Cuiva - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The only distinctions in Cuiva society are based on sex and age. Men and women are said to be very different and fully complementary. The division of labor is strict and is accompanied by the sexual division of many other aspects of the social and cosmological order. The ideology of complementarity of the sexes translates into a broadly equal sharing in food production as well as in the running of social and political affairs. Power increases with age, however, and one should always pay respect and follow the advice of one's elders, regardless of sex. The basis for this division lies in the belief that knowledge is cumulative; elders know more about the world and the supernatural and this makes them more efficient and more powerful.

Political Organization. Within the group of "those who sleep in the same hammock," neither husband nor wife is supposed to be dominant; both partners are very much the masters of their own fields of activities. Within the shelter, the authority clearly rests with the parents, until age makes them more and more dependent on their daughters and sons-in-law. Within the local group and the band, there are no institutionalized forms of political power, but the opinions of older members of either sex usually carry more weight and will often be respected. However, the activities over which these people can exercise any form of authority are mostly limited to deciding whether and where the group should move next or trying to resolve a dispute between members of different shelters. The most important decisions in life are made by couples and by those who share the same shelter, and these are domains in which no outsider would ever interfere.

Social Control and Conflict. Since at every level each social group is largely autonomous, there is often no higher authority with the political power of settling disputes. Like other communities of hunter-gatherers that are said to "vote with their feet," the Cuiva tend to vote with their paddles: conflicting parties will simply part and travel to distant areas of the territory, where they will remain until a time when much is forgotten and the quarrel has turned trivial.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: