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Rachel Saint vs. The Huaorani
Oil and Lies? from Thy Will Be Done pages 250-251: In Rachel Saint, Cam had found the ideal visionary to lead the dangerous advance into the unknown Ecuadorian jungle. As a girl in 1942, she had dreamed of a brown tribe surrounded by green jungle. She finally arrived in SIL's Peru branch in 1949, having spent a dozen years trying to convince New Jersey's alcoholics to take the Lord's cure. The Indians should have proved easier. They didn't.
Rachel started her vision-quest with the Piro Indians along the Urubamba River, then moved on to the Shapra, in the oil-rich lands above the Maranon River. By 1953, she had settled on yet another tribe even farther north, across the border with Ecuador near the next large river, the Napo.
This tribe, in a fashion common among isolated hunting and gathering groups, called themselves simply "the people," or Huaorani. The Ecuadorians called them Auca, Quechua for "savage." Hunted by rubber slavers, the Auca had been reduced to about 400 souls scattered in four mutually warring groups by the time Robert Schneider arrived with the first SIL team in 1952. No one in the partyentertained any illusion about conquering the Aucas for Christ. No one volunteered. They all accepted the wisdom of other missionaries that the hundred Auca spearmen who had held up civilization's advance would have no compunction sending white foreigners quickly to their God of Love.
Rachel accepted the challenge as her fate. The Lord had willed that the Auca were the "brown-skinned tribe" of her vision.
Cam and Schneider took Rachel to meet President Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra. Rachel's extraordinary offer was presented by Cam to the president. Velasco tried to warn her off. The Auca were "very dangerous. I once flew over them and they threw spears at the plane."
Rachel would not be deterred. At last, Velasco sighed his assent. One of those who received the news with some misgivings was her thirty-two-year-old brother, Nate, a pilot for the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF). Nate's small yellow Piper Cub served Protestant missionaries scattered throughout the jungle. It was through Rachel's visits with him that she had heard of the Auca. Now he was beginning to wish she never had. Rachel's ambitions stood in the way.
While all this was happening, a Shell oil airplane was touring Latin America. Its most interesting passenger was General James Doolittle, the famous army pilot who had flown raids over Tokyo. Doolittle's inspection of the MAF base at Shell Mera delighted Nate.
"How's our little air force?" Doolittle asked with a twinkle in his eye. Doolittle was now a director of Shell, though his mission, at President Eisenhower's request, was to conduct a secret investigation of the CIA's covert operations.
Doolittle presented his findings to Eisenhower in October 1954. The president now had a reliable report on the CIA and the "assets," including people, it used. He gave the study to Allen Dulles with instructions to "show it to no one else, but to get back to him about the report's conclusions and recommendations." Doolittle's recommendations were in keeping with the CIA's penchant for avoiding congressional oversight. They encouraged Eisenhower to endorse more covert operations, even, ominously, illegal ones beyond "the acceptible norms of human conduct."
"Hitherto acceptible norms of human conduct do not apply. If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated, and more effective methods than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy." Eisenhower was enthusiastic about Doolittle's "Anticommunist Manifesto." Two months later, he appointed a new special assistant on Cold War strategy and psychological warfare. As the president's personal representative on the National Security Council, this man would oversee the global escalation of CIA covert warfare. A Planning Coordination Group, which came to be called simply the "Special Group," was established. In a position of authority over policy second only to the president himself and actually exercising much more power than he did, three men--CIA director Allen Dulles, Undersecretary of State Herbert Hoover, Jr., and Undersecretary of Defense Roger Kyes--would be in command, chaired by the president's new special assistant: Nelson Rockefeller. from pages 281-291 (chapter 20):
MESSENGERS OF THE SUN
Richard J. Daley, looking the model of the stocky Irish American big-city politician, was a conservative but devout Roman Catholic. The newly elected mayor of Chicago was absolute ruler of arguably the most powerful Democratic machine in the United States. Daley had not risen to power championing the ambition of Fundamentalist Protestants in Catholic countries like Ecuador. Yet here he was, officially welcoming the crowd, including members of the press, to the dedication of an airplane that would bring the Wycliffe Bible Translators into the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Standing beside Daley was Ecuador's ambassador Jose Chiriboga, who had earned a reputation for shrewdness as mayor of Quito equal to Daley's in Chicago. Only twelve years before, he had confounded his countrymen by signing over half of Ecuador's Amazon to Peru at Washington's behest. Pearl Harbor had made hemispheric unity essential, Chiriboga had explained, and the war between Ecuador and Peru had to end, even if that meant that Ecuador would lose land rumored to be coveted by Standard Oil's Peruvian subsidiary, International Petroleum Company. And now here was Chiriboga again, as ambassador of a self-described radical nationalist government, sanctioning the penetration of Ecuador's remaining Amazonian lands by a well-connected American missionary organization.
