Karajá - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The Karajá moieties are clearly apparent in the complex Hetohokã ritual, which marks the initiation of 7-year-old boys (piercing of the lower lip to receive a distinctive adornment of the masculine condition) and of 10 to 13 year olds (the solemn entrance into the men's house, or the Masks of Aruanã). In this house are guarded the vestments that represent the supernatural beings of the bottom of the waters, the woods, and the sky.

Three houses are built for these ceremonies: the Big House (already mentioned), the Small House ( hetorioré ), and the Middle House, which congregates the ityamahadú (Middle people) and is situated between the other two. Since the Karajá say that everybody belongs to either the Big House or the Small House, the group of the Middle is probably made up of individuals who, besides being bonded to one or the other of the main groups, perform the role of ritual mediators. They impede the competitiveness among the components of the two divisions during the feast from intensifying to the point of disturbing the correct performance of the ritual. Ceremonial pairs occur in the Hetohokã, in which, traditionally, two villages in territorial proximity always associate themselves.

Political Organization. Karajá political organization was based on an equilibrium of complementary functions exercised by different individuals—traditional chiefs belonging to the Council of the Elderly and those hereditarily responsible for the houses that congregate the tribal moieties at the feast of the initiation of the boys.

Since the nineteenth century there have been two complementary chieftaincies—that exercised by the isãdinudú with respect to religious questions and that exercised by the idjesudú ("captain of Christian") with respect to problems of a practical nature, especially those pertaining to interethnic contact.

Social Control. Until around the 1960s social control was exercised by the Council of the Elderly, which was comprised of mature men with grandsons, heads of extended families that constitute matrilocal domestic groups. The complementary opposition of age groups is very clear, there being distinct terms among individuals of the same generation that qualify them as "older" or "younger."

Modifications of social structure as a result of interethnic contact provoke dissension between the old and the young, which has eroded the equilibrium of the past.

Conflict. In former times, the Karajá fought with nearby tribes such as the Tapirapé, the Xavante, and the Kayapó. Today the conflicts are individual, factional, or generational. The conflicts are more intense among the local group of Hawaló (Santa Isabel do Morro), which is more exposed to government agents, tourists, and regional non-Indians. Anomic situations occurred there as a result of interethnic contact, which has been eroding the Karajá social structure. Beginning in 1970, FUNAI started organizing the Indian Guard, enlisting in its ranks the boys of the village. A gradual weakening of the power of the Council of the Elderly ensued. The council mediates conflicts between individuals and families. The guard was disbanded in 1981, but, since the traditional authorities and chiefs had lost their prestige, factionalism increased, making individual conflicts more dramatic, sometimes resulting in death.

Also read article about Karajá from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

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