Talk:Shuar people

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Comment[edit]

The original article was pretty awful. I replaced it with an article I wrote for Everything2. As I understand it, I hold the copyright for the Everything2 article, so there should be no problem putting it here on Wikipedia (of course, I claim no copyright for this wikipedia article). If anyone sees a problem, please let me know, Slrubenstein

This is original research. The fact that you have published it elsewhere is irrelevant. User:"Indians"

Alas, you are wrong - see this [1]. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:57, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

The Spaniards, and Certain Rituals[edit]

I was watching the history channel early one morning and saw something interesting. The Shuar believe that before a boy can make love to a woman, he must pass the ritual of manhood first. Whereas in the west it is believe that sleeping with a woman automatically makes one a man, with the Shuar, its the opposite; you must pass the ritual before you are allowed to be with a woman. That is, if a Shuar youth has never passed the manhood ritual, even if he has been with a woman, he is not considered a man. The women of the tribe will only have relations with youths who passed the ritual.

I don't think this is any longer the case if it ever was. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:35, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

First, second, the other interesting tid-bits is that they where a tribe of headhunters. What made the Shuar particularly dangerous, is that their rite of passage manhood ritual was extremely arduous. I believe the first step was to stand under a water fall from dawn, until nightfall. The purpose of this was to purify the soul. At night, the Shuar youth then bathed in boars blood (or some other animal) and had to fight and kill a Jaguar with his bare hands. Although primitive, one can only assume this made them very tough mentally. A similar ritual exists in Japan regarding the Samurai; before one can undergo Kenjutsu training, first one has to meditate long hours, the culmination of which is standing under an extraordinarily cold waterfall which serves the same purpose as the Shuar ritual; purification. I found it Amazing that two Asian peoples, cousins of each other, had a similar spiritual ritual.

This just is not true and never was. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:35, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Second, third, another thing that I found interesting about the Shuar is that even though many of them fell victim to European diseases, they are the only native American tribe to have successfully repulsed European invasions of their lands. My memory fails regarding these figures, but, I believe that on one ocassion, the Spaniards sent 30,000 heavily armed Spanish soldiers (the force was made up entirely of Spaniards) to fight the Shuar. 500 came back. After such a vicious and humiliating defeat, they never went back again. I believe, also, that the Inca warned the Spanish about how dangerous the Shuar were. With an arrogance typical of many white males of the time (and now...), they did not listen, and nearly 30,000 men paid with their lives. When the Shuar had taken the last head, they bound their leader, and poured molten gold down his throat saying "you wanted this gold, well, now its yours."

This comes from an Ecuadorian history book published in the 1840s, with no primary sources. Something happened, but the details are ar much legend as history. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:35, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
My memory is a bit shaky anyway regarding the other stuff I wrote here, so, I am open to all the corrections, except this one; the Shuar did badly humiliate the Spanish army, and I think the locals know their own history better than any foreign person. Regarding Spain being the most feared army in Europe during its height, all that stuff is true; at the height of their power, no army in Europe was a match for Spain's army. The British themselves have history texts stating that had the Spanish landed their army on British soil, England would have been conquered. Again; British ships kept their distance for a reason. Finally, no matter how powerful an army may be, it is not invincible. There is a saying in prize fighting that, someone somewhere always has your number. No matter how good a fighter you may become, there is always someone better than you. The same is true for armies, and while with other native american tribes the Spanish army was an unstopable juggernaut, it certain was not true with the Shuar. If it was that tribe would be extinct. I do honestly hope that when it is mentioned that the Shuar defeating the Spanish is "only legend," that the reason that whatever is said is out of academic honesty, not a belief that the Shuar were somehow too weak or inferior to take an a mighty white army and thus incapable of inflicting such a defeat. I have observed that in history texts of the 19th century written by whites, any non-white peoples who humiliated them in battle are always portrayed as "violent" or "savage." Even now many racist americans considered the vietnamese savages simply because they were defeated by them, because, after all, only a blood thirsty savage could hope to stand up against the oh so mighty and invincible white man! The 19th century mentality has not disappeared, it is only buried and disguised. Forgive my cynicism, but, I do hope my point is made. Good day.
I said the source is an 1840's Spanish history. If you have another historical source, by all means share it with us, otherwise your point is rubbish. I also said the Shuar did not fight the whole or even main contingent of the Spanish army, which is true - if you have any evidence to the contrary, share it with us. Slrubenstein | Talk 10:00, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

This is significant because the overwhelming majority of western history texts don't mention this humiliating defeat. First of all, second, another thing they don't mention is that the 16th century Spanish army was the best in all Europe.

