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The Wariʼ, also known as the Pakaa Nova, are an indigenous people of Brazil, living in seven villages in the Amazon rainforest in the state of Rondônia.[2] Their first contact with European settlers was on the shores of the Pakaa Nova River, a tributary of the Mamoré River. Many of the Wari' live within the Sagarana Indigenous Territory near the town of Rodrigues Alves (which lies between Rio Guaporé Indigenous Territory and Pacaás Novos National Park).[1]

Total population
2,721 (2006)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Brazil ( Rondônia)
traditional tribal religion

The Wari' should not be confused with the ancient Pre-Inca Wari culture. This culture existed in Peru and has nothing to do with the Wari' people.


Europeans at one time used the name "Pakaa Nova" to refer to the Wariʼ, because they encountered the indigenous people near the Pakaa Nova River. The people prefer to be referred to as "Wariʼ", their term in their language meaning "we, people."[1] They are also known as the Jaru, Oro Wari, Pacaas-Novos, Pacahanovo, Pakaanova, Pakaanovas, Uari, and Uomo.[1][2]


The Wariʼ speak the Pakaásnovos language, which belongs to the Txapakura,[1] or Chapacura-Wanham language family.

Along with the Torá, the Moré (or Itenes), and the Oro Win, the Wariʼ are the last of the Txapakura language linguistic group. Other groups were exterminated by Europeans or neo-Brazilians.

Population and locationsEdit

Up until the 19th century, the Wariʼ were present in the Amazon's Southeast, namely the basin of the Lage River (a right-bank-tributary river of the Mamoré River), the Ouro Preto river, the Gruta and Santo André creeks, the Negro river (all tributaries of the lower and middle courses of the right bank of the Pakaa Nova River), and the Ribeirão and Novo rivers (tributaries of the left bank of the Pakaa Nova River).

In the early 20th century, continuous incursions by neo-Brazilians in search of rubber trees forced the Wariʼ to relocate to the less accessible headwaters of the Mamoré River. They were confined in that area until pacification. Today, they live in eight[3] settlements located in the state of Rondônia, Brazil.[1]

Denomination and ethnicityEdit

The tribe is divided into subgroups, but no word exists to define an individual that belongs to a different group. The closest term that is usually applied is tatirim (stranger). A person from the same subgroup is referred to as "win ma" (land fellow).

Today, the Wariʼ subgroups are:

  • OroNao
  • OroEo
  • OroAt
  • OroMon
  • OroWaram
  • OroWaramXijein

Some individuals still identify themselves with two other subgroups that no longer exist, the OroJowin, or the OroKaoOroWaji. Oro is a collectivizing particle that can be translated as "people" or "group".

Relations between subgroupsEdit

Present relations between subgroups are influenced by dynamics that existed before pacification. Each subgroup is intimately connected with a territory; however, the frontiers between territories are fluid.

An area associated with one subgroup can be incorporated into the territory of another subgroup (if it is occupied by a group that also belongs to another subgroup). This is made possible by the semi-nomadic characteristic of the Wari' people.

Membership to any given subgroup is not defined by fixed rules. Children may be considered members of either parent's subgroup, or of the subgroup associated with the territory in which they were born. Cultural or subgroup identities are part of one's birthright, but socially constructed during a lifetime through relations with one's relatives and neighbors. The Wariʼ recognize that individuals have multiple identities based on their specific relations and experiences.


Every subgroup is organized around a set of brothers, each of whom is often married to women who are sisters. Polygyny, especially sororal polygyny (co-wives are sisters), is the basis of the Wariʼ family structure. Villages are made up of nuclear families and a separate house, called "the men's house". It serves as a dormitory for single adolescents and as a meeting place for adult men. A couple usually varies their place of residence, shifting between the woman's parents' and the man's parents', although no specific rule determines when the shift is made.

The Wariʼ are semi-nomadic, moving their villages at least once every five years. They stay away from floodplains but remain closer to the shores of small perennial rivers.

A maize swidden, providing the staple crop, is developed around the village. Finding the ideal earth for corn growing (black earth or terra preta) plays a key role in determining where to set up a village. The importance of agricultural land is also reflected in the language, since a person from the same subgroup is called a "land fellow".


The Wari' formerly practiced endocannibalism, specifically mortuary cannibalism. This was done as a form of utmost respect to those who had died.[4][3]

Right after death, the closest relatives would hug and embrace the deceased person. The body would be left for about three days, although there was no set span, and depended largely upon how soon family members in other settlements could get to the funeral.[5] By this time, the body had typically begun to decompose in the heat and humidity of the Amazon, sometimes reaching the stage where the body became bloated and discolored.[5][3] When all relatives within a reasonable distance had arrived, the relatives respectfully prepared the body.

