Yanomamo People Term Paper

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Yanomamo people of Central Brazil are one of the oldest examples of the classic pre-Columbian forest footmen. They are believed to be the most primitive, culturally intact people in existence in the world. They are literally a Stone Age tribe. Cataloged by anthropologists as Neo-Indians with cultural characteristics that date back more than 8000 years. They have never discovered the wheel and the only metal they use is what has been traded to them from the outside. Their numbering system is one, two, and more than two.

The Yanomamo live in almost complete seclusion in the Amazon rain forests of South America. Apart from their periodic warfare, they have managed to build and sustain their unique culture through adaptations to their environment for generations.

There are approximately 23,000 Yanomamo spread among roughly 225 villages in the Amazon Basin. Each village acts autonomously, but has alliances with other villages that carry on warfare periodically with disputing villages. The rainforests that the Yanomamo inhabit include both riverine lowland and tropical highland. Both habitat subtypes contain huge vine-covered trees and are relatively free of underbrush. Today about 95% of the Yanomamo live deep within the Amazon forest as compared to the 5% who live along the major rivers. Compared to the "forest people," the "river people" are much more sedentary Yanomamo who have settled along rivers now tend fields and hunt across the river from there village as well as on their bank. They also have straightforward access to manufactured supplies and learn from outsiders how to obtain new foods such as fish. These factors distribute the community's exploitative activities, enabling them to remain in their village year round. Groups of Yanomamo who have settled along rivers depart on fewer treks than woodland communities.

The Yanomamo intensively utilize the land directly around their villages. This soon leads to lessened supplies of game in the forest and mature crops in the gardens. The depletion of their food supply has led them to develop the adaptive behavior of trekking. Trekking is an extensive camping trip lasting anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months in which the entire village travels as a whole or in smaller units.

Yanomamo families may live together as simply nuclear, polygnous, or extended. The nuclear family is very frequently so entwined in the web of kinship that, in order to define it, it is necessary to go through relatives who are primary neither to the husband nor to the wife. The wife may be the mother of a man's children, the daughter of his mother's brother, and the daughter of his father's sister. The confusing kinship system they maintain by explaining that children of siblings of the opposite sex on both mothers and fathers side is the preferred marriage termed "bilateral cross-cousin marriage." Apparently, another explanation for the difficulty in defining direct and indirect kin among the Yanomamo is in part due to their use of Teknonymy. It does not allow for the use of personal names, meaning individuals are referred to, for example, as 'daughter of Suli' or 'husband of Suli'.

These tribes hold their men in high ranks. Chiefs are always men who are held in charge for the general knowledge and safety of the group's women. The men are able to beat their wives if they feel the need to and are able to marry more than one woman at a time. This loose form of polygamy is a way of increasing the population of the tribe. Yanomamo people rely heavily on a system of political alliances based upon kinship. As part of that system, they have incorporated an intricate feasting and trading system into their culture. The Yanomamo live in a constant state of warfare with other tribes and even within their own groups.

In addition to their strong kinship ties, political alliances and thirst for revenge the Yanomamo have a comprehensive religion, based on the use of hallucinogenic drugs and the telling of mythical tales. The religious beliefs of the Yanomamo are quite intricate. According to Yanomamo wise men, there are four levels of reality. Through them, the Yanomamo belief that things tend to fall or descend downward to a lower layer is demonstrated. The uppermost layer of the four is thought to be "pristine" and "tender." It is called "duku ka misi" and the Yanomamo believe that many…[continue]

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