Apalai - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Social relationships are based on consanguineal and affinial ties between individuals, with the village and domestic group functioning as the basic social units. Villages are generally inhabited by a married couple and their unmarried children, the families of their married daughters, and sundry members of their young husbands' kin or even other people. The establishment of an administrative and service center (with a school, walk-in clinic, etc.) in "Apalai Village" has created an atypical arrangement by bringing together a number of unrelated families who live there on a temporary or a permanent basis.

Political Organization. Sources indicate that there used to be an office of supreme warchief. Present-day leaders are restricted in authority to their respective villages and are referred to as tamuru, "old men." In accordance with the rules of political organization, they are the village founders or their sons who have inherited this prerogative. The status of leadership they hold reverts to the members of their families, especially to their sons-in-law ( peitó ), who are saddled with heavy matrimonial obligations. Above all, the authority of the tamuru is exercised by giving advice regarding collective labor and by arranging rituals. Nowadays the old men function as their communities' main spokesmen to outsiders.

Social Control. An individual's relations with the other members of the community are dependent on social behavior appropriate to his or her age and sex. Failure to observe the prescribed norms results in sanctions—epithets, disrespectful comments, or ostracism.

Conflict. Family disputes can lead to the abandonment of a house and temporary relocation to a distant village, "Apalai Village," or even communities in Suriname or French Guiana. Many of the disputes are caused by factors related to the misunderstanding and systematic destruction of traditional values and practices by missionaries and government functionaries.


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