Mortuary preparation involved ritual wailing and other ceremonies, building a fire, removing the visceral organs, and finally roasting the body.[3] The decedent's closest kin would not consume the body, but they urged the attendant relatives to eat. Consumption of the flesh would assuage the family's grief, as it meant that the soul of the deceased would be kept in the living bodies of relatives instead of being abandoned to wander the forest alone. The practice was considered equally an act of compassion, affinal love, and grief.[5][3] The relatives were encouraged to eat what they could, but this sometimes amounted to little more than small tokens of the spoiled meat.[3] Even this consumption often caused the mourners great gastric distress.[5] The heart and liver were eaten, but much of the body and hair was burned.[4]

Today, Wariʼ do not practice any form of cannibalism.[3] They bury their dead after two or three days of mourning.[4]


Today, the Wariʼ are peaceful, but before pacification they warred with neighboring tribes. Their most notable victories occurred over the Karipuna, a Tupi ethnicity, and the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau. With contact with the Brazilian government in the 20th century, the focus of their warfare shifted and they lost contact with the old wijam (enemy).

The Wariʼ consider enemies as "former Wariʼ" who have distanced themselves to the point of severing cultural exchanges. In spite of that, a Wariʼ warrior did not distinguish between an enemy and an animal, and thus felt no need to be merciful or gracious to an enemy any more than he would to an animal.

Once fighting was over, Wariʼ warriors would bring home the bodies of the fallen enemies whenever possible. Those bodies would be served to the women and younger men who had stayed home in order to strengthen the group. Children were prohibited from eating dead enemies.

The battle warriors retreated to the men's house, where they stayed in quarantine. During this period they moved around as little as possible, staying in their hammocks for most of the day and drinking only chicha. The purpose was to "keep the enemy's blood within the warrior's body", thus giving him strength. Sex was prohibited, as they thought the blood of the enemy would "turn into semen" and thus allow the enemy's strength to be passed on to the tribesmen's children. The warrior was not allowed to partake of the fallen enemies, because it was believed that he had kept the enemy's blood within himself, and such an act would be self-cannibalism, resulting in his death. The quarantine ended when the women refused to continue preparing the chicha.[citation needed]


Pacification in this context is between the Wari' people and the rest of the connected world. It is important to note that the Wari' did not ask for this 'pacification'. There are many perspectives on whether or not pacification of indigenous peoples is moral; therefore, it is important to define the distinction between pacification (peace) and a civilizing mission (assimilation/missionaries).

Prior to pacification attempts, interaction with the Wari' was extremely minimal. Starting in the 1950s, rubber tappers sought Wari' land for rubber trees. These rubber tappers resorted to exterminating Wari' villages and their people.[6][7] As a result, the Serviço de Proteção ao Índio (SPI) began to attempt contacting the Wari' people.

Disease outbreaks and war over land from outsiders caused the population of the Wari' to reduce by nearly 50%[6]. At the time, the Wari' had just begun to relocate themselves due to extreme rubber tree farming.[6][7]

As a result, the Wari' turned to the Serviço de Proteção ao Índio and missionaries for assistance. The Serviço de Proteção ao Índio intentionally set up posts in order to meet and assist the Wari'. Due to the aforementioned disease outbreaks and rubber tappers, the Wari' eventually settled near these posts.[6][7]


Around 1956, the Wari' caught the attention of Protestant missionaries (and later Catholic and Evangelical missionaries).[6][7] The Wari' were interested in the missionaries because of their generosity and their capability to cure disease.[7]

The missionaries challenged Wari' beliefs by proposing new perspectives. The Wari' originally believed that all Wari' were brothers and that enemies were the same as animals. Missionaries changed the perspective of many Wari' to see all humans as brothers and animals as objects. This switch in perspective established the idea that fighting among brothers (other humans) was bad.[7] To further convey their point, missionaries often lived alongside Wari' and attempted to learn the Wari' language. Parts of the Bible were translated into the Wari' language from 1975 to 1984.[2]

This was not without cruelty. The Wari' were forced to work full time on large plantations and in other enterprises in order to receive assistance and teachings. They were forced to obey orders, they were sent to forced isolation, and they were punished with jets of cold water when showing traditional values/beliefs.[7] Despite this, the converted Wari' people decided that this was worth the new ideology and material benefits. Deconversion was also common with converted Wari', but deconversion usually did not last long.[7]

By the 2000s, a large majority of Wari' had gone back to their original traditions - only 30% remain Christian as of 2019.[5][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Wariʼ: Introduction." Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Retrieved 22 Feb 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Pakaásnovos." Ethnologue. Retrieved 22 Feb 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Conklin, Beth A. (1995). ""thus are our bodies, thus was our custom": mortuary cannibalism in an Amazonian society". American Ethnologist. 22 (1): 75–101. doi:10.1525/ae.1995.22.1.02a00040. ISSN 0094-0496.
  4. ^ a b c "Wariʼ: Funerary Cannibalism." Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Retrieved 22 Feb 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e Conklin (2001).
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Wari' - Indigenous Peoples in Brazil". pib.socioambiental.org. Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Vilaça, Aparecida (2014-12-01). "Culture and Self: The Different "Gifts" Amerindians Receive from Catholics and Evangelicals". Current Anthropology. 55 (S10): S322–S332. doi:10.1086/678118. ISSN 0011-3204.


  • Conklin, B. (2001). Consuming Grief: Compassionate Cannibalism in an Amazonian Society. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Vilaça, Aparecida (2010). Strange Enemies: Indigenous Societies and Scenes of Encounters in Amazonia. Durham: Duke University Press.

External linksEdit