1 As Whitten has shown, whiteness was, in colonial times, associated with the nobility of Spanish descent, but after independence, it increasingly became a relational and processual term known as blanqueamiento, a process associated with civilisation and social mobility. The migrants colonising the empty lands in Amazonia were not necessarily ‘white’ in substantial terms – they were often of Kichwa (Runa) descent – but were identified as such either because of their lighter skin or their superior social and economic status.

2 The organisation OISSE was formed in 1976 and consisted of the members of the Siona and Secoya indigenous peoples, who after 1942–43 intermarried and lived together at the Cuyabeno River. In the 1990s, urged by the emerging indigenous movement promoting identification as indigenous ‘nationalities’, the organization split in two. The Secoya organisation first took the name OISE, Organisación Indigena Secoya de Ecuador, but later changed its name to NASIEPAI, Nacionalidad Sieko-pai (NASIEPAI 2014).

4 This is in line with other recent scholarly work describing indigenous peoples’ perception of their relationship to the state and other powerful outsiders as a predator-prey relationship (Fausto 2007; Viveiros de Castro 2012; Rival 2017). Viveiros de Castro argues that to Amerindian groups, dealing with alien and spirit beings is somehow analogous to dealing with such outsiders, both being dangerous endeavours; supernatural encounters in the forest are ‘a kind of indigenous proto-experience of the State’ (2012: 37). Encounters with jaguars, spirits – and states – involve a fear of being captured under an ‘other’ dominant ‘point of view’. This fear, which corresponds to the fear of being prey to a jaguar that sees you before you see it, demands either ‘incorporation of the other or by the other’ (ibid.). This question of incorporation of the other quite unexpectedly also involved tree beings, as I shall return to in the following sections.


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