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Yanomami: The Native Indian Tribe Essay

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Updated: Nov 20th, 2021


Yanomami is a native tribe composed of four sub tribes of Indians which reside in tropical rainforest in the Amazon basin located in northern Brazil and Southern Venezuela (Robert xx). The four subdivisions include the sanema which live in the northern area, the Ninam which live in the south eastern area, the yanoman which live in North Eastern part and the Yanomamo which live southwestern section. They are also referred to as Yanomami and Samuna. Each subdivision speaks its own language. They are made up of over hundred small villages spread across the Amazon. The Yanomami people don’t wear clothes, men and women decorate their bodies with flowers and feathers.

Economics and mode of production of the Yanomami people

The yanomami gets their food from fishing, hunting, and gathering and also practice some form of agriculture. These are the major economic activities that sustain their livelihood (charito Para. 2). Fishing is done in the rivers which are many in the Amazon basin through the use of canoes and their traditional fishing gear such as traps and spears. Like other Indian tribes the Yanomami hunts using bows, arrows and guns. Guns are made from cane with its mouth piece made from curved wood. Like many other native tribes, duties are assigned according to sexes. Men are hunters while women are gatherers. These roles are trained since childhood. Women farm small tracks of land which are labor intensive, they usually plant crops such as sugarcane, potatoes, cassava and maize (John 98). These crops do not provide enough food to eat so they supplement with other ways such as hunting.

Yanomami also engages in trade where a village produces goods which are badly needed by the other village for exchange i.e. barter trade is the only form of trade where villagers exchange goods with other goods. Trade between the villagers reduces chances of war and enhances good relationships between the villagers. Through these business people from the trading villages are able to interact and intermingle freely thus good relations. The goods produced sometimes are used in exchange for wives.

Weaving and curving is also practiced by the Yanomami people, they make baskets and bows. Weaving is done by women who make both flat and saddle baskets which are carried around the forehead with a strap. The baskets are used mainly for carrying goods while the bows are used for trade. These wares are sometimes used for trade (John 130).

Social political organization

As observed by John (132) Yanomami are grouped into small villages composed of families in one communal dwelling called Shibambo (Circular structure with an open space in the middle). Villagers are independent but interact with each other regularly. The villages may be composed of 30 to 300 people. The villages are close to each other for security reasons. Their houses are made from locally found materials such as thatch and mud. One dwelling may harbor several families. Each family has its own cooking arrangement.

Each village has warriors responsible for community protection. These are strong young men, who undergo training in martial art and use of weapons such as spears and arrows. These fierce warriors sometimes go to capture women of neighboring villages so as to increase their reproductive success. Women are considered very important as they bear children who increase the population of a village. During war, men and male children are killed but women are usually captured. Due to their fierce nature, research has revealed that almost a third of men die during village wars. Villages may engage in war for several reasons and warfare is a way of life of the Yonomami people. A village splits after its growth reaches more than 300 individuals.

The Yanomani people have elders who usually give their view on issues affecting them. Decisions are reached through consensus usually arrived after long talks by all the people involved. They believe on equality among the people. There is no organized political system among the Yanomami people.


Marriages in this community are prearranged and usually women are married at young ages. Marriage arrangements are important not only for alliance reasons but also helps foster peace among the villagers. The preferred marriages are between maternal cousins in order to strengthen ties between families. They practice polygamous marriages. Large families have a political importance (John 114). The family is a respected unit among the people; a man is the head of the family.

The communities have several ceremonies where they invite their friends for feasts and celebrations. This brings the community together helping bond their relationships.


Spiritual Beliefs

The spirit world is an essential element in the lives of the Yanomami, according to them everything has a spirit; trees, rocks, and animals, even mountains. The Yanomami people believe there is a close connection between the spiritual world and the natural world. They have a belief that nature is holy and affects everything in their lives. They believe in fate and that it controls life. Yanomami people’s traditions are shaped by the belief that the natural and spiritual worlds are a unified force; nature creates everything, and is sacred. They hold beliefs that a person’s actions is influenced by some supernatural powers that are beyond their controls (John 152).

The community spiritual leader is shaman. For one to become a shaman he goes through some intensive training composed of a series of fasting for one year. Shaman controls the spirit by inhaling some concoctions made from some special trees. The Yonomamis believe that the sky is made up of many holes and if the shaman does not serve the community it will fall off. Shaman is believed to have spirits to cure friends and power to harm enemies. These spirits are referred to as xapiripë


The world views the Yanomami as the most primitive people in the world and whose culture is intact. They are said to be living in the Stone Age era of human evolution. Simply known as the Stone Age tribe these people have undergone many historical injustices which has led to death and suffering among the community members. Inhuman deeds have widely been demonstrated through research conducted among the Yanomami community, for example, it has been established that measles was introduced to this community in order to test natural selection in marginalized communities (Robert 124). Though presently there have been some efforts to improve the livelihood of the Yanomami people, mining of gold in the area has threatened their lively hood.

Works Cited

Charito Ushiñahua “Yanomami Indians: The Fierce People?” (2008). Web.

John F. Peters. Life among the Yanomami. New York: Broadview Press, 1998. ISBN 1-55111-193-4

Robert Borofsky. Yanomami: the fierce controversy and what we can learn from it. London: University of California, 2005.

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