Barí - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The local group, owning several longhouses, was made up of half a dozen to a dozen hearth groups. The male heads of household of many of these hearth groups were related as brothers (including half-and stepbrothers) and brothers-in-law; however, the boundaries of the local group were permeable enough that hearth groups with distant or unknown genealogical connections to the "core" hearth groups were also often present. Most contemporary settlements trace themselves to the survivors of one or two traditional local groups.

Political Organization. Although robustly egalitarian, traditional Barí society did recognize the man who suggested and directed the construction of a particular longhouse as the man to whom that house pertained, and it accorded him a title. The other man or men who had aided in the direction of the construction also had titles. Most of the time, the contemporaneous houses of a local group had been constructed under the direction of a single leader and one or two assistants, who were considered the most important individuals of the group. Sometimes local groups had houses constructed by different leaders, however, and the reaction to a leader's becoming overbearing was to move to or construct a longhouse in which he was not a leader. Contemporary Barí community leaders are called by the same word, nyatobaye, as the traditional longhouse builders, and are in many cases former house builders or their sons. Some of them are now employed by the government as rural development officials and the like. Some individuals have been removed as nyatobaye at the insistence of mission personnel.

Social Control. Traditional Barí values stressed avoidance of conflict. Aggrieved parties never confronted one another, and if rancor built up between individuals in a longhouse, one party left to join another local group. With single-family dwellings and the large settlements of missions, rancorous confrontations are beginning to occur.

Conflict. There is no reliable record of any violent conflict within Barí society. During the time they were preyed on by ranchers and oilmen, the Barí raided the settlements of the criollos for revenge and for tools and other booty. Over 100 criollos were shot by Barí arrows; most survived. The Barí also maintained a traditional enmity with the neighboring Carib-speaking Yuko (Yukpa), occasionally kidnapping children or shooting adults.

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