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YANOMAMO WEDDING AND MARRIAGE TRADITIONS

The Yanomamo tribe is native of the Brazilian-Venezuelan border. They are the last people of their kind (the tropical forest Indians called foot people) left on the Amazon Basin and the last such people in the world. There are about 20,000 Yanomamo leaving on some two hundred to two hundred-fifty separate fiercely independent villages with about forty to fifty people on villages considered small and three hundred on the bigger villages.  These villages are round and very open, usually located on interfluvian plains of the mayor rivers.  The Yanomamo have managed to live in isolation from the rest of the world and most of them are not aware Venezuela or Brazil even exist, because of this exclusion the Yanomamo have been able to maintain their native patterns of warfare and political integrity within the tribe. 

          The daily life of the Yanomamo consists mostly of gardening, which is done within the early hours of the morning.  Right after dawn the men go into the gardens to clear, brush, transplant plantain cuttings, burn off dead timber and fell in the large trees, they also plant new crops usually of cotton, maize, sweet potato, or cassava depending on the season they are on.  During the day they also hunt, especially the men, collect wild foods, collect firewood and fetch water, these last two usually done by the women, but during the day the Yanomamo also take time for themselves and gossip a little and make the material possessions they need such as baskets, hammocks, bows and arrows and colorful pigments with which they color paint their bodies with.

Yanomamo tribesmen  have a great political way of dealing with other tribes.  Their feasts are political events that take place when a sovereign group entertains an allied group.  Yanomamo hold these feasts to make sure of the allied group significant economic power and ceremonial implications.  They believe these feasts will form maintain, reaffirm and cultivate intervillage alliances and friendships by the sharing of the meal which signifies sharing of goods and a kind of trust.  The formation of alliances is mostly for, trade, economic specialization, forming historical ties between the groups, create patterns of warfare and the exchange of women for the purposes of marriage.

          Life expectancy in the Yanomamo villages is fairly short. The oldest people in the villages range seventy one years of age and the percentages are really slim to none.  On the contrary, babies and children are in huge percentages due to the fact that polygamy is practiced within the tribe since the reproductive span for women is so short, ranging from twenty to twenty five years, they must have as many children as possible in their lifetime. 


Marriage in the Yanomamo tribe is considered to be very important even though they do not practice any actual wedding ceremony.  Marriage is a social dynamic within villages, these dynamics include the giving and receiving of the so called marriageable girls.  Marriages are arranged by older kins usually men, brothers, uncles and/or the father of the girl.  These arranges are a political process in which girls are promised in marriage at an early age, mostly before puberty, by men who are attempting to create alliances with other men via marriage exchanges.  Women are coming short on demand for marriage because of the acceptance of polygamy within the tribe.

          Yanomamo girls have pretty much no voice on what so ever in the decision of who their older kin on who she will marry. The girls wishes on who they want to spend the rest of their lives with are not even taken into consideration.  The girls are promised many years before their puberty, but once they get their first menstrual period which they call roo, which literally translated to the English language means squatting, because of the position the women need to assume while their week of menstruation, they squat on a hole especially made on the floor of the house for the purpose of holding the blood. This uncomfortable situation is due to the fact that the Yanomamo don't have any other more hygienic way of going through their period.  The menstrual cycle of these women does not come as often as it does regularly to a civilized woman because of the fact that they spend most of their menstrual cycle pregnant or nursing.  On their first period girls, approximately ten years old, are confined to their homes and hidden behind screens constructed of leaves.  Their mother or older female friends throw away their old cotton garments and replace them with new ones symbolizing her becoming a woman and being prepared for marriage.  During the week of that first menstrual period the girl is fed with a stick for she shall not come in contact with the food in any way or fashion.  While on confinement she has to whisper when speaking  and she may only speak to close kins, such as brothers, sisters, mother, father or other close relatives.

          Men on the other hand can prolong their childhood as much as eight or ten years.  Even though it seems much easier to initiate the marital process many decide to elongate the process by making themselves, huyas, which is the name given to young men usually unmarried that attempt to seduce women who are actually married causing great distress and often many brawls within the village, for sexual jealousy is one of the biggest social problem that causes war between kins and outside tribes

          The Yanomamo culture tends to be very chauvinistic, men are encouraged to be fierce and they are rarely punished for hitting their parents and even ill fated women of the tribe.  The Yanomamo men  take loads of pride upon having as many women as possible as their brides and make them, the brides, have as many children as possible greatly preferring boys over girls since girls do not participate as equals in any of the affairs of the corporate kinship group in political matters.

          In the Yanomamo traditions, public awareness of marriage begins after someone comments while gossiping around the village her father had promised her to so and so... and even though the girl had been promised for many year it is after this commentary that she goes to live with her spouse.  This is the equivalent in Yanomamo traditions for a wedding ceremony.

