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Report from Activist: Nampa, Steve Saint and End of the Spear - Dodging Question
Jan 2006

Activist Report, Missionaries, Huaorani and the Death of Nampa

What has got to be the biggest flaw in the film "End of the Spear" is that it omits the fact that there WERE Huaorani HIT by the bullets that were fired at Palm Beach. And this is a really crucial matter, because in the propaganda around the film the claim keeps being made that "the missionaries didn't even USE their guns," "They willingly gave their lives," etc. And it's crucial because much is made of the civilized peoples' 'forgiveness' and 'showing God's love', and no one seems to notice that the Huaorani themselves had to cope with the loss of one of their own at the hands of the missionaries, and in not taking further revenge against the missionary families, they were themselves showing forgiveness before the missionary women 'taught' them how to love, 'showed the God's love', etc..... If you have seen the film, you'll remember that they DO show one of the missionaries shooting into the air, and one of the Huaorani women grabbing his arm. According to the book excerpts below, that does seem to be one somewhat valid version of the story. It's the Steve Saint version as well, that the "the shootings of Nampa and Dawa were accidents".

Read more.....
One big point we would like to emphasize is that THIS IS A RECRUITMENT FILM. We don't believe it should be treated as just another 'bad film' with inaccurate information about first nations, and reviewers should not treat it as if the misrepresentation of the Huaorani is actually harmless and will it be forgotten soon anyway. This story has been used for FIFTY YEARS very successfully to raise funds and recruit many overzealous young missionaries who have gone out and tried to do what the "martyrs" did, in the belief they would perhaps get to becaome 'heroes of the faith' or be duly rewrded in heaven.

Already churches around the United States are using the "curriculum" built around the feature film, the 'documentary', and the CARTOON version of the story to train the "next generation".

A little digression now: "The Jim Elliot Story", an animated whitewash even worse than the Every Tribe and Bearing Fruit productions, was available at the recent Missions Fest Northwest in Portland, Oregon, on the same table as the End of the Spear promotional materials and Steve Saint's books (Mincaye himself was even manning the table at one point). It was produced for children "ages 8-12" by the Christian History Institute [ chinstitute.org] in collaboration with Voice of the Martyrs and Torchlighters [ torchlighters.org].

Included in the DVD case is a tract which tells Elliot's story and states this at one point:

"...As they turned they saw a group of Auca warriors with their spears raised, ready to throw. Jim Elliot reached for the gun in his pocket. He had to decide instantly if he should use it. But he knew he couldn't. Each of the missionaries had promised they would not kill an Auca who did not know Jesus to save himself from being killed."

The tract encourages kids to visualize the story through activities and has a crossword puzzle in which the question is asked: "What weapon did Jim carry but not use when meeting the Indians?" And in the quiz section: "Jim chose not to use a gun to protect himself when attacked by the Aucas. Why? What would you have done and why?"

(haven't had enough yet? the tract gives us some suggested reading, too:

Tract 1
Tract 2

and books on Elliot by three different authors, one published by YWAM)

At Missions Fest itself the event organizers milked the story- with Steve Saint and Mincaye there collaborating- for all it was worth...The leading pastor there asked all people under the age of 25 in the congregation to stand, and asked the rest of the congregation if they would financially support all the young people standing (in their task of world evangelization), to which the answer was an emphatic YES, and he promised rewards from God would come to those who put money in the ushers' plates....

After a little research we found out there are several different versions of the story of Nampa's death (if you aren't familiar with him, he was Dayuma's brother, and he was supposedly the one whose idea it was to attack the missionaries at Palm Beach). The one thing that's not in question: whether it was by accident or not, Nampa was shot - and that was completely omitted from the film. Jim Hanon, writer and director of the film, has some explaining to do.

Here's an excerpt from David Stoll's book "Wycliffe Bible Translators: Fishers of Men or Founders of Empire?" from page 305:

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..............Accounts of the Palm Beach martyrdom had changed over the years in undeclared homage to Dayuma's younger brother Nampa, who died some weeks or months after the missionaries. According to Ethel Wallis, word that Nampa was no longer alive led to Dayuma's last rebellion before rejoining her people in 1958. Strangely, this important news took 'a few days' to emerge in non-stop conversation with Aunts Maengamo and Mintaka.

