Mike & Bev Creiglow

Missionaries to Brazil

Ashaninkas in Peru


The visit to Nuevo Eden was a first. This is a new village that some of the Indians from Dulce Glória started. It is about 10 miles further into the jungle than the location where the Ashaninka family was ambushed and murdered about 5 years ago. The tribe that did this is still unidentified. The Ashaninka claim they are cannibals, but I have my doubts. We do know that they roam the general region of the Pichiaco River (tributary of the Juruá which we passed to our left 10 miles before arriving at Nuevo Eden.) They come out to the Juruá in the summer time, but during the rainy season stay further inland.

In case some of you don't know the full story, here is what we know. About 5 years ago an Ashaninka family from Dulce Glória had gone up to the mouth of the Pichiaco River to hunt and fish. The Ashaninkas are totally at home in the jungle and literally live off the land. They still hunt and fish with homemade bows and arrows. All along the river we see their lean to's and even see them camped out. They may spend months living in these improvised shelters on the beaches. The family was ambushed by this band of "wild" Indians. The husband was out hunting. The wife and 2 children were at their camp on the beach. The wife and one of the children were killed on the spot. The little Ashaninka boy had an arrow in him, but managed to escape and find his dad. They came down river to Tipisca called for help to get the boy to a doctor. He was taken to Pucalpa and survived. In the mean time the Ashaninkas were getting ready for a hunting party. One of the chiefs told me that they estimate that there are 40,000 Ashaninkas along the border. Many of them from several local villages converged at Dulce Glória to decide what to do. A government helicopter landed there, unloaded several crates with shotguns and shells, then took off without a word. The message was, "Deal with it!" They did. They tracked down the murderous tribe. I have talked to several of the men who were on the mission and although they are reluctant to say much, we know they killed around 50 men, women and children.

One of the older men, Yori, who participated has since been saved. I baptized him about 3 years ago. On this trip he told us that he killed 5 men himself. He said that they were so rattled by firearms (they had never seen anything like that) it was pandemonium. Yori said, "Indians didn't know how to hide, so it was just bang, bang, bang." Yori doesn't seem to have any qualms about what happened. It was probably just like hunting animals to him. None of this got into the news. In fact we only heard faint rumors about it here in Cruzeiro do Sul. There has never been an investigation. The Peruvian government is probably quite content with the outcome. Nobody knows the location beside those who were there and they are telling. The shotguns have since been traded for pots and machetes. Since they can not get ammunition, why keep the guns. Officially, all of this is just hearsay. It happened, but there is no physical evidence. Sometimes it seems a little unreal that I should be living near and preaching to people that have gone through these times and things. In some twisted way, I guess it is a privilege.

Anyway, I have been through the area, preached to the Ashaninkas again and am home without a scratch!

I took my faithful sidekick, Hudson, with me. Pastor Eliésio was also invited. He is pastor of the church at Assis Brasil and is one of our most committed partners in the mission work. We picked up Missionary Tito at Tipisca, Peru. Tito is a full blooded Chipibo Indian and is our first foreign missionary. Hudson is fairly relaxed on these trips when he is with me. He has seen my calm, easy going manner. He has also seen the garbage I eat and seen the way I try to fit into the surroundings. He has seen me fall asleep in the bow of the canoe while going through potentially dangerous and hostile settings. He has become a great asset to our work. He is tough as nails and never complains. Eliésio was visibly nervous. He didn't know what we were getting him into. He did great though. When we crossed the border back into Brazil he exclaimed, "Thank God, we are safely home!" We were still over 300 miles up river from Cruzeiro do Sul!!!! This may sound strange to you, but this is great fun for me and I am quite comfortable even considering where we were. I have no vocation to live and work among the tribes, but it is so good to be able to share the Gospel with them and see the difference it makes in their lives. I don't speak Ashaninka and very little Spanish, but the Holy Spirit just takes over and gets the job done.

The day we arrived at Nuevo Eden an older lady who I had baptized in the Breu River a few years ago came out to greet me. In very poor Spanish she said, "Miguel, you are the one who told me about Christ and you baptized me. I remember." As H. H. Overbey often said, "Now that's living!"

One of the first things we saw, as we carried our things up the river bank, was a woman making caissuma. They boil manioc, mash it in a vat and as they mash they also put part of it into their mouths to chew. Every few minutes they spit this back into the pot. This is supposed to speed up the fermentation process. It turns into an alcoholic beverage. Nasty, from start to finish. No, I don't touch the stuff. I have had some of the non alcoholic. Its nasty, too, believe me. The Indians are always asking us for our farinha. It is such a shame that they plant so much manioc just to make booze, but won't take the effort to make farinha.

At this village they don't go hungry though. There is plenty of fish and game. They have planted many fruit trees. They gave us each a ripe papaya and biribá. They have also planted cocoanuts, sugar cane, ingá and other tropical fruit. The chief asked me if I can help market their bean crop this year. He expects to have a half ton to sell. They are planting rice, too.

We arrived about 1:00PM and most of the men were either out in the jungle working. Some were fishing. Others were working the crops. Another group was working on a new dugout canoe. A couple of hours later they all came in at the same time. They greeted us, took a dip in the river and put on their clean robes. Then it was time for school. The chief knows how to read and write a little. They have a thatch roof, dirt floor with some rough hewn logs as seats and desks. There is a small painted board which serves as blackboard. At this point he teaches them just how to read, write and recognize simple syllables. The students looked to be age 6 to 60, literally. They keep repeating the same sounds over and over. Is there a contect to reality? Who knows? I admire their discipline though. They seem to understand that this is something they need to do to improve their life.

We held services in the school house, or should I say, "school hut"? There were about 50 people there. Tito led the singing. I played the keyboard. Most of the songs were in their language. One or two were in Spanish. I only knew one of these songs. I don't even ask Tito what key a particular song will be in anymore. It seems that everything has been written in G major! There is the occasional E minor. Many of the songs are medleys, so just chord along for 10 minutes in G major and it will end eventually. The little Honda generator, string of lights, amplifier and keyboard are all interesting to them, but what gets them going is the digital camera. When you show them a picture of themselves they laugh, make fun of each other and just about knock you off your feet to get a look.

One of the villagers was down river, so they let us stay in his hut. The huts are all on stilts 4 or 5 feet above the ground, have bark floors and thatch roofs. Bev wanted to know how you get up to the floor. They have an 8 to 10 foot pole with shallow notches, which is the stair case. The height of the floor keeps them above flood waters, a limited amount of insects and the dogs.

Speaking of insects…The name of this new village is Nuevo Eden or as you probably already figured out, New Eden. I rather imagine that this is a very low grade copy of Eden. There may be a few things that are similar to Eden, but all kinds of blood sucking insects in swarms remind me of how far we have fallen from the original.

  • YORI