Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Setebo Indians

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From volume 13 of the work.

A considerable tribe of Panoan linguistic stock formerly centering about the confluence of the Manoa with the Ucayali River, Loreto province, north-eastern Peru, and now engaged as boatmen, rubber gatherers, etc., along the whole extent of the latter river to, or below, its junction with the Marañon. They speak the same language as their neighbours the Pano, Conibo, and Sipibo, whom they resembled in their primitive custom and belief as now in their more civilized condition. The first entry of the upper Ucayali country was made early in the seventeenth century by gold hunters from Peru, whose treatment of the wild tribes had the effect of rendering the Indians bitterly hostile towards the Spaniards. In 1657, however, the Franciscan Father Alonzo Caballero with two other priests and three lay brothers, passing through the country of the connibal Cashibo, reached the Setebo on the Ucayali. After a year or more of patient effort they succeeded in gathering a part of the tribe into two mission villages. These had but a brief existence; they were attacked and destroyed by the more powerful Sipibo, hereditary enemies of the Setebo, the five religious in charge and many of the neophytes being killed. In 1661 a second attempt was made under Father Lorenzo Tineo, with several other Franciscans; attended by an escort of soldiers and two hundred Christian Indians from Central Peru. Two missions were established, but only to meet the fate of the first at the hands of the cannibal tribes, the missionaries retiring to the Huallaga with a part of their neophyte flock. Other attempts at establishment on the Ucayali within the next forty years were frustrated by hostile attacks and by smallpox epidemics, particularly a great smallpox visitation which desolated the whole region in 1670. Within this period eight missionaries were slain in the Setebo country, one of them, Father Jeronimo de los Rios, being devoured by cannibals in 1704. In 1736 the Setebo were still further decimated in a bloody engagement with their inveterate enemies, the Sipibo.

In 1760 another Franciscan mission entry into the Setebo territory was made by Fathers Francisco de San José and Miguel de Salcedo, accompanied by about one hundred Christian Indians, and, as interpreter, a young girl of the tribe who had been taken prisoner in a previous expedition and who was baptized under the name of Ana Rosa. Through her good offices they came to a friendly arrangement with the chief of one band, and on his invitation established a mission chapel in his village under the name of San Francisco de Manoa. they were greatly pleased to find that the Indians still retained a deep reverence for the cross, which they had set up in front of their houses and in their fields, and retained also a few words of Spanish greeting as heirlooms of earlier missions. In 1764 father Frezneda bravely ventured among the Sipibo and succeeded in bringing about a peace between the two tribes, as the result of which both the Sipibo and the Conibo accepted missionaries. The work grew and flourished. Four missions had been established and more priests were on the way, when, without warning or any later explanation, the three savage tribes in August, 1766, murdered all but one or two of the missionaries, slaughtered the Christian converts, and thus in a few days wiped out the work of years. The Setebo missions were not renewed, but on the establishment of Sarayacú (q.v.) by Father Girbal in 1791, numbers of the tribe were attracted to that settlement, where in due course they became civilized and Christianized. See also SIPIBO.

RAIMONDI, El Perú, II (Lima, 1876), book I, Hist. de la Geografía del Perú; HERNDON, Exploration of the Amazon (Washington, 1854); MARKHAM, Tribes in the Valley of the Amazon in Jour. Anthrop. Institute, XXIV (London, 1895); ORDINAIRE, Les sauvages du Pérou in Revue d'Ethnographie, VI (Paris, 1887), no. 4; SMYTH AND LOWE, Journey from Lima to Pará (London, 1836).