Candoshi - History and Cultural Relations

It is possible that the Candoshi slowly migrated from northern Cajamarca; linguistically and archaeologically they are an anomaly in their present location. Their oral tradition, however, includes no account of such a migration. Christian elements in Candoshi folklore and traditional women's clothing, introduced to the area by Catholic missionaries, suggest early contact with the Catholic church, probably in the eighteenth century. The Candoshi are surrounded by Jivaroan groups: the Ashuar to the north and east and the Huambisa and Aguaruna to the west and south. The Candoshi say that the Ashuar taught them how to obtain spirit powers and to shrink heads as war trophies. Interfamily blood feuds were the predominant cause of warfare. In avenging a relative's death, a chief and his followers killed all the males of a community and captured the females.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century warfare was sporadic because the people used stone axes to clear gardens, making food production a constant struggle. With the introduction of steel axes and machetes, large gardens were cleared quickly and the men had more time for warfare. Killing was accomplished with spears until firearms were introduced, during the 1930s. By this time the Candoshi were continually at war among themselves and with the Ashuar and Huambisas. Agents of the Amazonian rubber companies exacerbated the situation by exchanging firearms and ammunition for war captives. In the early 1930s many of the Chapara youth of the Río Situchi were abducted in a launch by agents of the rubber companies. This provoked a two-year war between the Chapara and the army. In the early 1940s war chiefs met in an attempt to stop the wars, which were rapidly decimating the population, but fear and suspicion continued and the peace pact lasted for only a year. During the late 1940s a measles epidemic reduced the total Chapara population to less than 100 people. The survivors gradually united and settled on the Río Pushaga.

In 1950 members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (a Protestant group that converts Indians and translates their languages) made contact with the Chapara, Aguaruna, and Huambisas. By 1955 parts of the New Testament had been translated into these languages. The Candoshi already associated the Christian God with their traditional Creator-God, Apanchi (Our Father), and Jesus Christ with the son of Apanchi, also a leading figure in Candoshi mythology. Some people began to obey the teachings of Christ as taught in the New Testament. A leading war chief stopped killing, and although his village was attacked, two of his men were killed, and he was wounded, he refused to take revenge. Word of this spread and, as there was a strong desire for peace, more people decided to obey Christian teaching. Over a period of twenty years the war raids gradually stopped. Bilingual schools, opened in the late 1950s, began the spread of literacy among the people. Bringing indigenous teachers from enemy groups together for teacher-training courses also helped to promote friendly relations.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: