Ya̧nomamö"Fierce People" redirects here. For the film, see Fierce People (film). Ya̧nomamö Ya̧nomamö children Total population Regions with significant populations Venezuela, BrazilLanguages Yanomaman languagesReligions shamanism
The Ya̧nomamö are a large population of native people in South America. They reside in the Amazon rainforest, among the hills that line the border between Brazil and Venezuela. Due to the remoteness of their residence, they had remained largely uncontacted by the outside world until the beginning of the last century. This has allowed them to retain several aspects of their culture that factors such as population explosion and growth in material wealth have eradicated from the rest of the world. As a result, the Yanomamö have come to be one the best studied groups by modern Science.
The word Ya̧nomamö means 'human being' in their language. The word is supposed to be pronounced with thorough nasalization. The phonetic sound 'ö' does not occur in the English alphabet and as a result has led to different accounts of how Ya̧nomamö is spelled and pronounced. Some anthropologists had published the spelling Yanomamɨ, but because many presses and typesetters eliminate the diacritical marks, an incorrect pronunciation of 'Yanomamee' has emerged.
Most of the information in this article describes a Ya̧nomamö way of life that existed prior to the 1960s. Sustained contact with missionaries, government officials, miners, journalists, tourists, anthropologists and others has led to significant changes to this way of life. It should also be noted that large variations might exist from village to village. There are always individuals and communities who break the rules and hence deviations from what is presented below may be observed.
- 1 Domestic life, clothing and diet
- 2 Ya̧nomamö language
- 3 Violence
- 4 Yanomamo
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Domestic life, clothing and dietYa̧nomamö shabono Shot from the film Yanomamo: A Multidisciplinary Study
The Ya̧nomamö live in villages usually consisting of their kin and marriageable lineages (see below). Village sizes vary though as a guideline they can contain between 50 and 400 people. In what is largely a communal system, the entire village lives under a common roof called the shabono. Shabonos have a characteristic oval shape with open grounds in the center measuring an average of 100 yards. The shabono itself is the perimeter of the village, if it has not been fortified with palisade walls.
Under the roof, divisions exist marked only by support posts, partitioning individual houses and spaces. Shabonos are built from raw materials from the surrounding jungles, such as leaves, vines and tree trunks. This leaves them very susceptible to heavy damage from rains, winds, and insect infestation. As a result, new shabonos have to be built every 1 to 2 years.
The Ya̧nomamö are dependent upon the forest; they use "slash-and-burn" horticulture, grow bananas, fish, gather fruit, and hunt animals. Ya̧nomamö Indians frequently move to avoid areas that become overused — a practice known as shifting cultivation.
As with many other Native Americans of tropical South America, the Ya̧nomamö traditionally wore minimal clothing. The sole exception to this was a string-like belt worn by the men, worn underneath the stomach. Traditionally the women wore no clothing at all.
The children stay close to their mother; most of the childrearing is done by women. The Ya̧nomamö practiced polygamy (though many unions were monogamous). Polygamous families consisted of a large patrifocal family unit based on one man, and smaller matrifocal sub-families: each woman's family unit, composed of the woman and her children. Life within the village is centered more around the small, matrilocal family unit, whereas the larger patrilocal unit has more political importance.
The Ya̧nomamö are known as hunters, fishers, and horticulturists, cultivating as their main crops plantains and cassava in "gardens", areas of the forest cleared for cultivation. Another food source for the Ya̧nomamö is grubs. Traditionally they did not farm, and the practice of felling palms in order to facilitate the growth of the grubs was the Ya̧nomamö's closest approach to cultivation. The traditional Ya̧nomamö diet is famously low in salt, and their blood pressure is among the lowest of any demographic group on the planet. The Ya̧nomamö have thus been made the subject of studies seeking to link hypertension to sodium consumption.
The Ya̧nomamö celebrate a good harvest with a big feast to which nearby villages are invited. The Ya̧nomamö members gather huge amounts of food, which helps to maintain good relations with their neighbours. They also decorate their bodies with feathers and flowers. During the feast the Ya̧nomamö eat a lot and the women dance and sing late into the night.
Ya̧nomamö languageA Ya̧nomamö Indian in the documentary film Magical Death
In the Ya̧nomamö language, Gŭycan, if a vowel is phonemically nasalized, all vowels after it in the word are also nasalized. So if the ogonek — the symbol denoting nasalized vowels — is written under the first vowel, the whole word is nasalized. All the vowels in the Ya̧nomamö language are nasal, but it is unclear whether they are phonemically nasal or nasal just because of the nasal consonants. Also, consonants can be accented with the closing of the epiglottis to form a "flat" sounding consonant; an example of this is 'Maţ' (epiglottis closed), meaning 'bone', while 'Mat' (quasi-soft 't' sound with an open throat) means 'rain'.
There are many different variations and dialects of the language, such that people from different villages cannot always understand each other. The Ya̧nomamö language is believed by linguists to be unrelated to all other South American indigenous languages, and indeed the origins of the language are unknown.
It should be noted that "Ya̧nomamö" is not what the Ya̧nomamö call themselves, but is rather a word in their language meaning 'man', adopted by American anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon as a convenient way to refer to the culture and by extension the people.
More than a third of the Ya̧nomamö males, on average, died from warfare. Men who participated in killings had more wives and children than those who did not. Some Ya̧nomamö men, however, reflected on the futility of their feuds and made it known that they would have nothing to do with the raiding. These findings, originally reported by Chagnon, have been empirically replicated several times.