Perhaps the greatest enigma of the day was the thin, balding man who had led the dignitaries out of the hangar to watch the new airplane in a demonstration flight. William Cameron Townsend was a paradox of naivete and hard-nosed diplomacy, as innocent in purpose yet deliberately aimed as any "arrow of love" sent to Bibleless tribes by the unseen force he called Jesus. At fifty-nine, he retained his youthful exuberance and grace, smiling easily as he helped assemble the dignitaries and reporters before the plane Larry Montgomery was about to demonstrate. Only those closest to him knew his steely resolve and how it had led him across the United States' Rubicon of church-state separation to embrace the world of politics unlike any Fundamentalist missionary before him. This day marked the beginning of the Inter-American Friendship Fleet he was promoting in Washington's corridors and of the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) as an important instrument of the Cold War.
Pilot Larry Montgomery climbed aboard the small plane and taxied it away for the takeoff. It was an odd-looking craft, with a roaring, large twin-bladed propeller and a giant overhead wing with flaps so wide it seemed to hang over everything else, dwarfing the cabin. Six months before, another unusually long-winged airplane had zoomed into the stratosphere before startled onlookers, but it would be another half year before the CIA's U-2 would make its secret maiden voyage into Soviet skies. This plane, however, was ready now, and although its design came out of the same aeronautical origins as did the U-2, the Helio Courier was no secret. It could not be, for it was designed to be flown at low altitudes and low speeds, not in the heavens beyond sight and sound. Both planes would make history for the CIA. But the U-2's mission would be exposed to the world within five years the Helio's use as a CIA asset would remain virtually unknown for three more decades.
At first, the board of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) had an attack of anxiety over the expense of Cam's vision of an airborne SIL. No one could argue that the Helio Courier was a bush pilot's dream. Even the name was intriguing: Helio is the Greek word for "sun," and courier is the Latin word for "messenger." There was something romantic about evangelical linguists bringing tribes the Light of God's Word in Helio Couriers, "Messengers of the Sun." But where would they ever get another $150,000?
"Uncle Cam has always been a step ahead of us," Ken Pike had insisted. "He may be again." He was. Cam used his tested formula for success, St. Paul's advice to "honor the King." To attract recognition from U.S. officialdom, Cam called on liberals in the Rockefeller sphere of influence. He contacted a corporate-backed group of Good Neighbors he had been cultivating for years, the same Pan American Council of Chicago that Nelson Rockefeller's CIAA had supported during the war.
Cam arranged for the Pan American Council to participate in the Helio ceremony by hosting a luncheon for Ambassador Chiriboga, to be presided over by Mayor Daley and to include guests from all the city's Good Neighbor committees that were working for closer ties with Latin America. Now more than ever, SIL's future was tied to aviation as much as to linguistics. Planes were becoming the most important means for governments involved in "nation-building" in the Third World to secure, penetrate, and colonize frontiers with landless peasants. As JAARS's dedication of its air fleet to the Peruvian military has demonstrated, through Cam's negotiated contracts, SIL's most important assets--airplanes--became their assets. Airplanes were much more versatile than translators, and skilled pilots, maintenance crews, and radios were even rarer in the oil-rich jungles of the Amazon than were airplanes. In just the past year, Cam had been given the green light from two governments that were searching for oil in the jungles east of the Andes: Bolivia and Ecuador.
But all these opportunities depended, in turn, on making the Inter-American Friendship Fleet a reality. Cam had spent most of his furlough year in the United States in a fruitless effort to convince the oilmen of Tulsa that JAARS was the answer to their prayers, not just his. He needed a publicity coup to win them over and to persuade businessmen in other cities to buy the Helios he had ordered.
