Guahibo-Sikuani - History and Cultural Relations

Early reports on the area describe the Guahibo (Guaiba and Chiricoa) as nomadic hunter-gatherers, whose form of life contrasted with sedentary river dwellers dedicated to horticulture. From the eighteenth century on, however, with the remainder of the Arawak (Achagua and Piapoco), they began to settle down on the banks of the Meta, Vichada, and Ariari rivers and to change their form of life from hunting and gatherering to that of semisedentary horticulture. From the end of the seventeenth century, after the departure of the Jesuit missionaries who were never able to congregate them in towns, the Sikuani gained control over the riverine territories. With different surges of colonization brought about by interethnic conflicts in the interior of the country, Sikuani territory was invaded by cattle ranchers who steadily advanced toward the east, dislodging the natives with bullets. For their part the Indians, especially the nomadic groups, took advantage of the violent circumstances to assault travelers and hunt cattle. On the border between settlers and nomads, a process of acculturation and Hispanicization began to develop, which affected mainly the Achagua and Saliva and, to a lesser degree, the Sikuani. As late as the 1960s, cattle ranchers of the plains continued to organize retaliatory raids against the nomadic groups.

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