Wapisiana - Settlements



A Wapisiana settlement was once no more than a shifting and impermanent cluster of houses. During the twentieth century, villages have become nucleated, usually around a church. The government has added schools, meeting houses, and sometimes shops to village centers. In a few cases, Wapisiana have lined up their homes along the heavily used dirt roads that carry trucks, buses, official vehicles, hucksters, and even pleasure travelers from Boa Vista to other non-Indian towns and to the Venezuelan and Guyanan frontiers. The Wapisiana have traditionally preferred to live in open country, some miles from their gardens in the forest. This pattern continues, even in the less traditional villages, the residents of which produce their own food and participate least in the cash economy. The typical Brazilian Wapisiana village today consists of about twenty-five rectangular, clay-walled, palm-thatched houses spread over a delineated parcel of land. Villagers meet, usually at the church or in a school or clubhouse, to discuss local matters and make plans. Men often play soccer in an open area near the central buildings after these meetings, and holidays are celebrated there. Some villages have communally owned herds of cattle; there may be a corral and some pasturage maintained by the village men, usually away from the center. Villagers cut their gardens in the forests on the low hills that rise up from the savannas, sometimes walking several hours with heavy loads of cassava roots, which they process near their homes. Some families maintain second houses at their farms and process their cassava flour there. A few families live at their farms, but this is not well regarded by others in the Community.


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