He tried his best in Chicago. So did Ambassador Chiriboga, who helped arrange a wiregram of support from Ecuador's President Velasco Ibarra, which Don Burns read proudly to Mayor Daley and the other attenders of the "Friendship of Chicago" dedication. But when the ceremony was over and Larry Montgomery had finished his aerial acrobatics with the Helio and gone his way to Quito for a similar ceremony there with Velasco, Cam knew it was not enough. The Chicago Tribune's small column in the back pages the next day made that fact painfully clear. He needed something bigger, something inspiring, to encourage the participation of more famous politicians to draw the crowds that donors appreciated and to cheer the donors on to write checks in recognition of JAARS's unique potential.
He returned to Arkansas, to Wycliffe's home at Sulphur Springs, from where he wrote pleas for money to unheeding fundamentalists. Then, as if from the Hand of God, lightning struck in the glint of spears.
BEHIND OPERATION AUCA
Nate Saint, the missionaries' leader, had told his wife, Marjorie, that he would call at 4:35. But that time was past, and the women were frantic. Marjorie kept calling. The jungle answered with an awful silence. Of the five men, the lean thirty-two-year-old Nate was the oldest and most experienced. A pilot with Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF), he had the most knowledge of the region and its people. His bright yellow Piper was a familiar sight throughout the Oriente or "East," as Ecuador's Amazon region east of the Andes was called. Nate was a welcome source of diesel fuel for missionary generators, mail from home, and medicine, the greatest weapon against the tribes' traditional religious leaders. For seven years, Nate had operated out of Shell Mera, the oil company's old base. There, in 1954, he met Shell director Jimmy Doolittle during the general's secret fact-finding tour of CIA covert assets for President Eisenhower. In September 1955, the same month that Ambassador Chiriboga announced that the Ecuadorian government no longer recognized the Oriente concessions of a Canadian-owned company, Peruvian Oils and Minerals Company, Nate suddenly launched Operation Auca.
It did not take much for Nate to convince the Elliots to join operation Auca. Jim, aged twenty-eight, like many fundamentalist missionaries who preceded him, had given up on the United States, where Christians "sold their lives to the service of Mammon," and had come to Romanist and heathen Latin America to save it from itself. He joined two other young recruits of the Plymouth Brethren mission, Ed McCully and Peter Fleming, in trying to bring the Fundamentalist Jesus to the Andes lowlands. After three years of inglorious service under Wilfrid Tidmarsh, strategically poised at the edge of the forbidding Auca jungle, the men were more than ready for Saint's adventure. So was a former paratrooper, Roger Youderian, who was on the verge of throwing in his missionary towel. A two-year bout for the Gospel Missionary Union trying to convert head-hunting Shuar Indians to the south had left him deperate for some victory for Christ somewhere, anywhere. Nate Saint offered a way out of defeat. There was no dispute when Nate urged a bond of secrecy, shared only with their wives.
Betty Elliot, the daughter of missionaries, was passionately evangelical. In fact, she agreed to marry Jim only after she was assured it would not interfere with her own missionary work. Betty had been part of SIL's first advance into Ecuador in 1952, when she settled among SIL's first tribe, the Colorados. When she joined Jim's work among the Quichua the following year, she apparently left behind any loyalty to SIL. She agreed not to mention Operation Auca to anyone, even Dr. Tidmarsh--and especially not to Nate Saint's sister, Rachel.
Rachel had invaded Nate's turf to study the "brown tribe in the green forest" of her vision: the Auca. Whatever Betty understood of Nate's rivalry with his older sister or of JAARS's rivalry with MAF over the future of missionary aviation in the Amazon was subsumed under more powerful, unseen forces that placed her with both the Colorados and the Auca. The immediate economic issue in both cases was oil. The political forces included Nelson Rockefeller. In 1948, the year Betty Elliot graduated from college and began her linguistic studies, Nelson Rockefeller's close friend from CIAA days, Galo Plaza, was elected president of Ecuador. Galo Plaza took office just when Standard Oil and Shell Oil had decided to suspend exploration in Ecuador's Oriente. Though no one would admit it, Middle Eastern oil was to take precedence. Caught between protests by his own Congress and the demands of the visiting chief of the U.S. Caribbean Command, Galo Plaza chose to tell his people, "The Oriente is a myth." No one in Ecuador believed it. Nor did any Americans who were familiar with the Oriente. Only two years before, Colonel Leonard Clark, a U.S. Army officer with much experience in the Oriente, had revealed that Ecuador's Amazonian oil reserves were similar to those in the Middle East.
