Only one tribe of American Indians is known ever to have successfully revolted against the empire of Spain and to have thwarted all subsequent attempts by the Spaniards to reconquer them: the Jivaro (hee'-va-ro), the untsuri suarii of eastern Ecuador. From 1599 onward they remained unconquered in their forest fastness east of the Andes, despite the fact that they were known to occupy one of the richest placer gold deposit regions in all of South America. Tales of their fierceness became part of the folklore of Latin America, and their warlike reputation spread in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Jivaro "shrunken head" trophies, tsantsa, found their way to the markets of exotica in the Western world. As occasional travelers visited them in the first decades of this century, the Jivaro also became known not as just a warlike group, but as an individualistic people intensely jealous of their freedom and unwilling to be subservient to authority, even among themselves.
It was this quality that particularly attracted me when I went to study their way of life in 1956-57 and I was most fortunate, at that time, to find, especially east of the Cordillera de Cutucli, a portion of the Jivaro still unconquered and still living, with some changes, their traditional life style. This book is about their culture.
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(210mm x 140mm x 16mm)
University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
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US Kirkus Review »
This broad inquiry into the culture of the Jivaro - an extant tribe of primitive South American Indians located in eastern Ecuador noted for its ferocity and hyper-individualism - is primarily of interest and value to professional ethnologists. Conceivably, however, Harner's study could reach a somewhat extended audience given the Jivaro's historical notoriety as headhunters. But this is not the stuff of the late-late-too-late show. The author, a serious anthropologist (a professor in the New School for Social Research's graduate department), is committed to reporting "those aspects of Jivaro culture that had changed or remained stable during this century" - for instance, the tribe's use of hallucinogens for religious invocation, its belligerence toward outsiders, the socially sanctioned use of poisoning as extralegal punishment for certain behavior. Harner's methodology includes data gathering via extensive fieldwork (1956-57, 1964, 1969), employment of paid informants, and a very conscientious scrutiny of the two other major field reports (Karsten's Headhunters of Western Amazons and Stirling's Historical and Ethnographical Material on the Jivaro Indians - both published in the '30's and both containing many contradictory findings). Thus, from the standpoint of the social scientist seeking certifiable cross-cultural information on world cultures, The Jivaro not only serves to reconcile or corroborate (and in some instances correct) the existing data file but it updates it and fills in the lacunae. Published in conjunction with the American Museum of Natural History. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Michael J. Harner
Michael Harner is the founder of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, anthropologist, and author.