Wáiwai - History and Cultural Relations

Intertribal marriage and exchange were already well-established features by the time R. H. Schomburgk first explored Wáiwai territory in 1837. Only occasional expeditions passed through the region until the 1950s, when U.S. Protestant missionaries established a permanent station near the Guianese Wáiwai. The local population swelled as more Brazilian Wáiwai moved north, seeking access to new trade goods and fearing rumors that a "Big Fire" would destroy the earth and all those who failed to convert to Christianity. With the conversion of an influential leader, most of the villagers followed suit by the end of the 1950s. They persuaded related groups in the region to join them. In the 1970s, with the newly independent Guyanese government hostile to U.S. missionaries, they and most of the Wáiwai moved back to former sites in Brazil. They continue to seek out uncontacted groups.

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