Aché or Guayakí . Group of an indigenous people that was very resistant to contact with whites, sought refuge in the tropical forests of the Eastern Region of Paraguay and was brutally persecuted by Paraguayans.
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- 1 History
- 2 Economy
- 3 Society
- 4 Art and materials used
- 5 Sources
They are also known as Guayaki, a name external to their culture that contains contemptuous attitudes towards this indigenous people, whose literal meaning would be the mountain mouse. They call themselves Aché (person, real person). The ethnic self-denomination was mentioned for the first time by Dr. Susnik (1960), while other authors call them Ache-Guayaki.
These indigenous people attract the attention of Paraguayans due to the color of their skin (white), their light eyes, the beard in the males, and other features that differentiate them from other ethnic groups that inhabit the same eastern jungle. Regarding this point, there has even been talk of the possibility that they are descendants of exotic peoples, such as the Vikings , Japanese or others from Asia , which is no more than mere speculation. The dilemma about its origins can only be cleared up with detailed research, especially in the genetic ( human genome ), ethnolinguistic and anthropological fields . Various authors studied the issue of the Ache’s affiliation to the Guaraní linguistic family. At present scholars offer twohypothesis : one is the theory that they are originally Guaraní who developed their own culture. The other is that it is a Guaranized group, that is, a different ethnic group that was culturally subdued in remote times by Guarani- speaking indigenous people .
The aché economy is focused on hunting with bow and arrow – armadillo , paca (rodent), tapir , capuchin monkey, peccary, coati, tegu lizard, etc.-, the extraction of wild honey , insect larvae , starch from palm trees and harvesting fruits.
Despite the plant diversity and variety in the diet, palm starch and honey are those that provide the greatest caloric resources. Palm fibers are dipped in handfuls in a pot of water, and drained by hand to extract all the starch . In the pot the meat or insect larvae are boiled .
This mixture can be eaten hot – like a thick broth – or left to cool overnight, hardening like a pudding . Social norms prohibit eating their own prey without distributing it. The game is cooked and redistributed among the families according to the size of each one of them.
The other products are also shared, although to a lesser extent. They reserve approximately 50% of what they obtain, sharing the rest, being more generous with those who are ill or unable to obtain them.
Before contact, they lived in small groups – average 50 members – which often separated and met again. During the club-fighting ritual, three or four bands used to meet, staying together for 5 to 15 days. The composition of the group was very flexible, based as much on the ties of affinity and friendship as on consanguineous relations. The gangs did not have specific territories, they were often named after the most influential male member.
The leadership was informal, there were no recognized chiefs, no political or religious positions. Decisions were made by consensus, dissent was expressed by leaving the group. There were no shamans ; the elderly and pregnant women were involved in healing activities.
The gangs are often divided into temporary working groups, the children and the elderly remaining in the permanent camp, while the others travel to distant areas in search of specific resources that were depleted nearby.
Marriages were determined through female choice – made between the ages of 14 and 15 -, polygamy was common, and the divorce rate high, an average woman would marry at least ten different men, giving children at least two from them. Brothers and first cousins were prohibited from marrying each other. The birth of a child presents a series of obligations between him, the parents and those who assume ritual roles during the birth. The baby is immediately given to a “godmother” who will take care of it during its first days, while the mother rests. The child can expect help and support from his sponsor throughout his life.
The man who cuts the child’s umbilical cord becomes the “godfather” with similar obligations. Those who have provided her with food during the pregnancy also acquire ritual obligations. The obligations were reciprocal, the child will be cared for by the “godparents” in his youth, later he will care for them in old age. Biological parents and godparents had a lifelong commitment to mutual help. When the girl reaches her first menstruation , she is isolated and covered with palm leaves, then parallel cuts are made that are rubbed with charcoal creating a tattoo of parallel lines. For men who have had relationships with them before menarche, a purification ritual is performed at that time.
The women will keep their hair short and wear tooth and seed necklaces as tribal identifiers. When boys begin to show facial hair, they are subjected to a puberty ritual, which they coincide with a female birth or initiation ceremony. His lower lip is pierced with a sharp bone and then the tremble is placed. They are then cut and tattooed just like women. The man who pierces the lip also becomes a godfather. The tremble is used by younger men, the piercing will keep it for life.
Art and materials used
The axes were made of wooden handles, about fifty centimeters long, with a diorite stone weighing about one kilogram molded and smoothed by the waters of the streams in whose beds they are collected. The stone was placed by one of its ends between the rips of a living tree, when the wood has grown around holding it firmly, they remove the finished ax. They only serve to widen the hole of the apiaries; they don’t cut, they act like hammerscrushing and breaking the woody fibers that must be pulled by hand. The arches of the aché are long -more than two meters- and are made of the pindó palm tree, resulting in extraordinary flexibility. To use it, they plant one end in the ground, and while they bring the other to their chest, they push the center away with their feet, extending the leg.
The kromipia -cots to transport babies- are made with the technique of dense braiding of brava nettle fibers or samuu, the women carry them supported by a band that they place on their right shoulder, carrying the child on the left side. They are good ropers, they mix the fibers with monkey hair or human hair to give them more resistance, thus they make the ropes that they use to climb trees in search of combs and the wristbands to defend themselves from animal bites. The norteño group manufactures dense fiber weave mats, with the double thread technique, its appearance is that of a fabric. The use of different fibers allows a simple decoration, they are works very similar to the Kanigang of the Gé linguistic family.