Rikbaktsa - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Each domestic group constitutes a unit of production and consumption, with political autonomy and links to a specific territory where villages are established. Rikbaktsa society, however, is based on a system of reciprocity between clans belonging to the two moieties of the kinship group. They exchange women in marriage, goods, and labor during festivals that the moieties alternately hold for each other, and they reciprocally help one another in felling trees for clearing land. This interdependence is also evident in hunting—a hunter always gives his bag of game to his companion, generally his brother-in-law, who belongs to the opposite moiety in the kinship system.

Political Organization. Each domestic group forms a political unit. Traditionally the Rikbaktsa did not have "chiefs," although they had and have leaders whose influence goes beyond their own house or village. Centralized chiefdoms imposed by missionaries were of short duration and not very effective. The most influential leaders are those who have the largest group of relatives or brothers-in-law. In the late twentieth century, another kind of leadership is becoming evident: that of young men who studied in Jesuit schools. They are more knowledgable about the society that surrounds them and can provide better answers to problems raised by contact with outsiders.

Social Control. The main means of social control are gossip, ostracism, and social avoidance. In tense situations there is the threat of witchcraft or poisoning.

Conflict. A disruption of the system of reciprocity (particularly as regards marriage) is causing attrition and discrepancy in the links between the various clan subgroups. Before contact, there were rivalries between the Rikbaktsa who lived on the Rio Arinos and those living on the Sangue and the Juruena rivers. Today the fight for physical and cultural survival has emphasized bonds of internal cohesion.


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