Wichi Tribe ARGENTINA

WICHI

The Wichí are an indigenous people of South America. They are a large group of tribes ranging about the headwaters of the Bermejo River and the Pilcomayo River, in Argentina and Bolivia.

POPULATION

18 groups in the north-west of Chaco. Many communities in Formosa, departments of Bermejo , Matacos, Patiño and Ramón Lista. Other communities are located in Salta, departments of San Martín , Rivadavia, some of them with just a few individuals, Orán, Metán and Anta, being the latter three more isolated; and in Jujuy, departments of Santa Bárbara, San Pedro and Ledesma.

LANGUAGE

Wichi are the most widely spoken languages of the Matacoan language family, and include three languages:

Wichí Lhamtés Vejoz

Wichí Lhamtés Güisnay

Wichí Lhamtés Nocten.

TRIBE NAME

The Wichi tribe is also called Mataco. They are the largest and most economically important group of the Chaco indians.

GENDER ROLES

Almost everything the Wichi people do is equal. The men usually fish and hunt with a club or a bow and women do all the other work. The Wichi people consider everyone equal. No one is higher than the others.

RELIGON

The Wichi are Christians. They believe in good spirit and bad spirit. When a tribe member dies they believe that the dead persons spirit is reincarnated into an animal.

GOVERNMENT

They don't have a government, but in 2004 the government of Salta let outsiders live and hunt on the Wichi's land. Then the Salta's government sold part of Wichi's land to two private companies.

FAMILY LIFE

The Wichi live in small mud houses with roofs made of leaves and branches. The houses are well adapted to the heat of the summer. They get food from hunting, fishing, and gardening.They encircle their gardens with thorn bushes so the cattle don't eat their plants.

CULTURE

The Wichi's team sport is yah ha la which is like the lacrosse. The purpose of the game is lost but there is still heavy gambling and is still a fun sport. They use scraps of materials to make crafts. All items are hand crafted in scented wood, finished, and polished. They prefer to use chips and scraps, so they don't waste trees.

LAND

The Wichí traditionally supported themselves by hunting, fishing, and growing food in small gardens. Their land was once fertile grassland and forest which supported them and provided them with all their needs.

But the introduction of cattle onto their land has turned it into a dry sandy desert, leaving them vulnerable to periods of real hunger and starvation, and much more dependent on occasional employment by outsiders for their survival.

THE PROBLEM

The Wichí’s land has steadily been invaded over the last 100 years. Since then, loggers have felled their forest, and settlers have introduced cattle. These cattle not only turn the land already stolen from the Wichí into desert, but also break into the tiny plots of land which the Wichí have managed to hold on to, destroying their crops.The Wichí have been left almost landless and without their livelihood. The local Salta authorities have, since 1966, repeatedly promised to recognise Indian territory in their province – but have failed to fulfil one single promise.

On the contrary, they have worked with the landowners to continue to deny the Wichí their land, handing it to settlers, and authorising its deforestation.The local government wants to build a trunk road connecting the bridge into Paraguay to the state highway system, opening up the area to further commercialisation.

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