The accounts of missionaries to the area have recounted constant infighting in the tribes for women or prestige, and evidence of continuous warfare for the enslavement of neighboring tribes such as the Macu before the arrival of European settlers and government.
Violence among the Ya̧nomamö is often domestic, with women commonly beaten by their husbands in disputes. The violence is seen as an act of love by the women, however. Women will shave their head after a beating to show off their bumps. They will even put a red dusting on the bump showing it off even further. 
In the mid-70s, golddiggers and garimpeiros started to invade the Ya̧nomamö country. They killed members of the Ya̧nomamö tribe and stole their land. In 1990, more than 40,000 garimpeiros enter the Ya̧nomamö land. In 1992 the president of Brazil, Collor de Melo, accepted the opening of a Ya̧nomamö Park that was founded by Brazilian anthropologists and Survival International--a project that started in the early 70s. Today, non-Ya̧nomamö continue to enter the land. The Brazilian and Venezuelan governments do not have enforcement programs to prevent the entry of outsiders into this land.
Ethical controversy has arisen concerning Ya̧nomamö blood taken by scientists such as Napoleon Chagnon and his associate James Neel for study. Ya̧nomamö religious tradition prohibits the keeping of any bodily matter after the death of that person, but the donors were not warned that blood samples would be kept indefinitely for experimentation. Several prominent Ya̧nomamö delegations have sent letters to scientists experimenting on the blood, demanding its return, and while the scientists have promised to return or destroy the samples, years have passed without confirmed action.
Members of the American Anthropological Association weighed in on a dispute that has divided their discipline, voting 846 to 338 to rescind a 2002 report on allegations of misconduct by scholars studying the Ya̧nomamö indigenous people. The dispute has raged since Patrick Tierney published Darkness in El Dorado in 2000. The book charged that anthropologists had repeatedly caused harm — and in some cases, death — to members of the Ya̧nomamö people they had studied in the 1960s in Venezuela and Brazil.
In a newsletter published on 7 August 2006, the Indianist Missionary Council reported that: "In a plenary session, the [Brazilian] Supreme Federal Court (STF) reaffirmed that the crime known as the Haximu massacre [perpetrated on the Ya̧nomamö in 1993] was a genocide and that the decision of a federal court to sentence miners to 19 years in prison for genocide in connection with other offenses, such as smuggling and illegal mining, is valid. It was a unanimous decision made during the judgment of Extraordinary Appeal (RE) 351487 today, the 3rd, in the morning by justices of the Supreme Court".
Commenting on the case, the NGO Survival International said "The UN convention on genocide, ratified by Brazil, states that the killing 'with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group' is genocide. The Supreme ruling is highly significant and sends an important warning to those who continue to commit crimes against indigenous peoples in Brazil."
The WWF(World Wildlife Fund) has created a play to convey a message to the world about what is happening to the people, the trees, etc. in the Amazon rainforest by comparison to a Yanomamo tribesman/tribeswoman living in the Amazon. It has been published and been performed by many drama groups around the world.
In popular culture
Amazonia, a novel by James Rollins, starts in a Ya̧nomamö village.
- ^ a b c d Ya̧nomamö: The Fierce People(Chagnon 1998; Chagnon 1992; Chagnon 1983)
- ^ Yanomami Indians in the INTERSALT study (accessed14 January 2007)
- ^ Keeley: War before civilization: The myth of the peaceful savage
- ^ (Ember, 1978; Keeley, 1996; Knauft, 1987)
- ^ Never Mind :: Inside Higher Ed :: Higher Education's Source for News, and Views and Jobs
- ^ a b Supreme Court upholds genocide ruling, Survival International 4 August 2006
- ^ Federal Court is competent to judge the Haximu genocide Indianist Missionary Council
- Dennison Berwick, "Savages, The Life And Killing of the Yanomani" 
- Napoleon Chagnon, The Ya̧nomamö (Formerly subtitled "The Fierce People")
- Kenneth Good, Into the Heart
- Jacques Lizot, Tales of the Yanomamo
- Wiliam Milliken and Bruce Albert, Yanomami: A Forest People
- Luis Pancorbo, "El banquete humano. Una historia cultural del canibalismo", Siglo XXI de España, Madrid, 2008.-"Amazonas, último destino", Edelvives, Madrid, 1990.-"Plumas y Lanzas", Lunverg-RTVE, Madrid, 1990.
- Alcida Ramos, Sanuma Memories
- Dirk Wittenborn, Fierce People
- Redmond O'Hanlon, "In Trouble Again: A Journey Between the Orinoco and the Amazon"
- Helena Valero, Yanoama: The Story of Helena Valero, a Girl Kidnapped by Amazonian Indians, an eyewitness account of a captive who came of age in the tribe.
- Mark Andrew Ritchie, Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story (ISBN 0-9646952-3-5)
- Maria Inês Smiljanic, Os enviados de Dom Bosco entre os Masiripiwëiteri. O impacto missionário sobre o sistema social e cultural dos Yanomami ocidentais (Amazonas, Brasil.) Journal de la Société des Américanistes, 2002, 88, pp. 137-158**
- Rose, Peter and Conlon, Anne, Yanomamo - a musical entertainment published by Josef Weinberger, London (1983)
- Tierney, Patrick. Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon
- Indigenous Peoples of Brazil - Yanomami
- Watch free docu on Yanomami Indians. How a hopeless failure turns into a nerve-wrecking story
- Room 2017, director Rob Smits visits the Yanomami (online documentary)
- Arnold Perey, How Much Feeling? Includes discussion of the life of Fusiwe, a Yanomama head man
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