But the Shuar did not fight against "the Spanish Army." They fought against settlers, including farmers, and soldiers, but you can be sure only a small detachment of Spanish soldiers. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:35, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Fact of the matter is, in the 16th century Europe lived in fear of the Spanish. Sure enough Americans often treat the matter with disdain and see Spaniards as weak, but, the fact of the matter is, had the Spanish Armada landed in England, the English would have been finished. True, the British had a better navy, but, when it came to hand-to-hand fighting (another thing American history texts don't mention), the Spanish outclassed British soldiers. Indeed, British pirate ships made it a point to keep their distance from Spanish galleons and avoid hand-to-hand fighting; Spain was home to the finest fencing schools in Europe next to the ones in Italy. As far as skill with the sword and spear, one Spanish soldier was worth 20 British soldiers. Centuries of warfare against the Moors had given them a lot of practice, and many Spanish young men of the time were trained in warfare from the age of 5. Your average Englishman was a pot-bellied, drunken farmer. Another thing American history texts neglect to mention.

It was against that fine, well-trained army that the Shuar scored an overpowering victory.

Nope. Slrubenstein | Talk 17:35, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

If you don't believe me then, you may want to look into it. The best place to do the research, I would suggest, would be by tracking down any journals written by Spaniards who had contact with the Shuar.

I hope this suggestion helps. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 206.63.78.98 (talk) 05:53, 6 February 2007 (UTC).

Source Issues[edit]

Alright then, since there is a problem of facts and historical innacuracy, you should take it up with the History Channel. Specefically, History Channel International, that is the source of my information. They did a documentary on the Shuar. I looked up your credentials and was not aware that you were a professor, or someone who had even LIVED with the Shuar. This is assuming of course that you are the same Rubenstein as Steven Rubenstein. My deepest apologies; had no idea you had actually lived with them.

Well then, since it seems I was fed innacurate information, you may want to take up with the issue with History Channel international. When they ran the documentary on the Shuar, they did say (without mentioning it was more legend than history) they were the only indigenous tribe to successfully resist the Spanish when these were first colonizing the americas. Point well taken, since you are a professor, I know for a fact that before you read something, you look at sources first, the credentials of the author, and if these two check out, THEN you read what he/she has to say.

If it is a question of sources more than opinion then, perhaps it would be best talk to some Shuar yourself. Native American oral traditions are not the same as history books, but, they do have a degree of accuracy. An example of this are the oral traditions of North American native american tribes regarding "very large animals" their ancestors used to hunt. There are oral traditions among the Native Americans of this country about how their ancestors used to hunt Mammoth. Not the same as a history book or archeological evidence of course, but, the point remains, it is a matter best consulted with the locals.

Since however, you spent time with a local, I strongly suggest that you check up with History Channel international regarding the issue.

Never mind historical sources; all a source is, is an account of someone who was actually there and written according to that person's point of view, meaning, there is no such thing as a dispassionate, completely objective source. I have noticed that, too often, history texts written by whites often ommit or downplay military defeats at the hands of non-whites, therefore, I have a hard time trusting them. For instance, I did not know that Ogotai Khan massacred an entire regimen of German Knights until my freshman year of college, and even then I only found out because in college I was more a library rat than a student. That is, I got my information from a history book not normally used in the American School system. In fact, throughout High School I spent my time learning how invincible white people were. I did not know, until college, of the humiliating defeats during the Crusades, the conquest of Spain by Berbers and Arabs (mostly Berbers), or about the Mongols even, or how Attila the Hun single handedly crippled the Roman empire to the point where it collapsed shortly thereafter. He did not defeat the Romans, but, he kicked the crap out of them enough that they were too weak and crippled to mount an effective resistance against their hostile neighbors.

Forgive me for saying this, but given such experiences, and the sheer arrogance and racism I have witnessed myself in academia, I have a very, very hard time believing what whites have to say about other peoples, and generally will not trust it unless I hear it from the Native's own mouths, or at the very least, an open minded and dispassionate white professor who spent times with the natives themselves. I took the liberty of looking up your book on Amazon.com, and saw that you have indeed spent time with them.

Now, regarding the Spain issue, yes, Spain was the most powerful army in Europe at the height of her power. Not the most powerful navy, but certainly the most powerful army.

