Although in the past they were called “Auca” (meaning “barbarians” or “savages” in Quechua), today they are referred to as “Huao” or “Wao,” which translates as “people” or “human.”
The ancestral territory of the Huaroani people is located about 100 miles east of Quito in an area of approximately 30,000 square kilometers. This group has lived there for hundreds of years in perfect communion with their environment.
Traditionally known as being skilled hunters and courageous warriors, members of the indigenous nationality have a close and deep spiritual relationship with the jungle, which they consider their home.
In the worldview of the Huaos, there is a difference between the physical and the spiritual, because the spirits are present on earth among people. They therefore consider the jungle a safe place where they’re protected from spells and attacks, while the outside world is full of threats – as you will see when you travel to Ecuador.
In this jungle — which their home and their world —they reign supreme. But they do so in a respectful and sustainable way, which has allowed the conservation of the jungle around them for centuries.
For the Huaorani, each animal has a spirit; therefore, each form of wildlife is respected as an equal, taking advantage of them only survival. Although hunting is the basis of this group’s existence, no Huaroani kills an animal for fun or “out of tradition.” In fact, to compensate for the offense of hunting, the darts they use are blessed by shamans in a ritual.
Legend says that the Huaorani descended from the union of a jaguar and an eagle, which is why they never hunt these animals. But nor do they kill snakes, as this brings bad omens. They limit themselves to hunting monkeys, birds and bore-like peccaries.
They maintain this same relationship of respect with plants, especially trees. In the jungle, the Huaorani find everything they need to live healthily and harmoniously. Therefore, it’s said that the jungle is a kind of natural pharmacy for them. The botanical knowledge of this indigenous people is extensive and has been passed down from generation to generation. Plants provide them their medicines, as well as their hallucinogens and poisons for hunting, while they use the bones of certain animal species to make their spears and blowpipes, and others for use in ceremonial purposes. Originally a nomadic group, the Huaorani now live in sedentary communities that base their subsistence on activities tied to hunting, fishing and gathering fruit from their orchards. They live in extended families under one roof (a maloca or “longhouse”), in which these families are organized around an elderly person, who is considered the wisest.
Their day-to-day lives, their everyday activities, the Huaorani fiestas in which men and women celebrate life by singing and dancing for days, are all amazing experiences.
If you are considering travel to Ecuador, Surtek offers you the chance to see and experience this way of life up close and to be part of it for a few days. At the Huaorani Eco-lodge, visitors stay in five cabins — all built in the traditional thatched-roof style —in the Quehueri'ono community, located within the Yasuni National Park.