Baniwa-Curripaco-Wakuenai - Settlements



Most villages are built near the banks of major rivers and streams; a few are found at the headwaters of small streams and on the banks of lakes and ponds. Seasonally occupied shelters are often built near garden lands or fishing lakes. On several occasions in the past, temporary refuge settlements were built in the forest to escape outside pressures or epidemics, but the dominant orientation of settlement patterns and ecology continues to be riverine. Settlements are widely dispersed, several hours distant from one another by canoe or trail. There are more than 150 villages in all (the majority in Brazil), with populations ranging from 10 to over 150 but averaging 30 to 40 people. Larger villages have schools, chapels, and community houses (or "Conference Houses" among evangelists) and frequently serve as religious, social, and educational centers for smaller villages. Settlements traditionally consisted of one or more multifamily longhouses (or roundhouses on the Guainía), divided into separate family compartments and a central space used for work or ritual purposes. Longhouses were oblong/rectangular constructions (e.g., 20 meters long by 17 meters wide by 7 meters high), with front and back doors, no windows, and pitched roofs of thatch, poles, and reeds.

The effects of contact and especially missionary pressures in the second half of the twentieth century have resulted in the replacement of all longhouses with settlements consisting of clusters of single-family houses. Houses are generally two-room constructions made of wattle and daub (variations: pole and thatch, bark walls) with thatched roofs. They are organized in linear fashion or distributed around a rectangular plaza, facing the river, and with a network of trails behind the village leading to gardens and the forest. Mission centers, government posts, and military airstrips have served as points of attraction, producing larger settlements with a more distinctly caboclo pattern of housing.


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