carrying out activities in all the regions of the Brazilian territory and several places of the world, including the Antarctic continent. The museum held one of the largest scientific libraries of Brazil, with over 470,000 volumes and 2,400 rare works.In the area of education, the museum offers specializations, extension and post-graduation courses in several fields of the knowledge, in addition to hosting temporary and permanent exhibitions and educational activities open to the general public. The museum manages the Horto Botânico (Botanical Garden), adjacent to the Paço de São Cristóvão, as well as an advanced campus in the city of Santa Teresa, in Espírito Santo – the Santa Lúcia Biological Station, jointly managed with the Museum of Biology Prof. Mello Leitão. A third site, located in the city of Saquarema, is used as a support and logistics center for field activities. Finally, the museum is also dedicated to editorial production, outstanding in that field the Archivos do Museu Nacional, the oldest scientific journal of Brazil, continuously published since 1876.The palace, which housed a large part of the collection, was destroyed in a fire on the night of 2 September 2018. The building had been called a "firetrap" by critics, who argued the fire was predictable and could have been prevented. The fire began in the air-conditioning system of auditorium on the ground floor. One of the three devices did not have external grounding, there was no individual circuit breaker for each of them, and a wire was without insulation in contact with metal. In the wake of the fire, the ruined edifice is being treated as an archaeological site and undergoing reconstruction efforts, with a metallic roof covering a 5,000 m² area including debris.In 2019, more than 30,000 pieces of the Imperial Family's past were found during archaeological works on Rio de Janeiro Zoological Garden nearby, part of Quinta da Boa Vista. Among the finds are many items such as fragments of crockery, cups, plates, cutlery, horseshoes and even buttons and brooches with imperial coat of arms from military clothing. Those items were given to the museum. After being destroyed by fire, the National Museum has received donations to the amount of R$ 1.1 million in seven months towards rebuilding efforts. The financial help is expected more from international influences than from the local brazilian.

Philippe Descola

Philippe Descola, FBA (born 19 June 1949) is a French anthropologist noted for studies of the Achuar, one of several Jivaroan peoples, and for his contributions to anthropological theory.

Shrunken head

A shrunken head is a severed and specially prepared human head that is used for trophy, ritual, or trade purposes.

Headhunting has occurred in many regions of the world, but the practice of headshrinking has only been documented in the northwestern region of the Amazon rainforest. The only tribes known to have shrunken human heads are of the Jivaroan tribes. These include the Shuar, Achuar, Huambisa and Aguaruna tribes, found in Ecuador and Peru. The Shuar call a shrunken head a tsantsa, also transliterated tzantza. Many tribe leaders would show off their heads to scare enemies.


The Shuar are an indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru. They are members of the Jivaroan peoples, who are Amazonian tribes living at the headwaters of the Marañón River.


Tsentsak are invisible pathogenic projectiles or magical darts utilized in indigenous and mestizo shamanic practices for the purposes of sorcery and healing throughout much the Amazon Basin. Anthropologists identify them as objects referenced in emic accounts that represent indigenous beliefs. Tsentak are not recognized in scientific medicine.


Tsunki is the name for the primordial spirit shaman within the Shuar people and the Achuar people of Amazonia. The term is derived from the Jivaroan language family. The term Tsunki can also be translated as meaning the first shaman and is frequently alluded to in shamanic songs.


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