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The Abipones (Abipónes in Spanish, singular Abipón) were an indigenous nation of Argentina's Gran Chaco, part of the Guaycuru languages linguistic group.[1]. They ceased to exist as an ethnic group in the early 19th century.[2] A small number of survivors assimilated into Argentine society.

Contents

History

The Abipones originally occupied the Chaco region of Paraguay, east of the Paraná River[1] They were originally a seasonally mobile people of hunters, gatherers, fishers and to a limited extent farmers.[2]

In 1641 the Abipones had already obtained the horse from the Spanish settlers and abandoned farming for cattle and horse raiding. By that time they still lived north of the Bermejo River[3] They became feared by their neighbours and the Spanish farmers, and even threatened major cities.[2][3]

It is likely they were driven south of their original range by the Spaniards and other native tribes, such as the Tobas.[3] They were finally concentrated in the Argentinian territory lying between Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero,[1] between the Rio Bermejo on the north and the Salado River on the south.[3]

From 1710 a major military effort by the Spanish began gradually to impose authority on the Abipones.[2] By 1750 Jesuit missions had been established among them (chiefly by Martin Dobrizhoffer, who had been a missionary in Paraguay for eighteen years[3]), and they had been Christianized[3] and forced to become sedentary.[2] The colonies had incessant trouble with Spanish settlers, and were often raided by the Tobas and the Moobobis, another warlike tribe. [3]

By 1768 over half of the Abipones had succumbed to disease.[2] and they numbered not more than 5,000.[4] The expuslion of the Jesuits by the Spaniards in that year was fatal for the Abipones. When they attempted to resume their former lifestyles they found their traditional lands occupied by settlers and other nations.[2] The Tobas and Moobobis, aided by disease, destroyed them as a nation in the course of less than half a century.[3] The survivors assimilated into the general Argentinian population.[2] They learned to speak Spanish, and abandoned their old customs.

The last speaker of the Abipón language is believed to have died in the 19th century.[2]

Appearance and customs

According to Martin Dobrizhoffer, who lived lived among them for a period of seven years,[1] the Abipones were a well-formed, handsome people, with black eyes and aquiline noses, and thick black hair. They had most of the customs of the Guaycuru, including the couvade.[3] They plucked out their hair from the forehead to the crown, as a tribal mark. The faces, breasts and arms of the women were tattooed with black figures of various designs, and the lips and ears of both sexes were pierced.[4] The men were brave fighters, their chief weapons being the bow and spear.[4] Even Abipón women were reputedly aggressive and held considerable power in their people's religious rites.[2] In battle the Abipones wore an armour of tapir's hide over which a jaguar's skin was sewn.[4]

The Abipones were good swimmers and horsemen. During the five months of the floods season, they lived on islands or even in shelters built in the trees.[4]

The Abipones seldom married before the age of thirty, and were singularly chaste.[4] Charles Darwin reported that "With the Abipones when a man chooses a wife, he bargains with the parents about the price. But it frequently happens that the girl rescinds what has been agreed upon between the parents and bridegroom, obstinately rejecting the very mention of marriage. She often runs away and hides herself, and thus eludes the bridegroom."[5] Infanticide was systematic, never more than two children being reared in one family.[1] The young were suckled for two years.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition (1911).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j John Mackenzie (ed.), Peoples, Nations and Cultures.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Adolph Francis Bandelier (1907) Wikisource-logo.svg "Abipones". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Abipones.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f Martin Dobrizhoffer (1784), Historia de Abiponibus (Vienna; in Latin). English translation by Sara Coleridge (1822), 'An Account of the Abipones (3 vols.).
  5. ^ Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

External links

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