This ethnography is about the Yanomamö. 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.
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The Yanomamö 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 Yanomamö 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 Yanomamö is that they are accustomed to violence. Violence is a part of their lives because of their values and culture. Because of this, the Yanomamö 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 death.
The Yanomamö do not utilize much technology except in their weapons. The main weapon produced by the Yanomamö 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 Yanomamö.
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 feast.
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 Yanomamö, 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 payment.