Ticuna - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Now as in the past, the Ticuna form a social unit of one culture, one language, and one territory. They are structured in local groups that make up a network of kin relations both internally within the local group and externally with neighboring local groups. Because of certain governmental policies, associations and leadership positions that do not pertain to traditional Ticuna culture are forming within local groups.

Political Organization. In the past, the chiefs of local groups were the heads of large families and were endowed with magical powers, intelligence, and ability to deal with strangers. One of their roles was that of counselor. These traditional chiefs were replaced, through contact with the Whites, by taxáuas in Brazil and by curacas in Peru and Colombia. They became mere figureheads who were manipulated by the group. Now village chiefs are called "captain" in Brazil and "curaca" in the other two countries. Their role is that of spokesmen vis-à-vis official authorities, mediators between their own community and others, and organizers of collective work. Efforts are being made to establish paramount authorities, one in Brazil and one in Colombia.

Social Control. The most important forms of social control are gossip, social alienation, and sorcery. The shamanic institution among the Ticuna is disappearing because of interference of Catholics and Protestants. The greatest fear, however, lies in the possible retaliation by supernatural powers against those who break the law, especially the rules against incest. Until the middle of the twentieth century, the punishment for incest was death. If there is a homicide by sorcery and the guilty party has been identified, it will be incumbent upon the dead person's relatives to avenge the murder. The Ticuna judicial system has been modified in many ways, and in certain cases its operation is left to others.

Conflict. The first contact with Europeans did not directly affect the Ticuna. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, although contact intensified, bloodshed was minimal because of the pacific disposition of the Indians. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the population was redistributed according to the interests of the outside "bosses." This change led to the rupture of old alliances and the opening of new frontiers. Gradual colonization, emphasized since the 1950s, has generated intercultural contact, which precipitated, among other repercussions, the gradual introduction of a market economy, a decrease in natural resources, the overpopulation of some areas, and ethnic mixing. Serious conflicts over land have led to bloodshed. Internally, conflicts occur in local groups between Catholic and evangelical Ticuna: the former want to retain their traditional rituals, which the latter consider sinful. Another point of conflict concerns unions between White men and Ticuna women, because the former tend to impose their social norms on their in-laws.

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