Tribal Warfare and Blood Revenge
Within the vast region of the
Amazon a perpetual animosity existed between the neighboring
tribes of the Jivaro. Once again, due to the fervent belief
in witch craft and sorcery this was the primary cause of warfare
between the tribes. A fundamental difference between wars enacted
within the same tribe and against neighboring tribes is such
that " wars between different tribes are in principle wars
of extermination" ( Karsten, p. 277) A significant goal
of these wars was geared toward the annihilation of the enemy
tribe, including women and children. This was done in order
to prevent them from seeking revenge against the victors in
the future. There were however, many instances where the women
and children were taken as prisoners and forced to become a
part of the victors families. It is solely in these wars that
trophies/tsantsa were taken. The Jivaros consistently engaged
in this practice toward their mortal enemies.
As wars between tribal cultures
were not instigated with the hope of acquiring additional territory,
as soon as fighting was over, the victorious tribesmen made
a hasty retreat. Superstitious fear and contempt of the enemy
compelled the Jivaros to abandon the area quickly where they
believed that secret supernatural dangers would threaten them
after they had conquered their natural enemies.
Should blood revenge
have continued at the extreme rate of the early 1900's, extermination
was evident. Through the work of missionaries, the killing slowly
Today, in a relatively calm
existence, superstitions are still very strong, but the harm
done to past ancestors is not forgotten.
Inter-Tribal Feuding and Blood
The Jivaro by nature are a highly
superstitious and impulsive people, thereby giving rise to frequent
disputes and wars between each other, as well as between neighboring
tribes. Because witchcraft and sorcery can account for the majority
of murders and natural deaths within a tribe, it is not surprising
that the medicine men ,or shamans, are most susceptible
to attack as they are frequently accused of using their powers
against others. Each tribe is thereby compelled to kill the opposing
medicine man to free themselves of his evil magic.
On the whole, the Jivaro Indians
do subscribe to the notion of a natural death, but rather
attributed each death to supernatural causes. Following each
death a vicious cycle of retaliation ensues in which someone
is always held accountable for the murder of another. As the
Jivaro Indian is consumed with the notion of retaliation, his
" desire for revenge is an expression of his sense of justice."
(Karsten, p. 271) This cycle of blood-revenge
is perpetuated by religious reasons by which the soul of the
victim requires that his relatives should avenge his death.
If the surviving members do not retaliate against the slayer,
the anger of the vengeful spirit may in fact turn against themselves.
If blood-revenge cannot be directed to the actual slayer, it
may be directed toward one of his relations. Once a murder has
been avenged, blood-guilt or tumashi akerkama is atoned
for and the offended family is satisfied
Male children were taught at
an early age about the concept of blood revenge. The
father instructs the younger men, often as young as six years
of age, to listen to the various crimes that had been committed
against his people. A strong sense of family justice is instilled
in the minds of the young, who are later expected to avenge
previous injustices committed against their family members.
Further incentive is encouraged by the notion of reward, including
blessings, good luck, long life and many opportunities to kill
It must be noted that trophies/
tsantsa were not taken during the disputes between blood-relatives.