Sociocultural transformations brought about by indigenous leaders in Amazonia have been described as prophetic, millenaristic, or messianic and contrasted with modern reformism. This article addresses new ways of describing processes of change negotiated among indigenous actors. Although these processes are mostly absent from colonial or later sources, they should not remain foreign to ethnology, as the three empirical cases analyzed in this essay show. Methodologically, the essay asks why the regulatory image of Rousseau's small community, meeting face to face to express the general will, has never had the same impact in the anthropological imagination as that of the “noble savage.” Thematically, these case studies raise the question of how peace is made and suggest that, while peacemaking demands “magic,” the invocation of extrahuman powers, the social forms and values on which peace is based are contained as objective possibilities in the present. Making peace actual requires creative choices.

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