The Warao Indians (wah-row-oh; say row as in cow) live on the Orinoco River Delta in Venezuela. The Orinoco is wider than the Mississippi. When it reaches the Delta emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, it creates a huge land area composed of many small rivers with numerous islands and marshes. The Warao Indians live in huts on stilts which usually have a thatched roof but no walls. A fire pit made of clay is in the center and the Indians sleep in hammocks. One year after Columbus discovered the Orinoco Delta, Alonso de Ojeda sailed into the area, saw the huts on stilts over the water and named the area Venezuela or “Little Venice. The only mode of transportation for hundreds of miles is by bongo, or dugout canoe. The name Warao means literally “Boat People.” Children here learn to paddle before they can walk.
More on Their Way of Life
The Orinoco Delta is located in a geographical area that consists mainly of hundreds of swampy islands with dense forests and webs of streams and rivers. This accounts for the manner in which the Warao Indians built their homes on the edge of rivers and traveled around by canoes. Historically, the Waraos used to build their homes on particular interior islands where there were large areas of certain palm trees known as their tree of life – the moriche palm trees. Their main means of survival came through gathering foods and occasional hunting. This has now been expanded to include horticulture and fishing.
The Beliefs of the Waroa Indians
The Waroa Indians have strong beliefs in the supernatural. They had two main fears while they were traveling from island to island – attacks from wild animals or spirits. They believe these two forms are capable of eating humans, and may account for their habit of singing protective songs to help keep them safe from such forces. The Waroas also believe that the earth was devoid of men as they first lived in the sky where birds were the only animals that existed. Man’s occupation of the earth began when a hunter shot a bird with such force that his arrow penetrated the sky world and made it to earth. The hunter peered through the hole that was left in the wake of the arrow, and upon seeing a earth rich with a number of game lowered himself via a rope he had attached to a tree. His fellow humans later decided to join him and ultimately the sky world was abandoned and earth became their new home.
Craft of the Waroa Indians
The Warao are considered very fine basket makers. Their baskets are often lidded with a carrying strap. They also make basket trays. They wrap the fibers around a coil of a palm branch similar to the sweet grass baskets of Afro-Americans in the Charleston, South Carolina area. The baskets are woven using centuries-old skills handed down from mother to daughter. The entire family contributes to the work on the baskets. The men gather the reeds from the marshy areas near the coast. Some reeds are dyed with natural vegetable dyes to add color and pattern. The younger children assist by sorting the reeds, while the older ones assist in gathering, weaving, or dyeing. Basket making is a family affair.
These baskets are hand woven so tightly that they are very stiff and hard, woven with natural palm fibers. Some are dyed pale turquoise, coral, and pale green using natural dyes.
Language Museum – Warao
The Orinoco Delta , Land of the Warao, Venezuela.
Artikel, Berichte, Stories aus Venezuela
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