The Warao Indians, fishermen and incipient agriculturalists, inhabit the Orinoco Delta of northeastern Venezuela and adjacent areas. All Warao speak mutually intelligible variants of the same language. Warao has traditionally been considered an isolate, without affiliation with one of the great South American language families.
Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.
South America --Amazon and Orinoco
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Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.
The Warao file consists of 37 documents, 30 of which are in English, with six translations from Spanish and one from German. The file focus is primarily on the relatively unacculturated Warao living in the Orinoco Delta region of Venezuela, with particular emphasis on the Winikina subtribe. Although the Warao have been known since the early sixteenth century, no significant amount of information has been published on them until about the middle of the nineteenth century. Probably the most comprehensive studies of traditional Warao ethnography in this file, although dated from today's standpoint (2000), are the works of Kirchoff (1948, no. 3), Turrado Moreno (1945, no. 6), Wilbert (1972, no. 7), and Suárez (1968, no. 31). These are updated to some extent by more recent studies on culture change relevant to the economy and social organization in Heinen (1975, 1975, nos. 9 and 20), and Wilbert (1980, no. 34). Other major ethnographic topics discussed in the file are: human biology (Hill et al, 1956, no. 4; Fleischman, 1975, 1980, 1980, nos. 12, 25, and 38; Layrisse, 1980, 1980, nos. 37 and 40; and Gardner, 1980, no. 39); religion (Wilbert, 1979, 1975, nos. 17, and 20); and kinship (Suárez, 1971, no. 11; Heinen, 1972, no. 29; and Osborn, 1964, no. 14). A document of particular interest in this file is that found in Heinen (1988, no. 42) which presents a series of narratives told to the author depicting various elements of native culture from the Warao's point of view.
For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
This culture summary is from the article, Warao, by H. Dieter Heinen in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 7. 1994. Johannes Wilbert, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in May 2000.
AIDAMO -- an elite of elders -- category 631
AIDAMOGUITU -- a member of the JEFES, a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
ARIMAGUITU -- a member of the JEFES, a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
BAHANAROTU -- medicine man -- category 756
BAJANAROTU -- medicine man -- category 756
CACIQUE -- a member of the JEFES, a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
communication bridges between houses of a settlement -- category 417
CRIOLLO -- a Venezuelan whose ancestors have interbred for several generations with whites, Indians and blacks -- category 563
DAUNONA staffs -- representatives of the KANOBO ancestral spirits -- category 778
DAWA -- son-in-law -- category 606
FISIKARI -- a member of the JEFES, a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
GOBENAJORO -- a member of the JEFES, a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
GUISIDATU -- priest, shaman -- categories 756, 793
HATABU -- a negative super force -- category 778
HEBU -- category 778
HEBU practioner -- priest, shaman -- categories 756, 793
HEBUROTU -- priest, shaman -- categories 756, 793
HOA -- immaterial supernatural force -- category 778
HOAROTU -- shaman -- category 756
INE MAOBONONA DOKUKORE -- a thinking being; the equivalent of becoming a person at the age of about four or five -- category 858
JEBUAROTU -- priest, shaman -- categories 756, 793
JEFES -- a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
JOAROTU -- shaman -- category 756
KABITANA -- traditionally a headman -- category 622
KANOBO -- ancestor stone; spirit -- categories 776, 778
KANOBO ARIMA -- the guardian of the sacred KANOBO stone, generally a shaman -- category 756
KANOBO house -- category 346
KAPITA -- a member of the JEFES, a political organization introduced by the missions -- category 631
PIACHES -- shaman -- category 756
WISHIDATU (WISEDAA, WISIRATU) -- priest, shaman -- categories 756, 793