         

          Marriage does not really enhance a womans life status much or even change her life but it is the state of being married that gives her some chores that she is expected to fulfill.  After she is married she ,the woman, is expected to do the thing she used to do but with the help of her mother by herself.  At an early age girls are expected to tend their younger brothers, and or sisters by helping their mothers with chores such as cooking, hauling for water and collecting firewood.  When married they are expected to do it all without any bodies help until she has a daughter to help her. Collecting firewood is the biggest responsibility for women, for it takes several hours of the day and involves some arduous work, and it is imperative for cooking and to prepare a fire to be able to sleep.  Usually women leave the village at about four in the after noon and come back with loads of firewood over their backs generally after sunset just before it gets dark.  A very lucky woman owns an ax or a machete to lighten her work, but this is pretty rare amongst the women in the tribe.  Women are expected to respond promptly to the wishes of their husbands and even anticipate their husbands needs.  When a man comes back from hunting or visiting another tribe the women are supposed to quickly and quietly prepare and serve them a meal.  If in any case they do not fulfill these duties men can scold and even beat them.  In most of the cases these physical reprimands are kicks, or blows with the hand or a piece of firewood, but in extreme cases a very harsh husband might even hit his wife with the sharp end of a machete or ax or shoot a keen into some non vital part of the body for example, the leg or arm or even the buttocks.  Some other atrocious punishments are to hold a glowing end of a fire wood against the wifes body, producing painful and serious burns to the skin.  More drastic measures are taken in case of infidelity or suspicion of infidelity.  It is not unusual for a husband to injure a sexually misbehaved wife and some husbands have shot and even killed an adulterous wife.   A woman married to her cousin may have the best of it, because of blood relations he may reprehend her but usually not cruelly as another man not kin to her would do.  Incestuous behavior, yawaremou, is not common but is not look bad upon due to the fact that there are less women than men in the villages.

          A woman may separate herself from a especially ruthless husband, the term used by the Yanomamo for this is shuwahimou, she may turn to her brothers, in the case of having any, if her husband mistreats her in a very brutal manner, they may take her away from him and give her to another man. If in the case of not having a good relationship with her brothers or in the event of her not having any brothers she may take matters on her own hands and leave the village.  If she flees to a less powerful village the men of her village may follow her and take back by force and severely punish her for having run away and in some cases even kill her.  Most fighting within the villages are due to sexual affairs or from the out and out seizure of a married woman and another man.  Warfare chronicles are mostly reflected on their mythology , their ceremonies, settlement pattern, political behavior being so bellicose and their marriage practices.

     Love, buhi yabrao, is not a common term among the villages of the Yanomamo and it is certainly uncommon among married couples.  To the Yanomamo you may love your kins, brothers, sisters, mother, father, sons, daughters, your immediate family but you do not feel that love towards your spouse.

Yanomamo Indians

YANOMAMO WOMAN AND HER BABY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MEN SHARING THEIR FOOD AT A FEAST

 

 

 

 

 

 

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YANOMAMO WOMAN SLEPPING WITH SON

 

 

 

 

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YANOMAMO MAN COMMING

BACH FROM HUNTING

 

 

 

 

After researching the Yanomamo tribe I have come to understand certain considerable differences between the way the Yanomamo live and the difference between how we the people of North America live and the ways in which we celebrate events and how this tribe does.  With this in mind I find it appropriate, using binary opposition and deconstruction to compare and contrast,  between the Yanomamo traditions and those traditions that are custom to my culture.

          One of the biggest binary oppositions between the tribe studied in this paper and my own traditions is that, the Yanomamo girls are married right after they have their first menstrual period, which for them marks the beginning of the girls life as a married woman, for they are to go live with their spouse right after this first menstrual period week.  Usually girls get their period at the ages between ten and twelve years of age making them a very young wife.  On the contrary in my culture women getting their period knoes not really mean that we shall get married right away.  It is not a matter of celebration or even gladness.  It is a way of your body telling you it is ready for having kids but usually a woman does not have any children until probably ten years after that.  One of the biggest deconstructions in this matter is that women inside the Yanomamo tribe is more capable at the age of ten or twelve to have children than the women outside that by the age of ten are still in the fifth or sixth  grade of still elementary school and still has a lot to learn about life.

          Another big binary opposition is the fact that the Yanomamo do not practice a wedding ceremony.  To the Yanomamo women marriage is a decision  some older kin made for her when she was  just a child, when the woman comes to age, after their first menstrual period they are literally given to their husbands as they are a gift.  On the contrary it is tradition in our culture that marriage begins with a wedding ceremony which usually takes months to plan and loads of effort from the woman's parents to be able to give their daughter and the spouse to be, a great wedding ceremony and usually a great celebration feast following the ceremony.  Yanomamo to my understanding are very practical people they do not make a fuzz about a wedding ceremony but for them marriage, family, is one of the most important institutions in the village.

          Polygamy is accepted in the Yanomamo tribe, contrary to  our culture in which polygamy is mostly a big taboo.  In the Yanomamo culture men have many brides and they take much pride in having them because their importance within the tribe is to be carried con by the generations to come and with many children preferably boys this power within the village will be even more.  Differing much from our culture, even though, importance may be carried through generations within social classes polygamy is not necessary and is a huge taboo in our culture.  For us having children is not a matter of how many children you have but how these children take care their lives and fulfill the mold their parents have presented to them by gaining importance within society with their own actions and the help of their parents name in many cases.  A great deconstruction in this case is the fact of the importance the Yanomamo give to having as many children they can and the importance we give to having as many children as we want but not concentrating on having as many as we can, but presenting them with the tools for them to be able to get through life in the best way possible.

          One other big binary opposition is the fact that women may be hit without there being any ulterior punishment to the man that reprimands her.  She may be hit and seriously hurt and there is no punishment. Contrary to our culture in which if ever a man would hit and or hurt a woman especially his bride he may be presented with serious charges and penalties as severe as serving in a yale  for several years.