The Yanomamo tribe belongs to Central Brazil and is one of the oldest tribes that can be categorized into classic forest footmen. The ancient tribe that wasn’t discovered until the late 1960s lives in complete 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 as the protectors of the women and children of their village. Additionally, they also have 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 to them and their minority culture which is already at 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 threatened 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 damaged their land, which was the most important thing to the people of the Yanomamo tribe as their survival depended 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 and kill to feed and survive. They see women as a 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 with 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 live 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 an outsider’s help and taking the risk of returning that favour. However, the culture of socializing is practised between the villages of Yanomami tribes in order to perform marriages and increase the population.
The Yanomami culture is tagged as hostile to 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 in 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 is not the reason behind their backward culture and distance from modern civilization. The indigenous people have maintained this distance in order to avoid the interference of foreign cultures in their own which can risk their survival. Additionally, events in the past and the first impression of foreign invasion have been a step for the Yanomami people.
Moreover, the ancient tribe is self-sufficient and unlike other civilizations, they are not required 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 aim 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 a unit in order to achieve a balanced state and social equilibrium. An example of this concept is the unique contribution of every social institute to society as a whole. A family provides reproduction, responsible for the upbringing, and 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 who 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 in the 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 institutes 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 are developed through social interactions. We see ourselves in 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 man 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 behaviours of each other and live in conformity without raising the question about 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 society compete for the power and resources available to them.
The conflict theory divides people with different opinions and interests in different groups. Such as industrialists and capitalists are interested 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 society in order to survive. This division has led to the creation of classes, positions in society, and higher and lower standards.
Yanomami Society and Conflict Theory
Yanomamo Society has shown evidence of conflict theory with its hostile behaviour towards foreign invasions that are threatening their limited resources of food. Additionally, the killing of other villages and causing war among each other are all a result of the constant search for food and competing for the available amount.
Moreover, 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 the most wives and offspring is considered the most respected. This thought has led to constant competition to become the best and gain 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 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 is very different from the modern civilization. They have developed to be independent economically to avoid engagement with outsiders to escape any form of invasion and the capturing of the land illegally. The 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.