Despite mounting protests, Galo Plaza discouraged even agricultural colonization in the Ecuadorian Amazon, arguing "Ecuador must concentrate on the coastal lands" instead. And for good reason. His former legal client, United Fruit Company, was focusing on Ecuador's tropical coast to replace its disease-ravaged plantations in Central America.
To help convince his people, Galo Plaza turned to an old friend and expert in psychological warfare, Nelson Rockefeller. Nelson was already in close contact with United Fruit officials, having consulted with them on their new agricultural techniques and accounting practices for his International Basic Economy Corporation (IBEC).* One of United Fruit's top executives had been a division chief for the CIAA. [*In 1948, Nelson had taken his eldest son, Rodman, with him to visit United Fruit's agricultural school in Honduras and was apparently considering asking the Boston firm to lend an expert to inspect IBEC's operations. The Rockefellers' Chase National Bank, with his brother David in charge of Latin American operations, was already involved in Ecuador's banana plantations through its client, Standard Fruit Company. Chase also had an interest in United Fruit Company and was represented on United Fruit's board by Chase's chairman, John J. McCloy.]
When Nelson got Galo Plaza's call for help, he responded immediately, sending in an IBEC survey team. IBEC recommended intensifying export production with new technology, particularly in agriculture. Ecuador should diversify its cash products beyond cacao and coffee and expand cattle ranches in the Andean highlands. Investments, financed by foreign loans and local capital, should be made in building roads into the coastal interior and the highlands to reach resources and serve commercial interests. A food industry should be developed to help replace the Indians' subsistence farming with a distribution system that was more appropriate to wage labor. All these projects would be implemented by Point IV technicians who came on the heels of Galo Plaza's triumphant June 1951 visit to Washington. The visit reached its grand finale at the Rockefellers' Pocantico Hills estate, where Nelson, as chairman of Point IV's International Development Advisory Board (IDAB), threw a luncheon in his honor. The initial bills and the longer-term bonded debt with Chase and other New York banks would be underwritten, of course, by the banana boom inspired by United Fruit's massive purchases. Banana zones would spread from the southern state of El Oro up the tropical Guayas River Basin north of Guayaquil, pushing up the Daule River and toward virgin lands of the Colorado Indians.
It was not long before Galo Plaza concluded that the old-time Spanish-speaking American missionaries were not enough. The exotic-tongued Colorados, named by the Spanish for the brilliant red-orange luster in their annatto seed-dyed hair, needed a unique approach. They had never been subjugated. Looking over the Cardenas biography Cam had sent him, Galo Plaza decided that SIL could provide the special touch. Cam signed the contract in 1952, just before Galo Plaza turned over the reins not to his designated heir, Chiriboga, but to his bitter opponent, Velasco Ibarra.
Velasco had always been sure that there was indeed oil in the Oriente. In 1953, his government had passed new petroleum laws and signed new exploration contracts with Canada's Peruvian Oils and Minerals Company. By 1955, when Velasco's patience with Peruvian Oils ended, SIL had dutifully shifted its focus to the Amazon and brought in Rachel Saint. The Chicago dedication of the Helio Courier for Ecuador signaled that Nate Saint's reign over the Oriente skies was about to end.
Nate had spent the past three months flying over an Auca village he called Terminal City, showering it with candy, pots, combs, tools, machetes, and even photos of the smiling men holding the same gifts to familiarize the Indians with their suitors. He had made fourteen drops in all. If he did not occupy Auca territory soon, Rachel would. She was making rapid progress in the Auca language with Dayuma, an Auca woman who had fled the tribe's internecine warfare for a life of peonage on a local plantation.
