Mincaye Ænkædi knew what it was to kill a person. He knew forgiveness for his actions. And he knew what it was like to later become a father and friend to his victim’s son.
As word spreads of his April 28 death, social media posts will refer to him as “Mincaye”, variously rendered as “Mincayi”, “Minkayi” or “Mincayani”. Many people will not have heard of him. But to some Christians around the world, his first name is all that’s needed to envision the story of his dramatic conversion to Christianity in the late 1950s in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
His name means “Wasp”. He died of natural causes at home in the tiny village of Tzapino. He was between 88 and 91 years of age, according to Steve Saint, an adopted son. Mincaye is survived by his wife Ompodae (Otter), 13 children, more than 50 grandchildren, many great grandchildren as well as “tens of thousands of people who saw him as proof of God’s redeeming and transforming power,” Saint said in a published tribute.
A Life of Violence and Revenge
When his life began in the jungle, Mincaye’s people, the Waorani, were trapped in a cycle of revenge killings amongst themselves. Internecine warfare seemed to point them toward self-decimation by time evangelical missionaries attempted to reach the tribe. On January 8, 1956, Mincaye and a small cohort of warriors speared to death Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint and Roger Youderian.
Within two years after those spearings on a sandbar of the Curaray River, Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, and Saint’s sister, Rachel, were living in a Waorani settlement with members of the tribe who had killed their loved ones. The women’s message of forgiveness and peace was transformative in Mincaye’s life.
Nate Saint’s young son, Steve, eventually spent time with Rachel Saint in the jungle. He was known to the tribe as “Babae”. Expressing concerns, Mincaye asked Saint why the boy didn’t know how to craft hunting darts or make poison for them, didn’t shoot a blowgun and couldn’t track animals. Steve’s Aunt Rachel countered by reminding Mincaye that he had speared Steve’s father, then asked from whom he thought the boy should learn .
Documenting the Waorani Past
Mincaye volunteered to train Steve, knowing fully that the child would, within Waorani culture, be within his rights to someday avenge his father’s death and kill him.
“Of the reported deaths spanning up to five generations,” missionary anthropologist Jim Yost later wrote, “only two individuals purportedly died of natural causes in old age. Forty-four percent of the deaths were a result of intratribal spearing, and 5 percent were due to infanticide. Seventeen percent were a result of [cowode or “outsider”] shootings and captures; snakebites accounted for another 5 percent and illness 11 percent.”
Yost has described his work as an effort to document and preserve as much Waorani culture as possible, seeing the tribe’s isolation in Ecuador’s Oriente under ever-increasing incursions by outside interests after petroleum was discovered there. He said that “in the first decade that I lived among the Waorani, I doubt a day ever passed that I didn’t hear the wrenching stories of past atrocities.”
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SOURCE: Assist News, Ralph Kurtenbach