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This ethnography is about the Yanomam. Most people will think of these
people as \'primitive\'. But we do not consider the fact that these people look at
us and call us \'primitive\' and \'subhuman\'. This is why it is important to judge
these people with an unbiased mind.
The Yanomam are Indians that live widely scattered in southern Venezuela
and northern Brazil. They usually live in villages of 75 to 80 people. But there
are villages in which there are as little as 40 people or as many as 250 people
in a single village.
The Yanomam live by a combination of horticulture and foraging. Each
household in the village clears their own land and cultivates it themselves.
Chiefs, who have to produce more food to meet their obligation to provide
hospitality, commonly receives help from others. A village can produce all of
its needs from only three hours worth of work per person.
One characteristic of the Yanomam is that they are accustomed to
violence. Violence is a part of their lives because of their values and culture.
Because of this, the Yanomam live in a constant state of warfare. Warfare
appears as a main interest supported by a set of beliefs urging strong villages
to take advantage of the weaker ones.
A regular series of degrees of violence has been institutionalized. It
ranges from chest pounding to side slapping. Both are likely to cause injury or
The Yanomam do not utilize much technology except in their weapons. The
main weapon produced by the Yanomam are arrows. They make arrows that are six
feet long. These arrows are very accurate. Arrows not only serve as weapons but
as valuable possessions that are commonly exchanged as gifts among the Yanomam.
Villages that are nearby may sometimes ally. One reason in which the
ally is so that they can team up against another larger village. In order to
demonstrate their friendship towards each other, the two villages trade and
The men drug themselves on a daily basis with a substance called \'ebene\'.
It causes for the eyes to become watery. Another effect of this drug is and
excessive production of mucous. The recipient allows for the mucous to drip
freely from each nostril. It is believed among these people that the usage of
this drug will have an effect in which bad spirits are relieved of.
The dead are highly respected in this culture. Once a person dies, it is
forbidden to mention the name of the person ever again. It is considered an
offense to mention the name of a family member that has passed away.
Among the Yanomam, men are allowed to marry more than one woman. And
even after a man marries a woman, he is free to give her away as a gift or
During my studies of the Yanomam, I was most interested in the fact that
these people have survived as long as we have without the use of technology.
When I considered this piece of information, my ethnocentric feelings were kept
to a minimum level. But when I read about things that were very bizarre to me, I
dealt with my ethnocentric feelings by reminding myself that we have people who
do similar things in our own thriving society.
Category: Social Issues
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