Saturday, June 13, 2020

The White Indians of Peru – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the white Indians of the Chahapoyas in northern Peru.
The Spanish Dominican missionary Gaspar de Carrvajal (left) first claimed meeting a white tribe of Amazonians, he wrote in his Account of the Recent Discovery of the Famous Grand River (1542) of a tribe of Amazonians who were "very white and tall," the women who had "long hair, braided and wound about their heads” (Gaspar de Carvajal, American Geographical Society, 1934). British Journalist Harold T. Wilkins in his Mysteries of Ancient South America (1945) compiled further accounts of similar sightings of "White Indians" in the Amazon Rainforest from the 16th to 19th century by explorers and Jesuits.
    Percy Fawcett in the 1920s searched for the Lost City of Z in the Amazon which he believed was inhabited by a race of "White Indians.” His last message from the interior before he disappeared and assumed killed, was ““I have but one object: to bare the mysteries that the jungle fastnesses of South America have concealed for so many centuries. We are encouraged in our hope of finding the ruins of an ancient, white civilization and the degenerate offspring of a once cultivated race” (Harold T. Wilkins, Mysteries of Ancient South America, Rider & Co., New York, 1946)
    The 1924-1925 expedition of Alexander Hamilton Rice, Jr., an American physician, geographer, geologist and explorer, who made seven expeditions and exploring 500,000 square miles of the Amazon Basin, mapped a number of previously unknown rivers in the northwestern area of the Basin, reaching into Colombia and Venezuela.
    He used aerial photography (from a Curtis Sea-Gull biplane with floats) and shortwave radio for mapping the area. This four-month expedition in 1924-1925 ascended the Rio Branco and its Uraricoera headwater (past Maraca Island and the mighty Purumame waterfall).
The conical roofs of the Chachapoya village hut

Leaving the boats, they cut trails into the Parima hills where he encountered a rare tribe of white Indians who spoke a language all their own, which was publicized in The New York Times in July 1925 (Also printed in Time Magazine, 20 July 1925).
    Rice and his team had a peaceful encounter with another group of Indians whom they found poor and repellent but impressed by their magnificent conical yano huts (Alexander Hamilton Rice, 'The Rio Branco, Uraricoera, and Parima', The Geographical Journal, London, vol.71, No.2, Feb. 1928).
    The article contains the following physical description of the "White Indians: “Then two Indians who were white, but of pure Indian blood, came out from the forest to greet the party. Dr. Rice described them as being undersized and undernourished. Their faces were streaked with pigments so that it was difficult to discern the features, but they were undeniably white. They wore no clothing, and carried bows and arrows which were tipped with poison. When the two received presents of beads and handkerchiefs they yelled to their companions and others soon emerged and joined the group, making in all twenty men and two women.
A white Chachapoya child
The Aché Indians are a traditional hunter-gatherer tribe living in Paraguay called the “Guayakí" by Guaraní-speaking neighbors and in early anthropological accounts. Early descriptions of the Aché emphasized their white skin, light eye and hair color, heavy beards, Asiatic features, and practice of cannibalism as identifying characteristics. A 1996 study reported that "recent genetic studies have in fact concluded that the Aché are physically and genetically dissimilar to most other South American Indians studied but they show no evidence of any European or African admixture
    Over many centuries rumors of White Indian's have existed in Panama, Columbia, Brazil, Mexico, America, and other countries in the Western Hemisphere. In the early 1920's Richard O. Marsh was sent by Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone to look for suitable rubber lands to help offset the English and Brazilian Monopoly on the market at the time. Having explored the unsuitable region between the Canal and Costa Rica for large-scale rubber growing, they hoped to find suitable land in the almost unexplored sections of Darien south to the Columbia border.
White Indians of South America in a Chachapoya village

In 1924, Richard Oglesby Marsh, led an expedition into the Darien Gap sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution together with the American Museum of Natural History, the University of Rochester, the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. Army, the Canal Zone administration, and the government of Panama. He was sent there by Henry ford and Harvey Firestone to find an alternative source of rubber or a place where such trees could be efficiently grown so that the British and Brazilian monopoly of rubber could be countered. Not finding suitable land and resources between the Canal and Costa Rica they hoped to find suitable land in the almost unexplored sections of Darien south to the Columbia border.
    This put Marsh in a part of the world, where fate or accident stumbled upon a myth, the things of legends of his time, such as the White Indians of Darien whom he ran across in this famed encounter (Richard Oglesby Marsh, White Indians of Darien, GP Putnam and Sons, New York, 1934).
     Many scientists, adventurers, historians and explorers have since wondered who these white Indians were and where they came from and how did they end up along the Amazonas in the eastern border of Peru to the Isthmus of Panama (Darien Gap).
    Marsh brought back with him seven of these white aborigines, the girls had freckled faces and bobbed hair (New York Times, July 7, 1924). His book is the story of the discovery of an unknown valley in the interior of Panama, the finding of mysterious fair and white skinned Indians and a war in the bush led by a white man against Panama's soldiers (Richard Ogleby Marsh, White Indians of Darien, GP Putnam & Sons, New York, 1934
     Marsh later went on to draft the Declaration of Independence and Human Rights of the Tule people (Guna). His collection of diaries, photos, correspondence and films were donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1997 by his son, and occupy 4 linear feet of shelf space (Monsignor Joseph M. Gleason (1869-1942) was a Californian Catholic priest, educationalist, historian and collector of photographs and books, with a particular focus on travel).
    The political organization of Chachapoyas was made up by a group of curacazgos (Andes kingdom) who shared a common cultural substratum under a centralized power in Kuelap. The ethno-historical studies show that this curacazgos were, among the most important, the pacllas, chillaos, jalcas, chillchos and motilones who shared the same traditions, even the same language of which only a small glossary remains. According to the colonial documents and ethnohistory research, the Incas of Cuzco joined politically those nations with administrative purposes, once incorporated to the Tahuantinsuyo by 1470 (Narváez 2013, 119). However, the Inca jurisdictional limits such as the curacazgos were never established.
Behind the 60-foot high outer wall lies an extensive residential area at Kuelap

On the basis of the pattern of settlement, complexity, quantity and location of the sites, as well as other material elements, the existence of a hierarchical social organization of the Chachapoyas society is demonstrated, identifying Kuelap as a unique site and the most important and representative in the Utcubamba valley. Its location and the particularity of its urban, architectural and artistic design represent an exceptional case of large-scale land use and high social development achieved in the Amazon.
    In particular, the Chachapoyas residential architectural pattern is the building with a circular floor plant, made of stone and set with a mud mortar and covered with a hay conical roof. Likewise, three features define the architectural design: the cornices, the platform bases and, above all, the geometric or figurative friezes as an exterior decoration of the walls.
(See the next post, “The White Indians of Peru – Part III,” for more information and the historical background of these white Indians)

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