Nivaclé - History and Cultural Relations

It is not very clear if "Mathlela" and "Guentusé" were names given to historical Nivaclé or groups that mixed with them during their migration from the Río Bermejo to the north of the Pilcomayo. There are references to commercial routes that linked the Nivaclé to Andean cultures, by way of the Chané, the Chorote, and the Chiriguano. It is possible that in pre-Columbian times ancestral Nivaclé not only worked periodically for Tonocoté and Ocloya agriculturists in exchange for grain, but that they also traded wood and reeds with which to manufacture bows and arrows for Tonocoté and Ocloya stone implements. They may have obtained goats and sheep from the Mataco and Chané toward the end of the seventeenth century and stolen horses from their traditional enemies, the Toba, in the eighteenth century.

Until the Chaco War, White penetration to the north of the Pilcomayo did not extend beyond the Rio Paraguay to the east, nor the Andean spurs to the west, where Franciscan missions were established in the second half of the eighteenth century. "Paraguayan Chulupíes" have been registered in sugar mills and tobacco plantations of Salta and Tucumán since 1920. In winter, the greater part of the Indians from the Pilcomayo migrated, looking for work. Later, small fortifications were built by Bolivians advancing from the west and by Paraguayans advancing from the east. The Nivaclé were in the crossfire of these two forces, and if they tried to escape to the south, the Argentinian army shot at them with machine guns. Eventually, the Nivaclé placed themselves under the protection of the Oblate missionaries who settled in places now called Pedro P. Peña, San José de Esteros, and San Leonardo de Escalante. During the 1940s, because of decreasing work opportunities in northern Argentina, the Nivaclé changed direction and went to look for work in the Mennonite settlements, situated in the ancient territory of the Jotoi Lhavos and the Lengua.

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