Accepted Paper:

Creating a New Type of Leadership for the Modern Times - the Huaorani Case  


Aleksandra Wierucka (University of GdaƄsk)

Paper short abstract:

One of the effects of the influence of the modern world on the indigenous people can be the rearranging of the social structure. The Huaorani of the Ecuadorian Amazon utilize social structure used traditionally exclusively during the time of war in order to be able to act in the Western world.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines how indigenous people can reshape their old traditions in order to face the challenges of the modern world. Drawing on fieldwork with an Ecuadorian Huaorani clan it explores some of the reasons for the changes in leadership in this small-scale society. Traditionally, only during the killing raids or any other kind of wars, a leader was chosen. After the raid he renounced his powers, as in the egalitarian Huaorani culture nobody was expected to act as a leader during the time of peace. The argument of this paper is that the old type of leadership that was used only in times of war can now be applied in the time of peace in order to meet the contemporary needs of the tribe. Oil companies and government officials demand a leader to conduct negotiations or to settle agreements. The revival of the traditions that were abandoned fifty years ago enables the Huaorani to adapt to the demands of the modern world.

Panel SE31
Chiefs, presidents, shamans and priests: rethinking indigenous forms of leadership, authority, and political action in 21st century lowland South America