Chamacoco, Tomaraho in Paraguay

Chamacoco, Tomaraho
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People Name: Chamacoco, Tomaraho
Country: Paraguay
10/40 Window: No
Population: 1,800
World Population: 1,800
Primary Language: Chamacoco
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Christian Adherents: 3.00 %
Evangelicals: 2.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: South American Indigenous
Affinity Bloc: Latin-Caribbean Americans
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Chamacoco are an indigenous group native to Paraguay. They are broken into two subgroups: the river-residing Ebytoso (AKA, Yshyr), and the forest-dwelling Tomaraho. The Tomaraho have protected their traditional way of life by living in isolated locations. Prior to the 1970s, both Chamacoco groups were stereotyped as a hostile and secluded people.

During the Chaco War (1932-1935), they sided with Paraguayan soldiers in the fight against the Bolivians. When the war ended, they lost their territories and had to negotiate their ethnic survival with Paraguayan settlers and new landowners. Meanwhile, many suffered from debt slavery in logging camps, where their population declined. In the 1980s, the Chamacoco peoples were resettled away from their tribal lands.

In Paraguay they inhabit the Alto Paraguay department along the coast of the Paraguay River, along with small groups that have migrated to other departments. The Ybytoso speak Yshyr while the Tomaraho have a different dialect.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Today, the Tomaraho Chamacoco people are fading in both population and culture. The natural resources in their homeland are quickly diminishing, and they are not adjusting well to the new situation. It’s very possible the Tomaraho Chamacoco will disappear. Young people migrate to the cities of Paraguay, abandoning their customs and often denying their origin to avoid being looked down upon.

Their original language, Yshyr, is endangered. Those who speak this language precariously subsists through farming, hunting, fishing and collecting honey and caranda palms. They also obtain income from making handicrafts.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Traditional spiritual beliefs were heavily influenced by the Tomaraho Chamacoco mythology. One such story is the “Big Myth,” which tells of the people’s origin. In this myth, the gods, known as “ahnapzöro,” dwelt among men until mankind’s rebellion. One god, Nemur, created the Paraguay River to separate himself from men.

An additional spiritual belief is the tradition of the “balut.” The balut functioned as spokespeople for animals, enforcing hunting limits.

What Are Their Needs?

The the Tomaraho Chamacoco need to put Christ first in their lives. Their faith is divided between Jesus Christ and the spirit world.

Prayer Points

Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the translation of the Bible, and may God provide resources to complete it as soon as possible.
Pray for spiritual growth in established churches.
Pray that there be a clear understanding of the gospel message among the people who do not know Christ.
Pray for the youth to have interest in spiritual matters, drawing them to Jesus Christ.

Text Source:   Joshua Project