By Jen Mills
There are about 4,000 members of the Huaorani tribe living in Ecuador’s rainforest, many still hunting for food using traditional methods such as catching monkeys with blow pipes and poison darts.
Pete Oxford, a conservation photographer from Devonshire, England, traveled to Ecuador recently to document the way the Huaorani live, a way of life under threat from deforestation and oil exploration.
His collection of photographs show men carrying prey including monkeys, a toucan and a wild boor. Members of the tribe allowed him to stay with them and photograph their daily lives, showing him their method of hunting with a long blow-pipe and poison dart to bring down animals in the trees.
“The Huaorani Indians are a forest people highly in tune with their environment,” Oxford says. “Many are now totally acculturated since the 1950s by missionaries.”
He adds: “Today they face radical change to their culture to the proximity of oil exploration within their territory and the Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve, they are vastly changed.”
He set up the photo shoot through a Huaorani friend, a direct relative of those photographed, who wanted to depict them as close to their original culture as possible.
“They still largely hunt with blow pipes and spears eating a lot of monkeys and peccaries,” Oxford says.
The Huaorani are also known as the Waorani, Waodani or the Waos and are native Amerindians. Their lands are located between the Curaray and Napo rivers and they speak the Huaorani language.
Oxford says that during his visit he was welcomed into the group and hopes that ancient cultures can be saved.
“I was accepted and everything that was theirs was mine to share,” he says.
“Unfortunately, I could not reciprocate and stayed in a small tent on which I had to put a small padlock,” Oxford says. “For a Huaorani, my computer cables were excellent tethers to tie up a dead peccary but for me represented being able to work or not.”
“In my lifetime, the world has witnessed a massive shrinking in world cultures and indigenous knowledge,’ Oxford says. “We are all homogenizing to the same thing. To me that is distressing and I aim to record as many ancient cultures as possible for the sake of posterity.”
‘One of my greatest joys is spending time with people unlike myself. I am very conscious that when I visit a ‘foreign’ tribe it is I, not them, who is foreign.”
See photos below.
Photo credit: Pete Oxford