I’m a bad person, because the deaths of these five men strikes me as rather hilarious. It’s the epitome of “fuck around and find out.” What they found out was that a tribe living in isolation in the Ecuadoran rainforest had earned its reputation for violence, and they weren’t interested in converting to Christianity. Eat spears, Jesus freaks!
–On This Day in History, Shit Went Down: January 8, 1956–
The arrogance is just fucking astounding. “Oh, hey. Here is the group of uncontacted people just minding their own fucking business, but we are totes justified in contacting them because they just have to hear about the glorious word of Jesus!”
“They” are the Huaorani people, and the missionaries’ mission was called “Operation Auca.” Why was it called that? Because the missionaries were bigoted dicks. The name Aucas is a pejorative term for the Huaorani, which is a modification of awqa, which is Quechua for “savages.”
In the 1950s the Huaorani numbered around six hundred people, divided into three mutually hostile groups. They were known to be cannibals who viciously defended their territory. Sounds like plenty good reason to leave them the fuck alone. But nope, five Christian missionaries from the U.S. wanted to make first contact and save their souls.
In 1955 the men flew a small plane in tight circles around the tribe while lowering gifts of things like machetes, pots, and clothing. The Huaorani seemed pleased with the gifts and tied their own reciprocal gifts to the rope to give back to sky Santa. This was interpreted as “They are ready to receive the Lord!”
But they weren’t receiving shit.
The missionaries landed their plane on a sandbar near the river. They shouted basic Huaorani phrases into the jungle, and three days later four Huaorani showed up and said “sup.” The missionaries offered more presents and even gave one a ride in the plane. Things seemed fine until the guy who went for a plane ride, Nankiwi, started walking back to his tribe with his girlfriend and encountered their fellow tribe members and the girlfriend’s brother was furious, asking “Where the fuck is your chaperone?” because patriarchal bullshit exists everywhere. And Nankiwi was all oh fuck better think of a lie quick and said “Those fuckers attacked us and we had to run away and got separated” and the Huaorani said oh well if that’s the case let’s go fuck their shit up.
And so, on January 8, 1956, the Huaorani killed the five invading Christian evangelists and destroyed their devil sky machine too. And it taught Christians an important lesson about leaving people alone. Kidding! It made international news and money poured into Christian evangelizing efforts worldwide. And they kept pestering the Huaorani and ended up converting a bunch of them too.
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