Leadership in Public Arenas

Among precontact Waorani, social life was extremely egalitarian and individual autonomy the rule for both genders. There were no rank distinctions based on gender or kinship, and no formal leadership roles, no religious or ritual obligations, and no community obligations. Leadership within the small familial social and residence groups fell to different individuals who had capacity in the skill required at the moment (e.g., hunting, raiding, selecting residence site, etc.), but inevitably involved convincing other people to follow his or her lead. Although the four Wao groups were nominally "led" by an important male elder, it was not incumbent on any Waorani, male or female, to follow his lead. All Waorani were free to do as they pleased and to leave the group and make a new settlement at any time. Authority was confined to persuasion and/or coercion. These generalizations still hold today, although men are much more likely than women to hold political office in ONHAE (Organization of the Waorani Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon/OrganizaciĆ³n de Naciones Huaroni de la Amazonia Ecuatoriana), the Waorani political organization that interfaces with the outside world, to be employed by the oil companies or the tourist industry, and to be employed outside the Protectorate. Because of men's more frequent interaction with wider Ecuadorian society, they are also more likely to speak Spanish.

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