ETHNONYMS: Chébero, Hevero, Shiwila, Xebero, Xevero, Xihuila
The Jebero Indians formerly lived between the Marañon and Huallaga rivers in Peru but left that area to live in Catholic missions. Today, the 2,300 to 3,000 Jebero live along the Río Platanayacu and on the Papayucu Lagoon (on the Río Marañon) in the district of Jeberos, in Peru. Only the older people speak the native language, which belongs to the Cahuapanan Family and is intelligible to Chayahuita speakers (and vice versa). The use of Spanish and Quechua is common, and the survival of the Jebero language is in doubt.
In the seventeenth century the Jebero accepted the protection of the missions because they were terrified of the punitive expeditions against the Maina Indians. In 1640, 2,000 Jebero were gathered at Concepción de Xevero. They left this mission because of fear of being enslaved but later returned because of famine and the threat of being taken as slaves to Borja. In 1690 they were gathered with other groups in missions where they remained through the eighteenth century. In 1859 an estimated 3,000 Jebero worked as peons at Moyobamba.
The Paranapura Indians are a group whose ancestors were Jebero but who left Moyobamba to escape slave raiders and intermarried with the Munichi Indians, whose language they adopted.
The Jebero population was reduced greatly by the influx of rubber tappers in the early part of this century. They are presently well assimilated into mestizo society.
Traditionally, the Jebero were horticulturists who grew sweet manioc, maize, cotton, and, after they were introduced, bananas and sugarcane. Jebero land is not very fertile, so they moved to new gardening sites every two years. The traditional Jebero horticultural implements were the dibble stick and a cultivating stick.
The Jebero area also had little game; they hunted what there was with blowguns, spears, and traps. Manatees were caught in nets and speared, and fishing was with bow and arrow. The Jebero were renowned for their cotton-weaving abilities. Their pottery, decorated with fingernail markings, was white on top and red on the bottom.
The Jebero formerly practiced warfare. They kept trophy heads and ate the livers, intestines, and hearts of the people they killed.
Jebero puberty rituals for girls involved beating them and putting hot pepper in their eyes. Bride-service was once practiced. The deceased were traditionally buried in urns.
The Jebero believed that illness was caused by supernatural thorns sent by a sorcerer and cured by a shaman who pulled them out.
Bendor-Samuel, John T. (1961). The Verbal Piece in Jebero. London: Linguistic Circle of New York.
"Noticias Auténticas del famoso Río Marañon y Mision Apostólica de la Compañía de Jesus de la Prov. de Quito en los dilatados bosques de dicho río. Enscribíales por los años de 1738 un misianero de la misma compañía y las pública ahora por la primera vez Marcos Jiménez de la Espada (1889-1892)." Boletín de la Sociedad Geográfica Nacional (Madrid) 26.
Ribeiro, Darcy, and Mary Ruth Wise (1978). Los grupos étnicos de la Amazonia peruana. Comunidades y Culturas Peruanas, 13. Lima: Ministerio de Educación; Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
Tessman, Günter (1930). Die Indianer Nordost-Perus. Hamburg: Cram, de Gruyter & Co.
Varese, Stefano (1972). The Forest People in the Present Political Situation of Peru. Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).
NANCY M. FLOWERS