The Yanomamo tribe belongs to Central Brazilian and is one of the oldest tribes who can be categorized into classic forest footmen. The ancient tribe that wasn’t discovered until the late 1960s lives in completed isolation from the outside world and its threats. The Yanomamo people live in small groups or tribes forming villages that reside in the communal huts called shabonos, which are collective living quarters for multiple families without any segregation.
Their language is only spoken by the indigenous people. There is no proper education required or a written form of their language. Their basic education revolves around survival, which involves hunting, growing crops and feeding on them. Moreover, the Yanomami people have little to no clothing, depending on the level of their position in the tribe. While, they focus most of their time on gardening, gathering food, creating crafts and decorating their faces, the Yanomami also believe in socializing and helping each other.
The locals’ regulations consider men in high ranks and the protectors of the women and children of their village. Additionally, they also have the authority over their women and are allowed to beat them and marry more than one wife at a time. This concept is adapted in order to increase the population of the tribe and secure their society from foreign invasion (Borofsky, Rob, and Bruce Albert).
Furthermore, the Yanomamo tribe strongly believe in forming political alliances with other tribes and villagers, which is celebrated through feats and festivals where they present their beautiful culture through face painting, dancing and music. The social activity helps Yanomami people form unity against the foreign population, which can be threatening for them and their minority culture which is already at a risk of extinction.
Yanomamo vs Modern Civilization
The Yanomamo tribe was first discovered in 1964 when Dr. Napoleon Chagnon published his work regarding the living style of the untouched crowd, which was unfamiliar to the modern world, its theories and developments. The Yanomamo people have been threaten by foreign invasion several times due to the riches of their land. Gold miner, in 1993, entered the area in search of wealth and killed sixteen Yanomami Indians.
The activities of the unfamiliar crowd alarmed the indigenous people and realized the threat that was caused by foreign invasion. The gold miners also damage their land, which is the most important thing to the people of Yanomamo tribe as their survival depends on it. The miners have killed enough animals to cause a food shortage for the locals. Moreover, they have polluted the waters with mercury killing the river life and damaging the nearby crops and risking the lives of many Yanomami civilians.
According to Chagnon (1966), the Yanomamo people are violent and sexist who kill to feed and survive. They see women as form of property of men; therefore, the more women and offspring a man had, the more powerful he was considered and respected by other members. They killed their own kind and the people who interfered in their aim of surviving the years with hunting, gardening and other activities that were necessary for living.
The Yanomami tribes are one of the most isolated Brazilian tribes, who live in different villages that lives under one hut. Every village is considered economically independent. The indigenous people have developed this theory of being self-sufficient, to be able to survive on whatever resources are available to them without seeking outsider’s help and taking the risk of returning that favor. However, the culture of socializing is practiced between the villages of Yanomami tribes in order to perform marriages and increase the population.
The Yanomami culture is tagged as hostile for outsiders. Nevertheless, it is their traditions, concepts and way of life that differ from the rest of the world. Their attitude towards women is sexist and oppressing of the female gender. They kill female infants at birth to avoid shame to the family. That is the reason, there aren’t enough women in their society which can be threatening for the reduction in the population.
The land of the Yanomami territory might be in isolation from the rest of the world, but this not the reason behind their backward culture and distance from the modern civilization. The indigenous people have maintained this distance in order to avoid the interference of foreign culture in their own which can risk their survival. Additionally, events in the past and the first impression of foreign invasion has been a back step for the Yanomami people.
Moreover, the ancient tribe is self-sufficient and unlike other civilizations they do not require to engage with outsiders to exchange goods and services in order to increase the standard of their living. This is due to their beliefs and acceptance of the basic life and aiming to survive rather than improve the standards of living. They believe in peace and a simple life that revolves around hunting, gardening and feasting.
According to the functionalist theory, society is a body of interconnected parts that are meant to work together in unit in order to achieve a balance state and social equilibrium. An example of this concept is the unique contribution of every social institute to the society on the whole. A family provides reproduction, responsible for the upbringing, nurturing of the children, while education helps the youth become more knowledgeable, develop skills and understand culture; politics is an institute for governing a society; economics is about the concept of production, distribution and consumption, and lastly, religion provides guidance, support and a higher entity to worship for the society which brings them hope and morality (Matsumoto, David Ricky, and Linda P. Juang).
