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The Yanomami

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The Yanomami

The Yanomami people of Central Brazil are one of the oldest examples of the indigenous tribes people or hunter gatherers. The Yanomami people are almost completely secluded living in the rainforests and mountains in the Amazon regions of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela. The Yanomamo live together in tribes or small bands and live in round communal huts. The Yanomamo language consists of many different dialects, with no real written language. Clothes are rarely used, most of the Yanomami spend the majority of their time doing daily chores such as gathering food and materials, visiting with other people in the tribe and making things like tools.

In the Yanomami tribe, the resources are very limited. They have no lights, medicine, music, telephones, or even motors for their boats. They did not even have machetes until the 1950’s when missionaries brought them, and they rely on these knives so much now. Their knowledge for resources outside of their tribe continues to increase, and their desire for more worldly resources is increasing as well.

Each village has a group of members that share similar culture, language and beliefs but are economically and politically independent. These tribes hold the men in the society in high standings. The chief of the tribe are almost always men who are held in high standings with both the men and women of the tribe. Ultimately, this group continues to be a self-sufficient group who utilize the natural resources found around them in the Amazon for physical and spiritual sustenance. Yanomami people often base their politics on alliances that they have with other tribes. As a result of this system, they often use trading in their society.

There is a major emphasis on their spirituality in Yanomami culture. There is no medicine in these tribes. Instead, there are rituals in place for healing. This includes chants, dances, and in some cases hallucinogenic drugs to get in touch with the spirits for healing. These hallucinogenic drugs are a major tradition in the Yanomami tribe, but only the men are aloud to practice this tradition.

        The social life of the Yanomami tribe is very community driven. They are not in contact with people outside of their community very often, and when they are it is mostly for trading purposes. Therefore, they rely on each other for everything, and everyone has a role. The men do most of the providing. So they would traditionally handle the hunting, trading, and building shelter. In turn, the women would be the ones to take care of the children, spin cotton, and make things like clothing, hammocks, and baskets.

        Marriage in the Yanomami tribe is definitely not a reflection of marriages in American culture. Men could have as many as 15 partners and children with each of them. And the women are left to raise the children together while the men are out fulfilling their roles.

Each village of the Yanomami acts autonomously, but has alliances with other villages that carry on warfare periodically with disputing villages (Salamone 1997, 47). Salamone explains that no single person leads a Yanomami village and political decisions are made by individual villages by consensus. Although, in most tribes there is somewhat of a designated leader. He further explains that though a number of researchers refer to the Yanomami as an egalitarian society, meaning that they believe that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

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