ETHNONYMS: Angate, Chenanesmá, Coyaviti, Enlit, Enenslet, Enslet, Kyoma
The 2,400 Angaité Indians live in the Gran Chaco area of Paraguay, especially between the Trans-Chaco Highway and the Río Paraguay, and between the Montelindo and San Carlos rivers in the department of Boquerón. Specifically, they live in the towns of Puerto Casado, San Carlos, Colonia 3, Juan de Salazar, Makthlawaiya-Anglican Mission, and the estancias (cattle ranches) of Guajó, Cerrito, San Pedro, and Tuparandá. Their language belongs to the Maskoian Family. Only one-half of the Angaité can speak the Angaité language; the rest use Guaraní.
During the Chaco War between Paraguay and Bolivia (1932-1935), many Angaité were killed by Bolivian soldiers. By the 1940s the Angaité lived in more than sixteen villages near Puerto Pinasco. In the 1990s the Angaité are highly acculturated, owing in large part to the construction of the Trans-Chaco Highway, which brought settlers and development to their territory. Some Angaité work as ranch hands near Puerto Casado, some as wage laborers, and still others, like generations of their forebears, are employed in tanneries on the Río Paraguay. Many Angaité have married non-Angaité Indians who also came to work at these factories, and the language used by these couples and their children is Guaraní rather than Angaité.
In 1971 the New Tribes Mission brought some 250 Angaité to San Carlos, on the Rio Paraguay, where they are learning agricultural techniques and where they have been given land to farm. Fewer than 50 Angaité also work as agricultural laborers at the Mennonite farms near Colonia 3.
Traditionally, Angaité subsistence depended largely on the gathering of wild plant foods—roots, tubers, palm shoots, Barbary figs, as well as the pods and fruits of a surprisingly large number of trees. Heavy reliance on food collecting (because arid conditions and seasonal flooding severely restricted horticulture) imposed a migratory lifestyle on the Angaité. Garden crops included maize, sweet manioc, beans, pumpkins, anco (squashes), watermelons, sweet potatoes, tobacco, and cotton. For several months of the year, fishing provided, and, on a reduced scale, continues to provide much-needed protein.
Hunting also used to be important but is less so because Whites have reduced the amount of game available. Once the Angaité acquired horses, they more frequently practiced group hunts using drives and circles to take game. Peccaries, rheas, and deer are the favored game. The Angaité keep dogs—both for hunting and protection—and raise sheep and goats. Seasonal hunger and outright famine force the Angaité to seek wage labor in regional agricultural and industrial enterprises.
The Angaité generally preferred to live without shelter most of the time, sleeping on skins. Both sexes are tattooed, but women wear more tattoos than men, and wealthier women more tattoos than poor women.
The rivers of Angaité territory are not suitable for navigation by canoe, and water often becomes dangerously scarce during the dry season. Although the Angaité have dug wells of 4 to 6 meters in depth, they are occasionally forced to drink the water that collects in caraguatá leaves or obtain moisture from čipói tubers.
The Angaité had a long tradition of frequent warfare. They went to war to avenge the death of one of their own group killed by violence or by sorcery, to punish trespassers and looters, and to capture women and children.
Angaité religion and oral literature are in the process of becoming extinct owing to intensive culture contact with non-Angaité, especially missionaries. Oral literature emphasizes, among other apparent idiosyncrasies, the mythical importance of the terrestrial and celestial spaces, rather than the three-tiered universe that predominates in other Gran Chaco mythologies. Human life evolves under the influence of a benign eastern ancestral god and a western lord of death. Shamans mediate between humankind and the two worlds by means of tutelary spirits, with whom they communicate through dreams and chants. Shamanic healing aims at recapturing the lost soul of the patient, extracting pathogenic agents through suction, and/or administering herbal concoctions. Upon death, the skeletal-soul of a person proceeds to the western land of the dead, where it will dwell; anthropologists have determined that the Angaité also believe in a shadow-soul, but its fate remains uncertain.
Cartas anuas de la provincia del Paraguay, Chile y Tucumán, de la Compañía de Jesús (1609-1637 ) (1927-1929). Documentos para la Historia Argentina, vols. 19-20, Iglesia. Buenos Aires.
Cordeu, Edgardo J. (1973a). "Algunos personajes y nociones míticos de los angaité o chenanesmá." Scripta Ethnologica (Buenos Aires) 1:237-248.
Cordeu, Edgardo J. (1973b). "Textos míticos de los angaité (chenanesmá) y sanapaná." Scripta Ethnologica (Buenos Aires) 1:199-234.
Maybury-Lewis, David, and James Howe (1980). The Indian Peoples of Paraguay: Their Plight and Their Prospects. Cambridge, Mass.: Cultural Survival.
Renshaw, John (1988). "Property, Resources, and Equality among the Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco." Man 23:334-352.