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Tamanac Indians

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A formerly important tribe of Cariban linguistic stock occupying the territory about the Cuchivero River, a tributary of the lower Orinoco, Venezuela. In 1749 they were in part, together with a part of the Saliva, gathered into the mission of San Luis del Encaramada (briefly Encaramada), established in that year by the celebrated Jesuit missionary and historian, Father S. Gilii, on the east bank of the Orinoco, some distance above the Apure. Father Gilii resided with the tribe for eighteen years until the expulsion of the order, when the Jesuit missions of the Orinoco were turned over to the Franciscans. Change of administration, disorders of the revolutionary period and governmental neglect ruined the missions, while frequent fever epidemics and terrible losses during the War of Independence decimated the Orinoco tribes, and as early as 1840 the Tamanac were virtually extinct with the exception of a few scattered individuals. In culture and mode of living the! Tamanac resembled the Maipure. They had a lengthy genesis myth, with a deluge, in which a man and a woman saved themselves by climbing to the top of a high mountain called Tamanaca and miraculously created a new human race from the fruit of the mauritius palm. Hence the name of the tribe. Their great culture hero was Amalivaca, who came to them in a boat from over the eastern ocean and finally returned in the same way, after carving numerous sacred pictographs upon now inaccessible cliffs in the Tamanac country. Hence the missionaries were supposed by some of the Indians to be messengers from their lost culture hero and benefactor. (See also MAIPURE; SALIVA.)

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