Among many indigenous peoples of Amazonia, shamanism and Christianity co-exist as central cultural elements shaping the ways in which people interpret and interact with the world. Despite centuries of co-existence, the relationship between shamanism and Christianity has entered an especially dynamic era as many of Amazonia’s indigenous peoples abandon Catholicism for Evangelical and Sabbatarian churches. Testing the relationship between Christian church affiliation and shamanism in 23 Makushi and Wapishana communities in southern Guyana, we found that Evangelicals and Sabbatarians are less likely to visit shamans or accept their legitimacy than are Anglicans and Catholics. However, conversion does not necessarily imply a complete rejection of indigenous religious systems as many self-identified Evangelicals and Sabbatarians continue to adhere to some indigenous beliefs and practices. We conclude by positing possible implications of religious conversion for natural resource use on indigenous lands.
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While most shamans in the study region are male, at least one female shaman currently practices in the Rupununi region.
While other data were collected in the course of the study, only data relevant to the present analysis are discussed here.
“Amerindian” is the official term for indigenous peoples used by the Guyanese government and is widely used by both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Guyanese as both an adjective and noun.
Ethnically mixed households and villages are also present in the study site (usually Makushi and Wapishana). While this can have profound implications for language transmission, as English is often used as a lingua franca in inter-ethnic households and villages, the implications for village cohesion and governance appear to be relatively minimal.
However, the Wapishana, like the Makushi, share various cultural practices such as blowing, as well as motifs in their creation stories, including two brothers as culture heroes and the felling of a tree, the stump of which became Mt. Roraima.
Although our study did not find any evidence of tapir population declines due to hunting in the Rupununi, overhunting has been documented to have impacts in other regions.
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We thank the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency and the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs for authorizing the study and for their attentiveness to permit extensions. The National Science Foundation (BE/CNH 05 08094) provided funding for this project. We thank the program officers and division leaders at the NSF who provided excellent guidance and support throughout the project. The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development and the North Rupununi District Development Board acted as in-country partners and provided important logistic support. We thank the Makushi and Wapishana technicians whose hard work and dedication made the research possible, as well as the leaders and members of all our partner communities for their innumerable contributions to the project. We thank the graduate students, post docs, data transcribers, and volunteers who are not authors on this paper but who contributed essential work and ideas to the project, as well as Lisa Curran, for her logistical support at Stanford University. Dominique (Nickie) Irvine, Taal Levi, Kirsten Silvius and Oskar Burger provided insightful comments and context. Finally, we would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on a draft of this paper.
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Luzar, J.B., Fragoso, J.M.V. Shamanism, Christianity and Culture Change in Amazonia. Hum Ecol 41, 299–311 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-012-9515-2