Ecuador 1987

Cannibals at the Rio Shiripuno?

(Rare contact to the legendary Auca Indian tribe)

Turmoil and shouting suddenly fills the air. In a thatched hut, illuminated only by a large fire, the Auca Indians gather around two huge pots – gigantic vessels which remind me of various stories of cannibalism in Africa, old stories, telling of men and women being cooked. Full of curiosity I watch them, wondering what might happen next. Men, women and children all go for the pots and uninhibitedly fish out bones and pieces of meat with their hands. Steam rises from the pots and disappears seconds later in the roof made out of leaves. There’s a strange, yes almost eerie atmosphere in the hut. The Indians are slurping and smacking, and shamelessly giving free rein to their excess gastric pressure; they lick their hands up to their elbows, only to instantly return to dip them into the hot brew. The result is a unique and almost savage mixture of noises. I’m amazed at this scene, and quietly remain in a corner of the hut to watch a spectacle I’ve never seen before in my life. For a short while my observing eyes are distracted by blow tubes and lances of approximately three metres leaning on one of the hut’s supporting beams. I can make out hundreds of blow tube arrows of about 3mm, soaked with the Curare poison, inside various quivers hanging on a cross beam which in turn is attached to two wooden beams and has the dimension of an arm.

“Errrh!”, the eating noises call back my attention. Now I am curious to see what’s cooking inside the pots, so slowly I go a little closer. Appalled, I leap back as I recognise dorsal parts, as well as hands, and all kinds of limbs inside one of the pots. As if hypnotised, my eyes wander from one pot to the other. I’m overcome by horror, nausea, and terrible fear when I see the split and shaved heads with their protruding eyes lying in their own brew. “Cannibalism!” I shout out choking. Gallo, our friend and guide, laughs out loud. “Why are you laughing?”, I ask horrified. “Mono”, he answers, monkeys.

The Auca Indians, who live at the Rio Shiripuno in the heart of the Ecuadorian primeval forest, allowed us to stay with them for many days. Never before have I had contact to a human tribe who even in our days lives a stone-age way of life. Thus, my first expedition to the origin of mankind turns out to be a dream come true, a dream I had dreamt for such a long time. A new world is opened to the reality we have lived so far. I soon realised, however, that this tribe is really endangered. In the course of time, I felt a deep bond with them, and knew that I had to do something against this threat of extinction.

Nowadays, only few groups of these hunter-gatherers still roam about through the hindmost corners of the jungle, the green hell, as they traditionally used to. They won’t exist for very much longer, these Auca Indians, who call themselves Huarani, humans. Many of them have already been hanging about in the slums for years, in misery and poverty, suffering from and dying of diverse diseases of civilisation. Their problem is that they live on huge oil fields. A few weeks ago, they killed four engineers with their spears in defence of their territory, but even incidents like these will not change the fact that western civilisation will always continue suppressing them, until one day there will be no place left for them to retreat, not even in the seemingly endless virgin forests of our earth.

If time allows, I shall publish an account on our contact to the legendary Auca Indians in the category “Journal Ecuador Auca tribe”.


Ecuador 1987

Destination of the first professional expedition. An expedition to the headwaters of the Amazon, with the aim of visiting the Auca Indians. On his search for the Auca Indians, Denis Katzer travelled 400 kilometres in a dugout canoe through the virgin forests of Ecuador, and documented the endangered Auca tribe (Waorani Indians).