Nate had last seen Rachel just before he flew his expedition to "Palm Beach," his code name for the strip of beach on the Curaray that could serve as a landing strip for his piper. He made no mention of his plans. Nor did he ask Rachel for help, knowing that his sister "was very possessive over the Aucas," Betty later recalled, "and was convinced that God had intended her to be the only one to work with the Aucas." Nate feared that his sister would set up obstacles or "feel obligated to divulge this information to save me the risks involved." Now, Betty and the other wives listened in vain for some signs of life from the radio in Nate's plane. Unable to bear the silence any longer, they broke the vow of secrecy and called for help.
The next day, after a missionary flight spotted Nate's wrecked plane on the beach, JAARS sprang into action. Larry Montgomery contacted the U.S. Caribbean Command at the Panama Canal, which immediately dispatched an air force commando to head up a helicopter and overland rescue. In New York, Henry Luce at Time-Life dispatched photographer Cornell Capa, who captured the eerie, fog-shrouded scene for Life's millions of readers. The commando team, armed with carbines, landed at Palm Beach and found the five men floating in the Curaray River, Auca spears protruding from their bodies, some of which had been angrily hacked with the same machetes that had been given as gifts. The commandos managed to recover four of the bodies and hastily buried them under the driving rain of a sudden tropical storm. Early the next morning, they marched through the dawn mist down the beach to their motorized canoes and helicopter, leaving the Auca to their jungle and their oil.
Back at Shell Mera, a missionary reported the grim news to the wives. Operation Auca was over, he said. In fact, it had just begun.
RACHEL'S MARTYRS Two weeks later, Henry Luce published Capa's photos, along with those the five men had taken at Palm Beach before their deaths. The photos and their diaries told a sorry tale of evangelical high hopes that were fatally flawed by linguistic ignorance.
At an initial meeting with three friendly Auca, Nate's group found they could not understand a word the Indians said. They tried to compensate with gifts and tried to be as polite as possible in rejecting what they believed was a reciprocal peace offering--one of the two Indian women. Nate even gave the man a flight over Terminal City he "shouted all the way over and back," noted Nate, who thought the Indian "thoroughly enjoyed the trip." Still, when the Indians left and did not return the next day, nate wondered if he and the other men had done something wrong. Two days later, shortly after scribbling "heart heavy that they fear us," in his diary, he got his answer. Reconnoitering over the area in his yellow Piper, Nate spotted a large group of Indians moving along the beach in the direction of the missionaries' camp. These were the Indians he thought would join the missionaries for Sunday afternoon service when he radioed Shell Mera the good news of an expected 2:30 visit and promised to call back at 4:35. His estimate of the Indians' arrival was not far off. Five days later, when his body was pulled from the river, his watch had stopped at 3:12.
It was assumed that the missionaries had fired their rifles into the air and, when that did not work, chose death rather than kill the Indians. Life magazine published a gripping account of Christian martyrdom, which caused a worldwide sensation. The doors of nationally known politicians, such as Vice President Nixon and former president Harry Truman, now opened to Cam's Helio promotions.
Planes were given to the governments of Latin American and Southeast Asian nations, but they were operated by SIL. The Spirit of Kansas City, accepted formally by ex-President Galo Plaza and by Chiriboga in Truman's presence, went to Ecuador the Friendship of Oklahoma was given to Bolivia and the Friendship of Orange County, dedicated by Nixon, now belonged to Peru. President Magsaysay sent his warm endorsement of two Helios that would be operated by SIL "under the supervision of the Phillippine Air Force." He would also support Cam's ambition to help out in the holy war in Vietnam. Magsaysay wrote letters of introduction for SIL's Richard Pittman to take to Diem. Pittman arrived in Saigon in January 1956 just after the Auca murders hit the headlines. "I was apprehensive," Pittman recalled of his first meeting with Diem, "but...he gave me a very friendly reception. His only caution was that we would 'have to be careful of infiltrators.'"
A year later, U.S. Embassy officials welcomed the first SIL team's participation in intensive language classes at Saigon. SIL's incorporation into Edward Lansdale's "nation-building" for Diem had begun. As SIL's vistas began to expand to these tropical horizons of the Cold War, Cam was anxious to strike the anvil of publicity while it was hot. Public interest in missionaries ebbed and flowed with political tides. He contacted Rachel Saint and told her how he prayed "that the time would come when you would be able to introduce your brother's killer to the president of Ecuador." Could she come back to the United States for a speaking tour?
