16 dic 2010

The Ayoreo of Paraguay and Bolivia

Name: Ayoreo
Living Area: Paraguay, Bolivia
Population: aprox. 3.500
Language: Ayoreo
The Ayoreo (Ayoreode, Ayoréo, Ayoréode) are a native ethnic group living on Gran Chaco, in an area among rivers Paraguay, Pilcomayo, Parapetí and Grande, stretching both in Bolivia and Paraguay. They speak the Ayoreo language, which is classified under Zamucoan, a small language family of Paraguay and Bolivia. Ayoreo combine hunter-gatherer lifestyle with farming, depending on the season of the year. There are records about a kind of shamanism (“nainai”, shaman).
Since 1969 many have been forced out of the forest, but some still avoid all contact with outsiders. Their first sustained contact with white people came in the 1940s and 1950s, when Mennonite farmers established colonies on their land. The Ayoreo resisted this invasion, and there were killings on both sides.
The Ayoreo live in small communities. They grow squashes, beans and melons in the sandy soil, and hunt in the forest. Large tortoises and wild pig are particularly prized, as is the abundant wild honey. In the forest four or five families will live together in a communal house. A central wooden pillar supports a dome-shaped structure of smaller branches, topped with dried mud. Each family will have its own hearth around the outside; people will only sleep inside if it rains.
The most important Ayoreo ritual was named after asojna, the nightjar: when the bird’s call was first heard it heralded the arrival of the rainy season, and a month of celebrations and festivities.
The Ayoreo who now live in settled communities live in individual family huts. Those who have lost their land now have little choice but to work as exploited labourers on the cattle ranches that have taken over much of their territory.
The evangelical New Tribes Mission has a base near their communities, and exerts a powerful influence on their daily lives. Under the missionaries, the asojna ritual—and many others—have been suppressed.

Well-known by: for being one of the last uncontacted tribes of South-America outside the Amazon.
There are several subgroups, for example Totobiegosode (‘people from the place of the wild pigs’) were isolated, but many of them have been eventually relocated forcibly, while some remnants still keep avoiding contact. Some groups still live uncontacted, being the only extant uncontacted tribes in South America not living in the Amazon.
In 2010, an expedition in search of new species of plants and insects, organised by the Natural History Museum in London, was suspended when concerns were raised that Ayoreo people might be encountered and disturbed.

© Text and images: Survival International

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