Ayoreo - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Ayoreo society is structured into seven exogamic patrilineal clans ( kučiérane ; sing., kučierái ), which stand in a hierarchical relationship to one another. This ranking of the clans is related to the number of people and beings that belong to them. Each clan has a special sign ( edopasáde ); these signs vary according to the material from which they are made, the techniques employed for their representation, and some of the colors and color combinations that characterize them. The basic function of the kučierái is to regulate exogamy and establish a classification of reality. However, a special kind of relationship exists between pairs of clans, which determines certain reciprocal obligations. These manifest themselves at funerals, in ceremonial gift-exchange after a killing, in the festival of the nightjar, and on other occasions. Each clan calls the other with which it maintains relations yakotéi (complementary opposite), which can be schematized as follows: čikenói/posonhái ; etakóri/dosapéi ; pikanerái/kutamuahái ; nuruminí, The situation of the nuruminí in the schema varies, according to the Ayoreo: some say they have no yakotéi; others think they have this type of relationship with the dosapéi. This position of the nuruminí is consistent with their condition as the clan of the lowest hierarchical rank.

Political Organization. Highest social status is accorded to the asuté or chief, the shaman or daihsnái (the "wise man" or man who knows myths and curing chants), and the dreamer or uritái. With the exception of the status of the chief, women can reach all other statuses and obtain the power each status implies. The "crazy man" ( urosói ) is a special case. The social and political power within the community is invested in the asuté, the man who leads the young men into war or to a killing. His prestige is essentially based on the number of victims he has killed. The asuté is, first of all, a courageous individual who, because of the contamination from the blood of his slain enemies, possesses a special power that frightens or terrifies his adversaries. Although there is more than one asuté in a given gidái, there is a difference of importance among them, and only one may stand out who holds the statuses both of chief and shaman. A gagé frequently takes the name of its defender or most important asuté, but there are other cases in which the band's name is derived from a toponym. The shaman has perfectly defined social prerogatives and powers. He undergoes a process of initiation that requires him to ingest a strong dose of tobacco juice, implying his empowerment with a particular force ( uhopié ).

Social Control. Because they have the highest status in Ayoreo society, the asutés exercise control over the community. However, women play a very active social role in religious matters.

Conflict. The primary and almost exclusive objective of Ayoreo military organization is to make war against other Ayoreo and against Konhióne. Warriors seek to obtain prestige and power by killing human beings. There does not appear to be any other purpose, since goods are obtained only occasionally and looting is not the principal aim of war expeditions. Similarly, it is very unusual for prisoners to be taken, except young men or women from another Ayoreo group. In wars against Konhióne, all captives were killed, irrespective of age or sex.

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