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Yanomamo Kinship

  • Date Submitted: 01/26/2011 11:30 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 61.5 
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Yanomamo Kinship
The Yanomamo are from the Amazon rainforest in South America. Yanomamo families live in large homesteads and each family has its own place where members can eat, sleep, and store their belongings. They sleep in hammocks, one above the other, with the youngest children on the bottom.
Yanomamo practice patrilineal descent. Patrilineal descent traces ancestry through the males. The Yanomamo highly values the men and think men are more important than the women. The father and father’s brother are referred to by a single term: haya. The mother and mother’s sister is called naya.   However, the father’s sister (yesiya) and mother’s brother (soaya) are given separate terms.
The kinship system of the Yanomamo is important in social relations. Marriages are arranged by older male kin. Yanomamo practice endogamy, bilateral cross cousin marriage, and polygny. Polygny is where a man has two or more wives at the same time. Another example of how the kinship system is important is naming a child. Once a child is born, the father goes on a hunt. When the father kills an animal, the baby is given the name of the species of the animal or a body part of the animal killed.
Yanomamo have feasts that that are used to keep the peace, have marital exchanges, and to strengthen political allies in case of warfare. A village will invite a friendly neighboring village over for a feast. A part of the feast is when they practice balanced reciprocity; exchanging tools, baskets, dogs, and weapons. If a village thought the exchanges were unfair and not equal in value, the feasting relations might be ended and there could be hostility between the villages.
The Yanomamo culture values war. Chagnon suggests that polygny and the limited amount of women causes wars so they can gain women from the enemy tribes. Harris says it is to gain more hunting land (Harris, 1974, 1979). But, Johnson and Earle (2000) that neither is right nor wrong. They believe the Yanomamo can’t break out...


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