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Yanomamo: From the Deep Amazon Jungles Essay

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Updated: Jan 1st, 2022

The name Yanomamo denotes the name of a group of people who live in the deep Amazon jungles. The American Indians come from the Venezuela and Brazil countries which are in the Amazon Basin. Chagnon adds that these people are the most primeval cultures present in the world (4). Their intact cultural conservativeness classes them to ‘stone-age tribe’ or Neo-Indians dating back over 8000 years. These indigenous people are not exposed to inventions like the wheel. Further more they a similar methods like ancient Egyptian of cremating their dead! Amazingly they drink crushed bones of the dead to have an eternal bond with the dead. Their intimate relation with Amazon forest environment has made them apt hunters and gatherers. The foremost question is why are the Yanomamo living with us, hid in a vast forest concurrently with a world that is experiencing the computer technology? Are there unanswered questions? How do we approach the challenges learned from the tedious research of dedicated anthropologists? These are a few of the paramount question we need to analyze from the lives of these Indians.

Napoleon Chagnon a renowned anthropologist graduated from the University of Michigan has written on the Yanomamo people in a great length. In his book ‘Yanomamo: The fierce People’ he talks about the Yanomamo people. He is not a member of the Yanomamo tribe. His ethnography works has intensively focused on the social circumscription of the Amazon Yanomamo tribes. Chagnon characterizes these people as primitive with ‘stone age’ characteristics. However, from the details he puts across we learn how they hunt with arrows made of the word, different from the stone arrows of the ‘stone age’ people (Chagnon 54).

He describes the political, cultural, and religious setups of the Yanomamo people at length. For example, we learn how they practice animism as their form of religion where the spirits are visible under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. In the political setup, kinship is their form of political administration and hierarchy. How their political setup regards the men to be chiefs and their responsibilities. They are also polygamous where the choice for a marriage partner is from a cross-cousin. Chagnon’s works have developed a lot of contentious debate to the American Anthropologist Association on the way he postulates the Yanomamo as ‘fierce’. These allegations pose questions to challenge the authentic nature of Chagnon’s works. When comparing with other works, we however see the resemblance of his approach on the cultural, political, cultural, and religious practices of the people. Therefore, Chagnon’s works qualify to give a clear account of the lives of the Yanomamo people. If there is war, the Yanomamo tribes separate to evade more danger. To complete his works Chagnon spend several years and used several tribes who contributed to the vivid explanations of their culture. By making a lot of observations on the Yanomamo people he documented the genealogy of the people although encountering a lot of difficulties, due to translation and the fear of naming deceased ancestors by the Yanomamo people (Chagnon 154).

Robert. L. Carneiro, a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Michigan is another anthropologist scholar who is the associate curator of the American Museum of Natural History. He is not a member of the tribes he is discussing. He has a scientific approach on quantitative and qualitative approach in answering ingenious questions. In his works ‘Indians of The Amazon Basin,’ he has not only talked about the Yanomamo but also highlighted Kuikuru and Amahuaca with a special interest in the influence of ecological factors on the tribes of the Amazon basin. In his works, Carneiro tries to give relevant answers to many puzzling questions of social evolution scholars. These questions touch on the main cultural setup of the Yanomamo and other Amazon-based tribes of how they adopted horticulture as their mode of livelihood. He heavily borrows from Chagnon in describing the social circumscription of the Amazon tribes. Carneiro has scientifically approached environmental and social circumscription together with resource concentration of the Indian people in a mathematical approach. The formulated mathematical definitions for inhibition based on the ecological approach he could be able to discuss geographical increase and political splitting of the Amazon tribes. This made him spend years in sampling and research practices with the Amazon inhabitants (Carnerio 158-161).

Theodore Roosevelt, a politician, and former youngest American president was a Harvard graduate. In his works ‘Through the Brazilian Wilderness’ captures an adventure in the Amazon basin, the dangers encountered in the Rio Roosevelt River probably named after him. At the age of 55 years, he managed to explore the Amazon Basin for a period of six weeks. He meets dangerous natives of the basin, which are described by Carneiro and Chagnon wielding their hunting tools. Theodore’s writing is based on true accounts of what he saw on the ground as he explored. In his works, we meet the hunting tactics of the tribes, probably the Yanomamo and Kuihuru in the river having wooden arrows described by Chagnon (Roosevelt 68). He describes the piranhas in the river and meets the inhabitant as they take the herd of cattle to feed and the river for water. The adventure story ascertains the livelihood of the people and hunting techniques as observed by Chagnon and Carneiro.

Therefore the above-discussed works by the writers give the identity of the authors, the physical relationship with the indigenous groups of the Amazon. At a glance, these sources give an understanding of their way of life, the challenges they meet, and their socio-political and religious fabric.

Works Cited

Carneiro, Robert. Indians of the Amazon Basin. 1927. Print.

Chagnon, Napoleon. Yanomamo: The Fierce People. 1983. Print.

Roosevelt, Theodore. Through the Brazilian Wilderness. Cooper Square Press. 2000. Print.

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