Siona-Secoya - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Siona-Secoya society is fundamentally egalitarian. The basic social unit is the patrilineal, patrilocal, extended household, headed by the eldest male. In larger settlements the most respected elder shaman serves as the headman for the community. Headmen exercise influence rather than authority. Relations between the sexes are complementary and cooperative. Although women do not become shamans, individual women are respected for their intelligence and wisdom. Since the 1950s missionaries have promoted native schoolteachers as the new leaders of some communities.

Political Organization. There is little political cohesion among the scattered settlements. Each group has its own headman-shaman who looks after his community, diagnoses and treats the illnesses of its members, and performs rituals to protect against the sorcery of enemies.

Social Control. Face-to-face confrontations are avoided. Backbiting is used as an informal sanction against inappropriate behavior. Drinking parties are occasionally held and may lead to the statement of resentments and scuffles. The fear of sorcery serves as a supernatural sanction on social behavior.

Conflict. Accusations of witchcraft contribute to the brittle relations between settlements. Suspected sorcerers are sometime killed. Settlements may fission when internal relationships deteriorate. Conflicts with non-Indian settlers are increasing as traditional native territories are invaded.

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