Wanano - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Wanano social structure may be described as a system of hierarchically ordered, exogamous descent groups. The most inclusive category in the Wanano social universe is the mahsa, which encompasses the autonomous language groups of the Uaupés Basin. The constituent parts of the mahsa are the named, exogamous descent groups—referred to in the literature as "tribes" or "language groups"—whose villages ideally form a geographic unity. Membership in a language group is based on the sole criterion of patrilineal descent and is exclusive. Membership is ancestor oriented, although ancestors, called ancestral brothers, are designated rather than demonstrated. The Wanano are subdivided into sibs (kurua or kuduri).

Political Organization. The Wanano are united by common brotherhood, ancestry, and language with all other Wanano. Moreover, the twenty-five Wanano sibs comprise a coherent hierarchical and functional system. Although there are no paramount Wanano chiefs today, Koch-Grünberg, who visited the Wanano in 1904, mentions "a high chief of the whole Wanano tribe."

Social Control. Mechanisms for social control include shame, ridicule, fear of difference, and fear of sorcery. When faction-forming disputes arise, a faction may move from the settlement to avoid potential sorcery and to relieve tensions. Infidelity is frequently cited as a cause of discord. There are no coercive mechanisms for social control within Wanano society.

Conflict. Wanano report former raiding with many of their neighbors, including the Cubeo, the Desana, and the Arawakan Baniwa. Wanano settlement distribution may be seen as divided into an upriver and a downriver branch, the two branches separated by settlements of other language groups. This pattern may be attributable to intertribal warfare with Baniwa or Cubeo groups.

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