Warao Old Testament Translation Project

Profile of the Warao


  • Orinoco River Delta, northeastern Venezuela



  • Animism

  • < 5% Christianity


  • Minimal availability

Missionary activity 

Dr. Henry Osborn and his family moved to Venezuela in the 1950s to reach the Warao with the Gospel. There were no Scriptures in their language, so it was necessary to do a translation for them. Dr. Osborn had to work with the people to reduce their spoken language to writing and then do the translation work. They worked with the Warao until the mid-1960s when it was necessary to return to the USA due to family health issues.

Missionary work continued through the years, and the established church grew. Miss Marilyn Pitzer continues to help with the ministry with the Warao.

Bibles International’s Plan

The New Testament (revised) was dedicated in July 2004. Work is progressing on the Old Testament using a missionary coordinator/translator with close participation of a committee of Warao leaders.



Warao people (also called Waroa, Guarauno, Guarao, and Warrau) are an indigenous group who live around the Orinoco delta in the northeastern Venezuela. The number of Warao people is estimated at 20,000 and they are the largest indigenous group in Venezuela. Warao actually means boat people since this tribe always has live on the riverbanks and islands with canoes as the prime means of transport. Bongo is a large canoe which can seat 50 people, while smaller canoe used in everyday life can hold up to 3 people. Since their life is influenced by their water surroundings, Warao children almost always learn to swim before they can walk. Warao live in huts with no walls since it is always warm in Veneuela. In the center of every hut there is a fire pit for cooking and hammocks, in which Warao sleep are located around the fire pit. The only other furniture in the Warao huts are small wooden chairs. When it comes to food, Warao only have to look around their environment in order to find a meal. Many fruits and vegetables grow naturally in the warm climate with plenty of water, and the Orinoco river supplies the tribe with fish and other food. 

The Warao are appreciated as very skilled basket makers. They make baskets with or without carrying strap, trays, etc. Usually men gather the reed while the women weave. Warao also add natural dye to create turquoise, coral and green baskets.

In their spiritual life, Warao people believe they are descendants from a heavenly hunter of birds who one day, after the bird he caught, fell and made a hole in the heaven floor, could see the lush green land underneath him. He decided to come down from heaven and start his life on Earth. The tribe is ruled by a chief, and this position is inherited through the maternal line. The tribe is divided into social classes, the aristocracy of sorts and the commoners. Warao people actually take credit for the name of the country. Warao people made first contact with white people in early 16th century, soon after Christopher Columbus sailed to the Venezuelan coast in 1498. Explorer Alonso de Ojada decided to explore the Orinoco river and so he ran into Warao people living in their huts above water. Since the Warao's way of life on water reminded him of Venice in Italy, he decided to name the place Venezuela, which means little Venice. Today, Warao people live the same as their ancestors have, with the exception that they wear mostly Western clothes, speak Spanish and consider themselves to be Catholics. They often marry outside the tribe so that they are very well familiar with the life of the 21st century.

( http://www.bumblehood.com/article/DF2-dnz2SI2VCx9E8IGypQ - accessed on January 11, 2012)

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