Seri - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Seri society is fundamentally egalitarian. Husbands have limited status as heads of households. In the past, older males may have held some authority. A war leader was accorded temporary status during military action. Especially powerful shamans have commanded both respect and fear. The authority of twentieth-century tribal "chiefs" has been restricted to external matters.

Political Organization. The Seri say that band and ihizitim structure collapsed when their population was decimated in the mid-nineteenth century. The resulting "tribe" emerged as a de facto grouping consisting of all surviving Seri; today it has little formai structure and few political functions. An informal council of elder men occasionally deliberates on matters involving external relations. The current "chief," however, has been an effective advocate for Seri interests with both the state and federal governments.

Social Control. The Seri value individualism. They are willing to tolerate considerable latitude in behavior, but are equally willing to express themselves if behavior exceeds acceptable bounds. Minor excesses are sometimes controlled by gossip, but angry diatribes directed squarely at the offender are not uncommon.

Conflict. Conflict is generated mostly at the interpersonal rather than the group or tribal level. Most disputes are resolved with little more than loud quarreling. Occasional fights have erupted, and rare instances of homicide are recalled. It is said that shamans were formerly capable of killing by witchcraft. Today a constable is charged with keeping the peace.

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