Yeah, it is me. You should know that the Shuar have no oral tradition of the uprising, their knowledge of it comes from Michael harner's ethnography, which draws on the 1848 Ecuadorian historian. There is no doubt something happened that caused the Spaniards to leave and I like the story myself but it is not based on any clear sources, neither historical nor oral. As for the History Channel - well, my friend, I think I would be wasting my time. The History Channel and Discovery Channel often interview knowledgable professors and when appropriate knowledgable indigenous people. But the edit and narrate their "documentaries" for entertainment value. For instance, they interviewed a Shuar woman who is a friend of mine for some documentary. She is a trained and liscensed nurse. They identify her as a Shuar shaman. Now, there are Shuar shamans, but she isn't one of them, she is a nurse. I won't respond to your complaints about the Academy, but will just say this: if you have any reason to be suspicious of academics, I respectfully suggest you should have many more reasons to be suspicious of the American media/entertainment industry. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:14, 9 February 2007 (UTC)
"if you have any reason to be suspicious of academics, I respectfully suggest you should have many more reasons to be suspicious of the American media/entertainment industry."
The american media doesn't even make qualms about lying and they don't even hide it anymore. However, in academics, any given college student or professor can rationalize their prejudices with a formidable armament of education, and that makes them more dangerous because they are the ones who write the history and science texts which educate the next generation. True enough, the average american youth spends more time watching T.V. than doing homework, but, when it comes down to it, school dominates a large part of a young person's life. Also, for all the experimentation and data crunched in institutes of "higher learning," anyone who cares to question will spot many things wrong. Take for example the following contradiction. In Psychology circles in the U.S. it is said, backed up by "research," that intelligence can not be maximized beyond a person's genetic limits. All intelligence is when it comes down to it, is symbol manipulation. Now, that very same science, its linguistics branch, says that if a child is exposed to several languages when he/she is very small, and continues to practice them, that a person may speak up to 5 languages. Cases of speaking 5 languages, thus "maximizing" a person's communications potential are well-documented outside science circles. Like intelligence, to the human brain, all language is, is yet, more symbol manipulation, more data. The same science which says human language can be maximized in terms of effectively manipulating different forms of communication also says that overall intelligence can not be maximized, even though to the brain, its all nothing but data, the same freaking thing! No matter what symbols you bombard the brain with, the brain sees it all as data and will adapt accordingly, especially when a person is a small child and their brain is still forming. Indeed, human intelligence as defined by psychology revolves around language, and yet, children can be good with languages, but, they can not be good with increasing their intellectual potential, even intelligence is just more data to the brain (according to "research" and "science"). That is just ONE example I encountered in my time in college; there are many others. Fact is (and you probably agree with me here), yes, I agree, some people do seem to get smarter faster than others. However, I believe they are evenly distributed across all races and ethnicities, and super smart people exist as minorities in pretty much equal levels all across the human board. Whether a group has genuine faith in themselves, not false pride, and has achieved their fullest potential however, that is another matter. Across the world, the human brain has between 50 and 100 billion neurons. That you can not go beyond your genetics is not only ludicrous, but racism masquerading as science. I found it shocking and disgusting that only one of my Psychology professors actually questioned the status quo regarding human intelligence. This is a serious issue because, if you can not maximize human intellect (and some form sound ethics with it), how the hell is the human race supposed to advance? Even though its their job to be concerned as Psychologists, none of them seemed to be. Again, only one example. If I continue it will turn into an outright essay so I better stop. That and I'm starting to verbally chase my my own tail. Whatever the case, to conclude, it is this idea I figured out based on human potential which makes disbelieve anything contradicting the fact that, whatever it was happened, you can bet that the Shuar did drive the Spanish out, and it had to be something good for the Shuar, but horrific for the Spanish.
All Wikipedia articles (and thus, Wikipedia editors) mut comply with our core policies, in this case the relevantones being WP:NOR and WP:V (the third, WP:NPOV is relevant too but less directly). Slrubenstein | Talk 12:19, 10 February 2007 (UTC)

Photo, and Peru Project[edit]

I have removed the photo of the tsantsa because it is a fake, that is, it is not a shrunken head made by Shuar (the photo would be appropriate in the article on shrunken heads in general).

I also note that it is not really appropriate for this article to be part of the peru project. Virtually all Shuar live in Ecuador. Related, neighboring groups - the Aguaruna and Achuar - do indeed live in Pero, but the should have their own articles as they are different groups. Slrubenstein | Talk 12:11, 1 May 2008 (UTC)

Use of Curare[edit]

If the Shuar used Curare against the Spanish, it was probably that poison which aided them.

