Wantoat - Settlements



In precontact times the people lived in small, relatively isolated hamlets of thirty to eighty persons located in defensible positions, usually on mountain ridges. Generally, several related hamlets were located within two to three hours walking time of one another, but it often took a day to walk to the next complex of related hamlets. Mutual hostility between these groups led to considerable linguistic variation; more than twenty-five minor dialects have been reported. To aid in administration the government required related hamlets to combine into larger villages, thereby reducing the number of settlements substantially. This policy, however, caused the garden areas to be situated farther from the village and hence more vulnerable to destruction by enemies; it also overloaded the capacity for village hygiene, thereby contributing to the more rapid spread of disease; and it renewed latent antagonisms so that village life generally became undesirable. Consequently, many people live in shelters in the gardens and return to the villages to meet governmental officers and attend church. Currently there are about sixty settlements with an average population of 120, but ranging from 43 to 318.

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