Rachel was sure that she could testify that the Auca's destiny did belong to her brother's sacrifice. It merely confirmed her prophetic visions. The shedding of Nate's blood atoned for the sins of the Auca (as she insisted on calling the Huaorani, even after learning their language), sanctifying her own calling to bring them out of Satan's realm. To Rachel, the portrait of tribal life rendered by Dayuma, her informant on the Huaorani language, verified her own belief in a universe molded by the struggle between Good and Evil. Dayuma spoke in a trembling voice of her grandfather's tales of Winae, the small vampire of the forest night. In these stories Rachel saw not the normal human fear of a jungle full of predators and rubber slavers, but the power of Satan himself. In her mind, there was no question that the tribe's traditional shaman was a witch doctor doing Satan's bidding. Likewise, she was sure that the Indians' polygamy had dark metaphysical, not cultural, roots. The fact that her own brother had suffered martyrdom at the hands of at least one of Dayuma's brothers was another intimate sign of deep Christian meaning in the Auca destiny of salvation through blood atonement. In June 1957, Dayuma and Rachel began Cam's whirlwind tour of twenty-seven American cities. A legend was being born.
Ralph Edwards's television show, This Is Your Life, made Rachel Saint the most famous missionary in the United States and, next to Albert Schweitzer, probably in the world. Overnight 30 million Americans could recognize the woman with intense eyes who had dedicated her life to converting her brother's killers. Television cameras focused on the startled Dayuma, her ears distended by wooden plugs. A month later, on Sunday, July 7, Rachel and Dayuma stood in the spotlight before thousands of people who were packed into New York's Madison Square Garden for the Billy Graham Crusade. Rachel and Dayuma's appearance at the Graham Crusade, filmed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Corporation for sale and distribution as part of the $60,000 movie Miracle in Manhattan, netted SIL only $4,230 when the hat was passed. But the exposure before millions on television--and before thousands of fundamentalists who were bused in each night to fill 7,000 seats out of a 20,000-seat capacity--was worth much more. Reader's Digest owner DeWitt Wallace, who gave a $25,000 tax-deductible donation to the crusade, wired cam that his top editor would be flying down to Peru to do a story on SIL.
All was not easy, however. During the tour, Dayuma received audiotapes from Betty Elliot of greetings and news from her aunts in Ecuador. The news included a report that her older brother, Wawae, had been killed and the stunning revelation that her younger brother, Nampa, had died too--from a gunshot wound inflicted by one of the martyrs. But Dayuma's rage was kept under wraps during her extended leave.
If the true account of Nampa's death nullified at least one American candidate for sainthood, Rachel never admitted it. The possibility that it had been her brother who had done the shooting would have tainted, if not canceled out, the blood debt owed her by the Huaorani. Nate's death would be seen as an atonement not for the tribe's sins, but, rather, for his own. Killing an Indian was bad enough. Killing someone who believed he was only defending his land from invaders was a curious way for a missionary to demonstrate Christ's life of love and self-sacrifice. If such a failure of will to follow Christ to Calvary was admitted, much less excused as an understandable bending to the instinct for survival, then how could Rachel or any other missionary demand that the Huaorani not do likewise--against whites at Palm Beach or even each other?
The decision of the SIL board in September 1957 to name the jungle base it was building at Limoncocha just north of Huaorani territory not after Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, and the other Brethren martyrs, but after Cam's friend, Dawson Trotman, who had drowned the previous summer while saving a young swimmer, spared SIL public embarrassment in the future when doubts about Rachel's martyrs would grow. Trotman had been a consistent and loyal backer of JAARS and SIL, serving on both boards and supplying recruits from his own evangelical organization, the Navigators.
Trotman also had been Cam's liaison with the growing Billy Graham organization. He had worked for Graham since the early crusades and had just finished helping him with a follow-up for the Oklahoma Crusade when he died. Graham, like Cam, appreciated the congruence of oil wealth and evangelism in the Bible Belt. Soon Cam would invite the evangelist to join Wycliffe's board, and Graham would accept.
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