67.148.120.101 (talk) 12:40, 7 November 2009 (UTC)stardingo747

Social organization and contacts with Europeans[edit]

OK, the following passage:

The center of Shuar life was a relatively autonomous household consisting of a man, his wives (usually two), unmarried sons, and daughters. Upon marriage sons would leave their natal households, and would move to the villages of their spouse, a process referred to as matrilocal residence. Men hunted, fought battles and wove garments for their families; women have traditionally been seen as experts in gardening, medicine and culture.[2]

What I don't understand here is why someone would say a man usually had two wives. From the stories I heard while living among the Chiriap, the older generations of Shuar did have multiple wives, but there was no particular number of wives permitted or required of them. The great grandfather of German Chiriap, for example, with whom I have studied, had five wives. His father had multiple partners as a youth and has had several wives, but only lives with one of them now.

Also, I expanded the definitions of gender roles. I felt that men hunting and women gardening was a bit stereotypical, especially for a people with such an intricate social organization. As Perruchón (2003) has pointed out, even the definitions given here are not encompassing. Women can also be warriors. Men obviously are usually uwishin, but I have noticed that the uwishin often go running to the women when they want information about a particular plant.

Clarification would be excellent! —Preceding unsigned comment added by Chaim1221 (talkcontribs) 06:11, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Adulthood rituals[edit]

Ok...

At that time

At WHAT time?

Shuar culture functioned to organize and promote a warrior society.

This is arguable. I would say it would be more correctly stated the other way around; the warrior society functioned to organize and promote Shuar culture. This is not a matter of semantics; I am not the first to observe that Shuar society seems to be organized around the principle that no one person should have too much power.

Boys of about eight years would be taken by their fathers or uncles on a three to five day journey to a nearby waterfall, during which time the boy would drink only tobacco water.

This is a little misleading, although I can verify that this journey does occur among uwishin culture. The tobacco is green tobacco, though I have no idea what the actual plant name is. I do know, however, that you don't drink it. It is dissolved in water and then inhaled through the nostrils. The effect is a momentary sentiment of clarity.

At some point the child would be given maikua (Datura arborea, Solanaceae), in the hope that he would then see momentary visions, or arútam.

"Arutam," (why is the accent necessary?) as near as I can tell, means "spirit." There are various kinds of arutam spirits but they all spring from a central spirit who shares the name "Arutam." The point is that the visions themselves may contain arutam, but they are not referred to as arutam.

These visions were produced by a wakaní or ancestral spirit. If the boy were brave enough he could touch the arútam, and acquire the arútam wakaní. This would make the boy very strong, and possession of several arútam wakaní would make the boy invincible. Shuar, however, believed that they could easily lose their arútam wakaní, and thus repeated this ritual several times.

Can one acquire more than two arutam? It seems that the first is the acquirement of a permanent spirit, and the other is the acquirement of an invincible spirit, the making of a kakáram as it is put below. What would be the point of acquiring additional arutam spirits? Unfortunately I can't find my notes on the subject at the moment...

A Shuar warrior who had lived to kill many people was called a kakáram. Shuar believed that if a person in possession of an arútam wakaní died a peaceful death, they would give birth to a new wakaní; if someone in possession of an arútam wakaní were killed, they would give birth to a muísak.

Thanks for looking. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Chaim1221 (talkcontribs) 06:37, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Replies:
I am not the first to observe that Shuar society seems to be organized around the principle that no one person should have too much power.
That belief is a trait of Shuar culture. The tobacco water that was being drunk (yes, drunk) was not the same as the sumo-tobacco you describe shamans snorting. "Arutam" (spelled with an accent because that is how sources spell it) means "vision" in Shuar, although missionaris andmost of their students use it to mean God. Before missionizations, the specific vision was a specifi arutam. It is important to distinguish between what Shuar say now and what they said in the 1940s and 1950s. Culture changes. One can and could acquire multiple arutam. If your notes are missing, most libraries have Michael Harner's Jivaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls which is authoratative for the 1950s. Slrubenstein | Talk 00:43, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
Almost certainly my notes would differ from Harner, because I was definitely talking with people from a generation that was after "missionization" (although I'm not certain how seriously they took their conversions)...thanks for clarifying. See below. Chaim1221 (talk) 01:50, 8 February 2010 (UTC)


