Yanomamo tribe Essay

This essay has a total of 1284 words and 6 pages.

yanomamo tribe



The Yanomamo

My name is Eric Dunning and this is my proposal to go and study the Yanomamo tribe in the
rain forests of Brazil. I have compiled a historical outline of the Yanomamo tribe and
some of their religion and culture, ranging from marital status to the type of food they
eat. I have chosen this tribe because according to many anthropologists the Yanomamo are
perhaps the last culture to have come in contact with the modern world.

The Yanomamo people of Central Brazil are one of the oldest examples of the classic
pre-Columbian forest footmen. The Yanomamo live in almost complete seclusion in the Amazon
rain forests of South America. The Yanomamo live in small bands or tribes and live in
round communal huts called shabonos, which are actually made up of individual living
quarters. The Yanomamo language consists of a variety of dialect, but no real written
language. Clothes are minimal, and much of their daily life revolves around gardening,
hunting, gathering, making crafts and visiting with one another. These small tribes hold
their men in high ranks. Chiefs are always men who are held responsible 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 relationship. As part of that system, they
have incorporated a complex feasting and trading system into their culture. One of these
methods of forming political alliances is feasting. Feasting is when one village invites
another village for a feast or dinner. During the feast there is a lot of social activity.
The Yanomamo dance and mingle with each other along with eating a different variety of
foods. The only catch is the other village must reciprocate a feast by one village. This
feast is more like an American dinner party in which members of family or social group
invite others to attend. A feast however can be dangerous and or fatal for those who
attend. The Yanomamo can be very conniving and deceiving. They pretend to be loyal friends
and invite the other village for a feast. The other very village very trustfully attends
the feast not knowing that this might be their last meal. After the feast when the guests
are helplessly resting in their hammocks they are attacked and brutally beaten to death.

The Yanomamo live in a constant state of warfare with other tribes and even within their
own groups. Marriages are often arranged according to performances of one's relatives in
battles. Ideal marriages are thought to consist of cross cousin marriages and the males of
the family and the religious leaders of the tribe perform all marriages. In addition to
their strong kinship ties, political alliances and thirst for revenge, the Yanomamo have a
detailed religion, based on the use of hallucinogenic drugs and the telling of mythical
tales.

The religious beliefs of the Yanomamo are quite complex. According to Yanomamo wise men,
there are four levels of reality. Through them, the Yanomamo believe 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 things originated in this area. This layer does not play much of a role
in the everyday life of the Yanomamo. It is considered to be just "there", once having
some vague function. The next layer down is called "hedu ka misi" and is known as the sky
layer. The top surface is supposedly invisible, but is believed to be similar to earth. It
has trees, gardens, villages, animals, plants and most importantly, the souls of the
deceased. These souls are said to be similar to mortals because they garden, eat and
sleep. Everything that exists on earth is said to have a counterpart on this level. The
bottom surface of the layer is said to be what the Yanomamo on earth actually see: the
visible sky. Stars and planets are attached to this bottom surface and move across it on
their individual trails. Humans, or Yanomamo, dwell on what is called "this layer",
otherwise called "hei ka misi". "This layer" was created when a chunk of hedu broke off
and fell down. This layer has jungles, hills, animals, plants and people who are slightly
different, variants of the Yanomamo who speak a dialect of Yanomamo that is "crooked", or
wrong. Finally, there is the surface below "this layer" which is formally called "hei ta
bebi", which the Yanomamo say is almost barren. They believe a variant of the Yanomamo
live here. These people originated a long time ago when a piece of hedu broke off, crashed
down to "this layer", creating a hole and eventually falling through to become it's own
layer. Here, they have no game animals and have ruthless cannibals. They send their
spirits up to "this layer" to capture the souls of children, which are carried down and
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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