During these trips into the depth of the jungle, Charles has seen first-hand the practices and impact of missionaries on indigenous peoples. For example, Shell Oil discovered oil in Ecuador in the 1940s where the Huaorani lived. The tribe did not take kindly to their new visitors and killed several workers which halted oil production. In response, Shell encouraged missionaries to evangelise the Huaorani - five American missionaries made contact in 1955. They too were unwelcome visitors who were subsequently killed. Their efforts continued, however, resulting in the displacement of thousands of natives and a collapse of their culture (which eventually allowed Texaco to drill for oil). “There were only two diseases before the outsiders came,” said Penti, the chief of the Huaorani, “wounds and pain”. Today, new forms of disease are prevalent.
Charles has heard many examples of missionaries flying over vast expanses of jungle looking for evidence of habitation (where trees have been cleared). They then drop metal utensils into the clearing hoping to capture a native and bring them back to their church for indoctrination, before returning them to their people. This traumatic first contact has had a devastating impact.
Missionaries may offer medicine and education, but only if the indigenous peoples abandon their cultural beliefs and their ways of life. It is not unusual for missionaries to insist on attendance at church each Sunday and on wearing Western clothing. The price of medicine is often the breakdown of indigenous culture, traditions and beliefs.