Awá Kwaiker - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The social organization of the Awá Kwaiker is based on rules of behavior regarding production and personal relations that are intended to produce a balance among territory, population density, and provision of resources. The behavioral norms are affirmed in social gatherings where, in some way, every one finds out who is violating the norms: who is committing adultery, who is stealing, who has lost her virginity, and so on. As a result, these gatherings are public occasions for examining one's conscience.

Political Organization. The Awá Kwaiker lack a formal political structure because the family, under the authority of the father, is the immediate and definitive agent of social control. Recently, the Colombian government, through the Office of Indian Affairs, has been organizing the Awá Kwaiker into a cabildo system, a type of Indian council similar to other traditional organizations. Here, it is not necessarily the older people who have more authority, but rather those who are more qualified to carry out the relevant duties.

Social Control. Social censure is the traditional method of social control. The law of reciprocity operates, so that peace between two people is reestablished by reimbursement for something stolen and, in general, when compensation is made for an infraction. In these types of cases there is no formal judge who mediates between the contenders: they resolve their differences themselves.

Conflict. One of the major bases of contention is the defense of territorial rights, which often leads to aggression and conflict. The Awá Kwaiker are aggressive among themselves, but, when confronted by Whites, they adopt an attitude of passive rejection: they avoid speaking or sharing activities with persons outside their own group. For their part, the farmers of the surrounding area see the Awá Kwaiker as backward, incompetent, ignorant, and odd. The local authorities share this view, and, consequently, there is no guarantee that the rights of the Awá Kwaiker will be defended.

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