ETHNONYMS: Aents, Chívari, Chiwaro, Gíbari, Givari, Gívaro, Híbaro, Jibaro, Jívara, Jívira, Macusari, Mainu, Shuar, Shuara, Síwaro, Xívari, Xívaro, Zíbaro

The 30,000 to 32,000 Jivaro live in the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, particularly on the Zamora, Upano, and Paute rivers in Morona-Santiago Province (2° to 5° S, 77° to 79° W). There are four major subgroups: the Antipa, the Aguaruna, the Huambiza, and the Achuale. They speak a language belonging to the Jivaroan Family, but some speak Quechua in addition. When the Spanish first contacted them, the Jivaro were repelling the hostile advances of the Inca, who sought the gold in Jivaro territory. Later, the Jivaro fought off the Spanish, who also came to their territory looking for gold. A gold rush to the area in the 1930s caused the Jivaro to fight the new arrivals; the Roman Catholic Salesians, who had a mission among the Jivaro, were able to stop the war by persuading the Ecuadoran government to provide the Jivaro a reservation. Since then, relations between the Jivaro and Whites have been essentially peaceful, although the Jivaro cannot be considered completely pacified. The Jivaro are nowadays swidden horticulturists who produce sweet manioc, maize, and other crops. They have acquired a strong taste for trade goods, and many of them have entered the work force as laborers to earn the money necessary to buy such items.

Traditionally, the Jivaro raised sweet manioc, maize, sweet potatoes, peanuts, tuber beans, macabo ( Xanthosoma sp.), pumpkins, plantains, tobacco, cotton, and, later, the introduced species of banana, sugarcane, taro, and yam. Planting and other horticultural rituals are very important. The Jivaro fish and forage for wild fruits, cacao, nuts, and other foods. They used to hunt deer and tapir, but in the middle of the twentieth century they gave up eating these animals out of fear of the spirits in them. Hunting is done with bows and arrows, spears, and atlatls. Larger game is hunted by groups of people accompanied by dogs; blowguns are used for small game. There is much magic associated with hunting, including the use of pepper in the eyes of hunters and dogs to improve vision. The Jivaro traditionally domesticated llamas and guinea pigs and later the introduced dog, chicken, and pig.

An entire Jivaro community of from 80 to 300 people (30 to 40 people in the twentieth century) lives in one house ( jivaría ), which, for defensive purposes, is built on a steep hill at the upper end of a stream. The house itself is approximately 13 meters by 26 meters, elliptical in shape, and has a thatched roof. Men and women sleep at opposite ends.

Each community is politically independent and has its own headman. It is located 4 or more kilometers from its nearest neighboring community. The community is made up of people patrilineally and affinally related. In times of war, two or more villages may unite to fight a common enemy, as was the case when the Spanish attempted to conquer them.

There are rituals for both boys and girls upon reaching puberty. Men may marry their cross cousins and their sisters' daughters. Polygyny is common, and this would appear to be adaptive since so many men die in warfare. Levirate is obligatory. Men either pay a bride-price or perform bride-service. Deceased adults are buried in hollowed-out logs in special buildings and are given food and drink for two years, after which they are believed to transform into animals or birds. Children are interred in urns.


Gippelhauser, Richard (1990). Die Achuara-Jivaro: Wirtschaftliche und soziale Organisationsformen am peruanischen Amazonas. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Harner, Michael J. (1973). The Jívaro: People of the Sacred Waterfalls. New York: Doubleday.

Karsten, Rafael (1935). "The Head-Hunters of Western Amazonas: The Life and Culture of the Jibaro Indians of Easten Ecuador and Peru." Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum, Litterarum (Helsinki) 8(1).

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