An adventurer who visited one of the deadliest tribes in the world has revealed what they are really like.
David Hoffmann spent 100 hours with the Waorani people, an uncontacted tribe set deep within the jungle in Ecuador. He explained how they are known for having the highest murder rate of any similar-sized group in the world – known to slaughter both their own kind and outsiders.
But the explorer said he “knew that there was way more to the story that I could ever have imagined”. Waorani people rarely wear clothes, but they have a sophisticated understanding of the environment they live in, using plants to make surprisingly effective medicines and poisons.
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David picked up an eye infection on his trip and asked the local witch doctor for help. “I’m going to the Shaman's medical office,” he said in a YouTube video. “Hopefully he has something to cure my eye. They’re saying ‘breast milk’ – I don't know about that I'm sure he has a lot of other things too.”
Every surface is crawling with bugs, which don’t seem to bother the locals. “The amount of mosquitoes biting me right now, it's insane,” David said. “They're crawling on my face – I have to cover myself with my little hoodie …a never-ending amount of mosquitoes.”
The jungle is a dangerous place for the inexperienced, as “anywhere you look you see a spider or an animal that wants to kill you”. He also gets to eat some of the wildlife, breaking open a twig to feast on tiny lemon ants. “I think they bit me on the way down,” he added.
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The tribespeople distil a poison called curare from huge jungle vines. Smeared onto the end of needle-sharp darts, it can paralyse any animals – or humans – it touches. The darts are fired from 5-foot blow-guns which have a range of up to 100 feet.
David described how a Waorani hunter prepares his weapons. He explained: “What he does is he puts the venom into a little pot. He heats it up and then it becomes like this nice thick tar-ish substance.
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“Then it gets his hundred darts that he puts into this container, he takes them all out and puts the venom on, then leaves them here so they dry out. Then he puts them back in then he gets his blow gun and he goes out to hunt. He’s gonna hunt monkeys, wild boar …basically anything you'll find in the wild – if it’s edible he hunts it.”
The Waorani had no contact with the outside world until the 1950s, and reportedly killed the first Christian missionaries that entered their territory. Even today, some offshoots of the tribe refuse any contact with outsiders.
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One offshoot, the semi-nomadic Taromenane, still speak in a language that’s unrelated to any other form of human communication, suggesting that they have lived in total isolation for tens of thousands of years.
At any point in history, there were probably no more than 200 Taromenane people. In 2013, a group of Waorani tribesmen, armed with rifles, raided their village and killed around 20 men, kidnapping women and girls and taking them back to their village.
While the Waorani people that shared their homes and their food with David were clearly very friendly, it’s easy to see how the tribe earned its fearsome reputation.
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