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Kinship Organization of Yanomamo Culture Essay


Horticulture can be defined as a non-mechanized mode of cultivation. This form of cultivation is never intensive in nature. However, members of a horticulture society can still engage in the collection of wild food products. Foraging societies are mainly involved in wondering for food provisions.

Unlike horticulture society, which is greatly dependent on domesticated plants, foraging societies do not domesticate plants but go gathering wild fruits and hunting (Andersen & Taylor, 2010). This paper will discuss Yanomamo ethnic community and how the members are influenced by culture of kinship.

Yanomamo is a cultural group of indigenous people residing mainly in villages found within the Amazon rainforest; this region borders the countries of Brazil and Venezuela. In the villages where the Yanomamo people live, they are consisted of both nuclear and extended families. This implies that the Yanomamo people value kinship as part of their cultural identity. Just like other traditional kinship, Yanomamo kinship is both consanguine and affine.

Kinship organization in Yanomamo culture

Yanomamo people practice horticulture where they use the technique of slash-and-burn as they clear land for their horticultural practice, even though they still rely on foraging. This is one way through which kinship influences the way Yanomamo people live and carry out their daily business.

They grow fruits, fish, hunt animals and also grow bananas. While men clear large tracks of land for horticulture as part of their duties, women who are born and those married into the family have the responsibility of doing the planting which mainly consist of plantain and cassava. Duties are assigned according to gender and everyone has his or her duties to perform (Pink, 2006).

Yanomamo kinship conforms to the classification pattern of the Iroquois. However, it is consistent with the rest of the features of its social structures. The social life of the Yanomamo people revolves around the very social principles used by the tribesmen (Rosman et al, 2009).

These principles are seen in marriage exchanges taking place amongst kinship; marriage is the second scenario on how kinship influence the Yanomamo’s way of life. In fact, Yanomamo culture places a significant emphasis on patrilineal descent. The culture also strongly encourages and tolerates cross cousin marriages, which are bilateral in nature.

There are village headmen whose responsibility is to determine how the village members relate with the members from the other villages. The positions of these headmen are as outcomes of kinship and patterns of marriage. The dynamics of the Yanomamo people involve receiving and giving girls during the process of marriage.

Marriage arrangements are normally done by men who are the older kin and are the fathers, brothers and uncles. The girls are booked for marriage while they are still young. The men who engage in this kind of marriage arrangement are always concerned about establishing alliances with other fellow men and hence strengthen kinship ties (Richard & Swanger, 2006).

The third scenario is about the lineage of Yanomamo; lineage groupings are normally small and quite shallow. A lineage hardly ever goes beyond a generation of three adults. This implies that the descendants of a single great grandfather. Normally, the depth of kinship generation is limited by the recurrent subdivision (Irons & Chagnon, 2008). Wrangles that occur amongst cousins are the main causes of subdivisions or group segmentation.

Cousins always compete on who has the right to the young women who are ready or about to be married into the group through the exchange marriage system. The internal wrangles can get so cruel that segmentation of a group takes place. Usually a group of brothers leave and goes out to establish a new group. They build their own village. This process replicates whenever there are internal wrangles about women who are to be married into a group (Irons & Chagnon, 2008).


Kinship in Yanomamo culture has a number of influences and impacts on the people’s way of life. One area where this is evident is in the area of farming. Men in the families are charged with the responsibility clearing land in readiness for planting. The planting is done by the women in the family. The second scenario is witnessed in marriage (Irons & Chagnon, 2008). The culture places it emphasis on patrilineal descent which are quiet shallow.

A man from one family marries a sister to the other man who in turn marries his sister in exchange. This strengthens kinship ties between two men from different villages. Also, kinship plays a significant role in terms of conflict. Cousins always fight over the rights to women being married into the group. This causes conflict which ultimately leads to segmentation. Brothers leave the group and moves out of the village to form their own group. The impact of this is the formation of a new segment (Pink, 2006).


Andersen, M. & Taylor, H. (2010). Sociology: The Essentials. New York: Cengage Learning.

Irons, W. & Chagnon, N. (2008). Evolutionary biology and human social behavior: an anthropological perspective. United States: Duxbury Press.

Pink, S. (2006). The future of visual anthropology: engaging the senses. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Richard, H. & Swanger, J. (2006). The dilemmas of social democracies: overcoming obstacles to a more just world. Lexiton: Lexington Books.

Rosman, A. et al. (2009). The Tapestry of Culture: An Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. Lanham: Rowman Altamira.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Kinship Organization of Yanomamo Culture'. 14 December.

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