Historical and Ethnographical Material on the Jivaro Indians

Historical and Ethnographical Material on the Jivaro Indians

Historical and Ethnographical Material on the Jivaro Indians

Historical and Ethnographical Material on the Jivaro Indians

Excerpt

Since the year 1540 the Jivaro Indians have been more or less constantly in contact with European culture. During these four centuries a great deal has been written about them, unfortunately most of it during the present century, and possibly the present contribution will but add to the confusion of what might seem an already redundant literature. The many accounts of travelers, soldiers, settlers, missionaries, and scientists contain a great deal that is of ethnological value, mingled with much that is repetitious, much that is garbled, and much that is speculative. With the exception of Hamy and Rivet, most writers have neglected utilizing the early Spanish accounts which are of considerable value for comparative purposes, although rarely as detailed as we would like. The chief value of the present work is the assembling and presentation for the first time in English of most of the known early source material. This, together with the illustrations, constitutes the principal justification for the publication of the present volume. The translations are the work of Marion Stirling. They have been made as literal as possible in order to preserve the style of the original writers, which in many cases is cumbersome and involved. Frequently entire accounts are written without punctuation. When it has seemed necessary a certain amount of punctuation has been supplied for the sake of clarity.

The collection of source material has been greatly facilitated by the nineteenth century researches of such scholars as Jiménez de la Espada, Gonzáles Suárez, Francisco Maria Compte, Fernando de Montesinos, and Luis Torres de Mendoza.

Among modern ethnographers the works of Rivet and Karsten are outstanding. The latter has recently compiled in a single volume the bulk of the material contained in his previous scattered publications in various languages. Rivet's report suffers from the fact that he did not have the opportunity of doing field work among the Jivaro and as a result could not check the errors of his authorities. It seems to the writer that Karsten's report loses some of its value through the application of too much anthropological theory in such fashion that it is often difficult to detect which information has been obtained directly from the Indians and which is a result of the author's interpretations.

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