The Shuar are the second largest and one of the most studied Amazonian groups. They have a long history of survival and defense against outsiders, and have long had a reputation as headhunters and savages. They live in the southeastern part of Ecuador between the Pastaza and Marañón Rivers, east of the present city of Cuenca along the contested border region with Peru. It is a rocky region covering approximately 25,000 square miles along the lower eastern slopes of the Andes. The Shuar's geographic locale with the escarpment of the Andes to the west and unnavigable rapids in the rivers to the east has protected them from outside interference and has helped them retain their independence. The word Shuar simply means "people," and until relatively recently, outsiders (including ethnographers) have used the term Jívaro or Jibaro to refer to them. The word Jívaro has no meaning in the Shuar language, and they have rejected it both because it is a term foreign to their culture and because of its historic negative association with "savages" and headhunting. With support from Salesian missionaries, in 1964 the Shuar founded the first ethnic federation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This federation used radio programs, a printing press, and other means to defend their culture from outside intrusion.
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