It came up as Dayuma pondered the death of Nate Saint. And Dayuma turned on Rachel as if she were to blame: 'I am never going back...I won't teach you any more of my language-' [Wallis 1971:141] Even more strangely, according to Elizabeth Elliot she had already learned of Nampa's death in the tape exchanges [Elliot 1961:63].

The likely cause of Dayuma's revolt was not the fact of Nampa's death but how he had died, in the words of the 1980 Kingsland account: 'The aunts described with great relish the wound in his head from one of the missionaries' rifles...." [Kingsland 1980:107] Yet the aunts blamed Nampa's death on witchcraft and a boa constrictor, leading Wallis to conclude that Nampa 'had been cruelly crushed by a boa while hunting in the forest. Black and blue and very ill, he lingered for a month. He had been cursed by the down-river Indians, Maengamo said, and finally died a horrible death' [Wallis 1971:141,199,212].

Saint was aware of the bullet no later than her 1960 epilogue to "The Dayuma Story." Here, reportedly as she learned from Gikita in his hour of confession and faith, we read that 'one bullet grazed the head of young Nampa,' who was 'hiding behind the plane' as the missionaries shot 'into the air' [Saint 1971:221]. The trajectory of the magic bullet is corrected in Saint's 1965 epilogue to "The Dayuma Story," as reported by her second convert Dawa. Now the accident occurs when Dayuma's own mother Akawo grabbed for a missionary gun and a shot went off, grazing her own son who was hiding in the forest on the other side of the plane [Saint 1965:290].

The enduring result of the Saint-Huao exchanges on Palm Beach was the most noble, graceful death to which Huao enemies have ever been priveleged: 'One by one the foreigners had fallen. Although they fired shots into the air, warning the Aucas that they had means of defense, they chose to be killed by Auca spears' [Wallis 1973:44]. In 1959, Huao informants told Saint that one of the missionaries had climbed onto the plane, looked back and rejoined his comrades (implication brother Nate)[Saint 1971:221]. A few years later Mincayi told her that the action had been much too fast for such heroism: 'before [her previous informants] were afraid' and this was 'talking wild' - Huao for nonsense [Saint 1965:290].

In early 1974 Erwin Patzelt interviewed one of Saint's legendary 'five killers' at Dayuno. From Nimonga, through Zoila and Pedro Chimbo as interpreters, he heard about the sixth casualty of Palm Beach. On Patzelt's tape, with Nimonga in the background, Chimbo explains that the last missionary to die shot Nampa as if he were trying to save himself. Later Patzelt asked Dayuma's son Sam Padilla what had happened to his uncle Nampa. 'He died after the massacre of the five missionaries,' Sam replies on Patzelt's tape. 'Why?' presses Patzelt. 'With sickness, I believe,' answers Sam. In June, Patzelt presented his evidence to Sam, eliciting the taped statement that 'one of the bullets came out and hit [Nampa] in the head, but it was not deliberate, it was an accident which happened. After the five were killed, Nampa was a little bad, he went home, felt bad and nearly died. The bullet was still in his head....After some months he died from the effect of the bullet.'

When El Comercio mentioned Patzelt's version of Palm Beach in April 1974, SIL protested but also asked its new anthropologist to investigate. James Yost discovered that 'he met a boa and he died' was the first Tigueno response to inquiries. Perhaps a month after Palm Beach, the story went, Dayuma's brother had gone hunting by himself. On his way home he encountered a boa coming out of a hole. The boa talked to him. Nampa tried to run away but the boa talked to him again. 'Now I know I'm going to die because the boa has spoken to me,' Nampa said.

Obviously this was a spirit boa, one associated with sorcery, which animists may regard as the cause of death even when they know that something else was the immediate agency. Whether the bullet lodged in Nampa's head or left a furrow which became infected, Yost's Tigueno interviews led him to believe that Nampa had not died from a boa attack but probably because of the bullet wound. When he asked Nimonga how the missionaries had shot Nampa accidentally if he was in hiding, Nimonga laughed and said Nampa had come armed with a spear to kill. Contrary to her earlier 'five killers' motif, even Saint now has three of four women in the party participating in the assault and only Nampa, old enough to go hunting by himself, aloof. According to Sam Padilla, everyone helped.