It is a violation of NOR to add unpublished or personal references. For any claims about Shuar pre-Federation, if we must add citations, they should be from Harner or Karsten who conducted research pre-Federation, not Rubenstein who conducted research post-Federation. Slrubenstein | Talk 00:54, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
Point taken. Still getting the hang of Wikipedia. Chaim1221 (talk) 02:21, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
When Wikipedia was first invented I think there was an idea that every contributer could draw on their personal knowledge, thus making the encyclopedia the most up-to-dat and vivid. Quality control would be policed by millions of editors fixing one another's mistakes. As you can see, almost ten years later, there is no way we can do this with most articles, including ones on Shuar, where there are not millions or even thousands of people who have first hand experience. So there was a sea-change at Wikipedia, away from foregrounding our own personal knowledge to brackeing it altogether in favor of published ources (like harner, who, for pre-Federation Shuar is still quite reliable in my opinion). By the way, I didn't think Rubenstein was in any way influenced by or engaging Malthus. Do yu have a source? Has any reviewer identified him as Malthusian? Slrubenstein | Talk 02:57, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
I understand. Oops. Did I say Malthusian something somewhere? I'm really sorry; Malthus has been on the brain for other reasons. Malinowskian ethnography is, I believe, what was engaged in the introduction to Tsakimp -- mostly as an example of what to avoid when one is trying to develop a sense of cultural practices as they exist in a given time frame, according to the way I read it. That's probably what I was referring to. Chaim1221 (talk) 12:54, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, you used "Malthus." "Malinowskian" is certainly more relevant. The second chapter of the book is highly critical of a couple of features of classic ethnography (which is not the same thing as rejecting, or accepting, it in toto). Anyway, the real issue is: that book was based on research in the 1980s and 1990s and Harner and Sterling and Karsten are the real reliable sources for pre-Federation/pre-missionary Shuar culture. Slrubenstein | Talk 13:53, 8 February 2010 (UTC)
And I totally agreed with your analysis. I look at the Shuar in general, and the Chiriap uwishin in particular, as a people employing Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) in their lifestyles. I read Bennett, Baker and Andrade and your work before returning to the rainforest in 2008. My university had few resources on the Shuar; I'm just reading a lot of the older sources now. I think it would be good to provide more citations here as Wikipedia short lists are excellent research tools. When I have more time, I will try to carefully match up some of this information with what I have been reading. Chaim1221 (talk) 19:14, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

Thanks. By the way, the moreI learn, the clearer it is to me just how fantastic n anthropologist Harner was. His book is all generalizations and it is highly abbreviated - little detail or nuance. But I have gone over it until two copies have lost their bindings and fallen apart and against any research I have done, Harner is just simply right. It is clear to me that every sentence ws based on very careful research. He is fluent in Shuar, and geeralzes only when he know most (or all) Shuar at the tie of his research were in agrement. Much of what he says is not valid post-Federation, but any and all informaton I get of pre-Federation Shuar always uppors what he wrote. Sterling's book isvery shor, but reliable also, and I think these two books are sufficient for any encyclopedia account of pre-Federation Shuar.

Now, for what it is worth, I wish someone would draw on Janet Hendricks To Drink of Death. It is a mistake common to non-anthroplogists to identify culture with contents (beliefs and practices). Culture includs the "how" and not just the "what." Through an autobiographical narrative, Hendricks analyzes Shuar rhetoric and discourse. This is less sexy than shrunken heads and shamans but ctually more important to pre-mission Shuar life; I have not had the tim to add it but it would be gret if you could. For myth and ritual, it would be great if someone could incorporate Elke Mader's analysis from her Metamorfosis del Poder - these are two of the most important books on Shuar culture and neither are represented in the article, which is a real shame. By the way, on TEK the person I think who writes most smartly about these issues (not in relation to Amazonians but to Arctic people) is Paul Nadasdy at the University of Wisconson, Madison. Slrubenstein | Talk 00:10, 10 February 2010 (UTC)

Another problem is people conflating knowledge of different Jivaroan peoples. There are two good ooks in English on the Aguaruna/Awajun, one by Mike Brown, one by Shane Greene - I wish someone would draw on those to develop the article onthe Aguaruna. Philippe Descola ha written two fine books on the Achuar and someone could use those to flesh out the articles on the Achuar (sometime, people put information about the Achuar or Aguaruna in this articl, a big mistake) I am glad to see someone else working on these articles because I do not have the time to add more, but I know of thse great books just crying out to be sed s reliable sources on these Peoples. Slrubenstein | Talk 00:10, 10 February 2010 (UTC)