Human Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 833-845

First online:

Church Affiliation and Meat Taboos in Indigenous Communities of Guyanese Amazonia

  • Jeffrey B. LuzarAffiliated withStanford University Email author 
  • , Kirsten M. SilviusAffiliated withMoore Foundation
  • , Jose M. V. FragosoAffiliated withStanford University

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Using data from a three-year study of socioeconomic factors influencing hunting in 23 indigenous communities, we assess the influence of indigenous and Christian beliefs and practices on dietary taboos among Makushi and Wapishana peoples in the Guyanese Amazon. We found that members of Evangelical and established (Anglican and Catholic) churches do not differ significantly in terms of their adherence to dietary restrictions and members of Sabbatarian churches show a stronger tendency to adhere to dietary taboos than Evangelicals or members of established churches. Counter to expectations, we found no significant difference in avoidance of meat between households belonging to established and Evangelical churches. Furthermore, members of all church groups deviated in terms of dietary restrictions from indigenous norms as exemplified in dietary advice given by shamans. We conclude that, despite doctrinal opposition to shamanistic practices associated with indigenous taboos, there is continuity in terms of dietary practice among Makushi and Wapishana households that have converted to Evangelical and, to some degree, Sabbatarian forms of Christianity.


Dietary taboos Indigenous lands Amazonia Shamanism Christianity