Hoti



ETHNONYMS: Chicana, Chicano, Chikano, Joti, Shikana, Yowana, Yuana


The approximately 300 to 400 Hoti inhabit parts of the nortwestern Guiana highlands from 5°20/N to 6°25/N and 65°10′ W to 65°40′ W. Their language is an isolate, although it may be related to Piaroan or Yanomaman. Because of the inaccessibility of their habitat, they had no contact with non-Indians until the latter half of the twentieth century; their history therefore remains virtually unknown.

The permanent houses of the Hoti are rectangular structures with gable roofs and walls of palm thatch. Their temporary houses are lean-tos consisting of several upright posts and a framework of sticks supporting a cover of palm fronds.

The Hoti economy is based on swidden agriculture, hunting, gathering, and fishing. Plantains are the staple food; other crops include bananas, maize, sweet manioc, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, taro, yams, pineapples, sugarcane, and peppers. The Hoti also cultivate several nonvictual garden products: cotton and curagua ( Ananas erectifolius ), from which they extract fiber; lágrimas de San Pedro ( Coix lacryma jobi ) for necklace beads; annatto ( Bixa orellana ) for red dyestuff; several medicinal plants; and tobacco. Whereas large animals such as tapir and peccaries are hunted with iron-tipped lances, smaller game, including birds, monkeys, and squirrels, are shot with blowguns from behind blinds, using plain or curare-tipped darts. The Hoti do not use bows and arrrows. On day-long foraging expeditions, they gather more than thirty varieties of wild fruits and vegetables, several kinds of crabs and grubs, and honey from various species of bees. Fishing, principally with barbasco and hooks, is of lesser importance. Although the Hoti keep a large variety of birds and other animals, they do not raise them for economic purposes.

The division of labor is very flexible among the Hoti. Both sexes participate in most subsistence activities and in the production of artifacts. Men clear new garden plots of trees and underbrush, but all the other work pertaining to planting, weeding, and harvesting is done by men and women alike. Men cut trees when foraging for honey, but women, teenagers, and children collect fruits, wild vegetables, and other edibles. Hunting is considered men's work, but women sometimes accompany their husbands. Fishing is almost always done by a lone man; when fishing as a couple, the husband prepares the poison and his wife joins him in mixing it into the water and in securing the catch. Women haul water and firewood and prepare most of the food. House construction is carried out jointly by the members of a nuclear family. Both men and women spin cotton and make hammocks, mats, baskets, crude pottery, and wooden graters. The making and playing of musical instruments, including rattles, reed and bone flutes, and a particular string instrument, is a male specialty.

Although some Hoti continue to go naked, others wear rectangular pubic covers of woven cotton. Some women also use leaves or bast for this purpose. Both adults and children tie bast fibers, human hair, and woven cotton bands around their wrists, legs, and ankles and wear necklaces made of seeds, bones, bird beaks, and peccary hoofs. Some individuals also wear pieces of cane or animal bone in their earlobes.

Local groups vary in size and may include one or more nuclear and extended families. Group cohesion is very flexible; autonomous nuclear families are free to move and join other groups. Marriage is predominantly monogamous, but polygyny has also been observed. In general, however, Hoti social organization and kinship structure have not been adequately studied. The oldest active male of the group is looked upon as the headman. His authority as politicai leader is generally limited to matters pertaining to food acquisition, group movements, and changes in residency. The political leader also serves as the healer of his group. He occasionally bleeds patients suspected of suffering from "bad blood." Other cases are treated with herbal medicaments such as those prepared from several varieties of sedge ( Cyperaceae ). Light massages soothe pain caused by agents other than "bad blood"; the healer blows intermittently over the ailing body part to capture the pathogen under his massaging hand, extracts the pain from the patient, and expels it to some distant place. Healing séances are conducted in silence, and Hoti curers do not make use of chants, rattles, or psychotropic drugs to practice their art.


Bibliography

Coppens, Walter (1983). "Los hoti." In Etnología contemporánea. Vol. 2, edited by Roberto Lizarralde and Haydée Seijas, 243-301. Los aborígenes de Venezuela, edited by Walter Coppens and Bernarda Escalante. Monograph no. 29. Caracas: Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales, Instituto Caribe de Antorpología y Sociología.


Guarisma, P. Virginia, and Walter Coppens (1978). "Vocabulario hoti." Antropológica (Caracas) 49:3-27.


Koch-Grünberg, Theodor (1913). "Abschluss meiner Reise durch Nordbrasilien zum Orinoco, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der von mir besuchten Indianerstämme." Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 45:448-474.


JOHANNES WILBERT

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