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AUGUST 4th, 1989

Day two on the Mishagua River. The Yura showed me a spot where they used to ambush woodcutters before their contact. It was a great place: a high bluff where the river switched back on itself. From the bluff, they could fire their arrows from a blind, then run across the switchback and shoot at woodcutters again from the other side. The Yura told me that Pandikon shot a woodcutter through the neck right here with one of their six-foot paspis, or jagged war arrows.

Just a few days ago, I was interviewing Dishpopediba and several other Yura about their attacks on the Machiguenga, a pacific tribe that inhabits the same area. They gave me these blow-by-blow accounts of how they would surround a Machiguenga hamlet early in the morning, then launch a surprise attack. Dishpopediba told me that one time, a Machiguenga shouted, "Look out -- the Yura are attacking!" So I asked him if he spoke Machiguenga.

"No," he assured me, he didn't.

"So how did you know that the Machiguenga was saying that the Yura were attacking?" I asked.

"Because that's what he said," the chief told me, nodding confidently and surprised that I would question him on this point.

Unfortunately for the Machiguenga man, the Yura chased him through the forest and riddled him with so many arrows that he looked like a huicungo, a native palm that has a trunk covered in long black spines. After telling me about all of these innumerable attacks, I asked them if the Machiguenga ever attacked one of their villages. "Baaa," ("No") they all said solemnly, shaking their heads. The Machiguenga never attacked.

Tomorrow, the chief said, they'd show me where they had their first contact with white people, or dawa.

   
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