Ecuador: One Expat from the U.S. that really went native

Posted on March 9, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Latin America Indigenous Issues

American Shaman: The Incredible Story of Lucas Weiss
By Alexander Zaitchik Mar 2016
Lucas Weiss was just another dropout on the gringo trail until he landed among Ecuador’s remote Secoya people. Now he’s a tribal leader, heir to their revered 103-year-old shaman — and maybe their best hope for survival.

I first heard about Luke Weiss from an elder of the Waorani, a tribe scattered along the Amazon tributaries of northeastern Ecuador. He spoke of a white man living with the Secoya, a small tribe settled on a nearby river, but one who had ceased to be a white man. This man had become Secoya. He practiced the tribe’s oldest and most difficult traditions. He spoke a pure, antiquated Secoya dialect. What’s more, he had achieved something no outsider ever had among the tribes of the region: He became apprentice and heir to the tribe’s renowned healer, a 103-year-old shaman named Don Cesario. When people from local villages and distant towns seek out Cesario for healing, it is Weiss who prepares the ritual potions.

I asked where I could find this gringo, and the old man sketched a map in the dirt showing a daylong trip down the tributaries of the Rio Napo.

Late the next afternoon, I arrived by motored canoe in San Pablo, a riverside hamlet of 600 Secoya not far from Ecuador’s border with Peru. Villagers told me that Weiss, whom they call Lucas, was expected back that afternoon from a weeklong hunt with his family. They led me to a sandbar where women were washing clothes with bars of soap and told me to wait. Just after dusk a canoe appeared at the bend. Helming the motor was a white man, the first I’d seen in a summer traveling among Ecuador’s northern tribes. He looked lithe and boyish, younger than his 39 years. A broad-faced native woman sat in front of him, behind two little girls at the bow. Read Article


Share This Story
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email