Yanomamo Tribe sample essay
The Yanomamo tribes are a large population of native people in South America. They often reside in the Amazon rainforest, between the border of Brazil and Venezuela. Since their place of residency is remote and isolated, they have remained secluded from many aspects in the outside world. Due to their isolation, there are several characteristics of their culture and lifestyle that are affected by this. Some factors that result from their seclusion are their domestic life, clothing and diet. The Yanomamo’s physical environment consists of villages that usually contain their kin and lineages.
The villages consist of about fifty people. In these villages they have a communal system, where they all live under one common roof called the shabono. The shabonos are an oval shape hut with covering around the edges but open ground in the center. The roof is supported by posts which signify each family’s individual areas. These habitats are built from raw materials from the surrounding jungle, such as leaves, vines and tree trunks. Unfortunately, when horrific conditions, such as weather and infestation of insects and animals occur, shabonos are very susceptible to damage.
As a result, shabonos are rebuilt every one to two years. Not only do the Yanomamo use nature for their shabonos, they also depend on the forest for their “slash and burn” horticulture. “Slash and burn” horticulture is when they cut and burn forests to create fields for agriculture. When the areas become overused they from the “slash and burn” horticulture, the Yanomamo use shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation is an agricultural system in which plots of land are cultivated temporarily, and then abandoned. This requires clearing a piece of land followed by several years of farming in order to loosen the soil for fertility.
The Yanomamo are known as hunters, fishers, and horticulturists, cultivating as their main crops plantains and cassava. Another food source for the Yanomamo grubs. Traditionally they did not farm, and the practice of felling palms in order to facilitate the growth of grubs was their closest approach to cultivation. The conventional diet of the Yanomamo is low in salt, which makes their blood pressure the lowest of any cultural group on the planet. Historically, the Yanomamo were known as endocannibals. Endocannibalism is a rare form of cannibalism that usually occurs after death.
The body of the deceased is burned in a remote region away from the village. The remaining bones and ash are then made into a fine powder which is then mixed into the juice of a plantain to make a beverage. This beverage is consumed by the deceased person’s relatives. This is called “drinking of the dead” which is thought to be the way for the deceased person’s soul to enter the body of their living descendants. They believe that this proves them with a spiritual and physical strength so they can fight the evils of the jungle.
Another way that the Yanomamo connect with the spirits of the jungle is by taking hallucinogens. Hallucinogenic drugs are taken on a daily basis, because drugs are commonly available from the jungle. Some aspects found in nature that can be made into many different drugs are; the yakowana tree and the hisiomo tree. The yakowana trees bark is ground into snuff powder with they use to snort. The hisiomo trees seeds are packed into a cigar shaped and traded among the villages. One drug that is taken every day by the Yanomamo is called yopo.
Yopo is made by grinding several natural roots and vines that are gathered in the rainforest. It is consumed by blowing the powder into another Yanomamo’s nostrils with a long tube called a mokohiro. Using this drug is very painful and causes blinding pains in the head and nausea. After they have achieved a trance state, they communicate with the spirit world and relate what they are seeing with chanting and dancing. This is one way that the Yanomamo connect with their fellow neighbors. Another way the Yanomamo unite with each other is through celebration.
They celebrate a good harvests with a big feast to which nearby villages are invited. This celebration helps to maintain good relations with their neighbors by sharing their harvest. During the celebration, they decorate their bodies with feathers and flowers, eat a lot of food and the women dance and sing all night. These two aspects of the Yanomamo culture not only shows their social organization with fellow tribes but also their ideological aspects of culture. The technological advances of the Yanomamo include; baskets, wooden spears, arrow points, fire making sticks, quivers, bows and arrows, and blow guns.
The women weave and decorate the baskets. They make both flat baskets and burden baskets which are carried by a strap around the forehead. Fire sticks are still often used to make a fire. The men carry quivers containing extra carved wooden spear and arrow points when they are out hunting. Around the outside of the quiver they also tie the fire making sticks. Making fire with sticks is a long and arduous process requiring skill and agility. Each quiver contains a bow and three arrows, which are designed to hunt small game.
In order to make a blown gun, a piece of cane is used as the shaft which must be long and straight. A mouthpiece is added to one end of the cane which is cut or carved from wood. The darts for the blow dun are made by sharpening fibers and balance on the end with either cotton or the fiber of the kapok tree. They often use poison on the ends of the darts. They get this poison from a frog that inhabits there. After an extensive assessment of the life of the Yanomamo culture it is evident to me that the physical and social environment influenced their way of life tremendously.
The location of the Yanomamo is a key role in their lifestyle based on the resources available to them including food sources, raw materials and supplies. If they didn’t live in their initial environment, nothing would be the same. By living in this environment, their culture has already established their lifestyles through surroundings due to the shabonos and way of agriculture. The way the shabonos are built cause the Yanomamo to become close with one another to become one big tribe. Without their way of agriculture, the Yanomamo’s wouldn’t consume the same foods, or even hunt the same way.
Hallucinogens are another aspect that contributes to the physical environment. Without their environment, drugs wouldn’t be so prominent and their whole way of connecting to the spirits would change. Lastly, technology would change since they make their baskets and quivers out of nature resources found in their environment such as wood and cane. The social environment of the Yanomamo also plays a big part in their culture. The Yanomamo do hallucinogens with fellow neighbors to connect to the spirits and also forms a sense of belongingness with each other.
When they do the hallucinogens they come together and connect to the spirits as one with song and dance. Aside from that, they also unite with each other through celebration. They celebrate a good harvests with a big feast to which nearby villages are invited which helps to maintain good relations with their neighbors. If the Yanomamo didn’t share their harvest with each other, they wouldn’t have as much food as they do and wouldn’t be able to survive alone. The Yanomamo use both physical and social environments in order to prosper and thrive in life.
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