For various reasons - the lapse of time and the Huao definition of time, the problematica lHuao photo identification of whom they killed in what order, special interest lobbies among the Huaorani - it is probably impossible to determine precisely who shot Nampa, how he was shot and how soon he died. Among Saint's loyalists, Yost reports, the 1965 accidental version that Nampa's own mother was responsible seems firmly established. When he suggested that the bullet killed Nampa, Dayuma flew into one of her tantrums and insisted it was the boa. Since then her son Sam has used the two week bullet death to bludgeon SIL [Kingsland 1980:130].

In 1976, Rachel Saint was standing her ground: 1) if the five men had tried to shoot attackers, they would have been more successful; 2) Nampa was off the beach and in hiding, therefore the shooting was accidental; and 3) he died six months after Palm Beach, therefore the relation to the shooting is dubious [Author's interview, Quito, 10 November 1976]. But since learning the seven day week, the Huaorani have scrambled their old term for the lunar cycle into it: six months could be six weeks.

Saint also evidently influenced her converts to tell her what she wanted to hear. The martyrdom is basic to her understanding of Huao Christianity because, without it, the blood debt between herself and the Huaorani becomes mutual: while Dayuma's people killed her brother Nate, Nate and his associates killed Dayuma's brother................

*********************

And here's an excerpt from a book written by the missionary-sympathetic anthropologists Clayton and Carole Robarchek, who happily participated in the "documentary" which slandered the pre-contact Huaorani, "Beyond the gates of Splendor". This is from their book called "Waorani: The Contexts of Violence and War," page 153:

[describing the events at Palm Beach]

************************

......the entire group headed for the Curaray [river]. Omeni described what followed:

"Carrying our spears, quickly we went. Akawo held Nimo's [Rachael {sic} Saint's] brother and Nampa came: Nyame and Nimungka speared him. A pistol was fired and Nampa was hit in the forehead. Another one was in the plane,Nimungka speared him. Nyame and Paa came and speared another one and he fell into the water. The river was low then; one ran to the other side of the river; Paa and Nimungka speared him on the sand and he died. [Elizabeth Elliot's husband] was in the water hanging onto a tree trunk, and there they speared him. We tore the airplane apart.

"That evening we went uphill. Nampa was wounded; Minyimo and Keme were with him. We stayed until dark and then we slept. Nampa wasn't walking right, and he fell and broke his collarbone. We saw a different plane coming and we came back to Tiweno and left Nampa in a hammock in the house with his mother, Akawo. "Paa went home to his wife, Wiwa, on the Damointaro River and told her that Nampa had been shot by the kowudi: "He will just die, the bullet is still in his head." That morning, Nengkewi carried Nampa to Paa's house in a hammock slung from poles. Everyone came along........." [Nampa recovered somewhat and lived, some say for several months, with a .22 caliber bullet in his head.]

*******************************

So that's that. Even the people who support many of the missionaries' rationales and activities (including Yost, SIL's own anthropologist) won't deny Nampa was shot.

There are SO many other details of the film we could nitpick on, including: that it neglects to point out the reckless introduction of disease by the missionary women, instead portraying them as saviors of the sick Huaorani; the mixing-up of certain characters' role in the story, which Marketing Director Marc Harper would call 'creative license' (for instance I believe in the film they have Mincaye spear Nate, and then have a tidy little 'redemption and forgiveness' scene with Steve pretending to spear Mincaye- who confesses that he speared Nate- in revenge as a kind of catharsis, when in reality- as Marc Harper said in his workshop at Missions Fest- no such scene ever happened in real life. In fact, Steve has said the thought of revenge had never occured to him) etc., etc. (Sorry for the digression! THAT'S just End of the Spear! We have a whole different litany for "The Jim Elliot Story" and "Beyond the Gates of Splendor"!)

Point is: there are many problems with End of the Spear other than the omission of Nampa's death, but that is the issue we believe the filmmakers should be thoroughly grilled about.

**********

.........When asked why it was that we only saw the missionaries' love stories in End of the Spear and Beyond the Gates of Splendor and few, if any, "pre-contact" Huaorani displays of affection in either film (End of the Spear had been promoted as telling the story from the tribe's perspective), Marc Harper, the film's Marketing Director sort of just shrugged off the question with a, "We DID see the Huaorani love stories, when the men raided villages and STOLE women, that was their kind of 'love story'." (this is paraphrased because the exchange was not recorded, but it's safe to say he will answer close to the same way next time he's asked)............


Copyright 1991 The Akha Heritage Foundation