This theory of functionalist society is that all the departments of a society work together to form a lifestyle, and every institute has an influence over the other. A higher divorce rate has resulted in more children with a single parent that can’t manage between providing for the family or raising them. On the other hand, an increase in female workers has resulted in new policies regarding harassment at workplace and sexist discrimination.
Yanomami Society and Functionalist Theory
The people of Yanomami live in unity to protect their kind and their culture. They believe in socializing and connecting with each other to keep their population running. The functionalist theory is applied to their society when it comes to the economic institute which is producing food through gardening and hunting. The economic institute is related to their way of life and the institute of family and politics which revolves around survival and the learning and teaching of producing and hunting food.
Families raise and upbringing their children to be able to lead a successful life in the Yanomami society which believes in the aim of living a peaceful life without any requirements for developments or inventions, sticking to stone age methods. While the institute of education provides the teachings of leading the basic life of hunting and feeding.
Hence, it can be concluded that the functionalist theory is applicable to the Yanomami society to a great extent because most of their social institute work in harmony to build up their way of living and meet the ultimate goal of their existence.
Interactionism derives from social processes of human development through connecting with other fellow human beings. Interactionist theory refers to how individuals contribute to the way a society runs and how the society influences the individual. The theory also suggests that a person’s identity and personality is developed through social interactions. We see ourselves how others tag us or recommend us. When a bunch of people consider you a kind hearted person, you will begin to act like one and believe in that.
Yanomami Society and Interactionism
Interaction exists in the society of Yanomami people because of their belief in socializing and forming good connections in order to succeed. Their theory of a strong men who has many wives and children has encouraged men to oppress women and exploit them because they have begun to see themselves that way. On the other hand, they are influenced by the behaviors of each other and live in conformity without raising the question against their way of living and not exploring the world beyond.
Thus, the interactionist theory is applied to some extent to the people of Yanomami but not entirely due to the low number of interactions with the outside world. They are unaware of their perspective in other parts of the world and how they are seen by foreigners.
This theory of sociology refers to the conflict among people over the limited resources available to them for their unlimited wants. On the other side, conflict perspective is a concept that different groups and interests that exist in the society compete for the power and resources available to them.
The conflict theory divides people with different opinions and interest in different groups. Such as industrialists and capitalists are interest in profits, customer exploitation and minimum costs, while the working class is concerned with wages and taxes. Every group fights for their right to hold a strong place in the society in order to survive. This division has led to the creation of classes, positions in society, higher and lower standards.
Yanomami Society and Conflict Theory
Yanomamo Society has shown the evidence of conflict theory with its hostile behavior towards foreign invasion that are threatening their limited resources of food. Additionally, the killing of other villages and causing war among each other is all a result of constant search for food and competing for the available amount.
Moreover, the society believes in giving power to an entity in order to avoid war and conflicts among each other; therefore, the men in society are given power over women and the one with most wives and offspring are considered the most respected. This thought has led to a constant competition for becoming the best and gaining the power through several marriages and giving birth to children.
Hence, the Yanomamo Society has applied the conflict theory to their society because the idea of power has always been there since ancient times and the setting of certain rules to achieve it. Additionally, a limited resource such as food has encouraged a competition among the people of Yanomami.
In conclusion, the Yanomami Society is one of the most unique, oldest and peaceful cultures that requires to be cherished and saved for long. The lifestyle of the people of Yanomami are very different than the modern civilization. They have developed to be independent economically to avoid engagement with the outsiders to escape any form of invasion and the capturing of the land illegally. They sociological fundamentals are all applicable to the Yanomami society to some extent because of their organized way of living.
Yanomamo–the multi-disciplinary study
Matsumoto, David Ricky, and Linda P. Juang. Culture and psychology. Cengage Learning, 2017.
Borofsky, Rob, and Bruce Albert. Yanomami: The fierce controversy and what we can learn from it. Vol. 12. Univ of California Press, 2005.