Toba - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Until the campaigns of military conquest of the 1980s, the Toba had a system of political alliances that formed a confederation of tribes in the event of war. It was led by one or more chiefs of renown. In times of peace these structures were subsumed, and there was a return to traditional horizontalism. Leadership was based on the adscription to a parental line of leaders and the possession of power from a supernatural being. This power conferred knowledge relevant to finding sources of food and anticipating hostilities. Chieftainship was a male prerogative and in some cases could be assumed by a council of elderly men. Today, besides focusing on intracommunal decisions, leaders must enter into negotiations with the nonindigenous society. Knowledge of Spanish and familiarity with bureaucracy are indispensable. Consensus is still the norm for collective decision making—leaders articulate the general opinion. The roles of priests in indigenous churches take on a relevant political dimension, and in general one can observe a process of superpositioning of functions. Just as shamans were formerly required to possess supernatural power, today's leaders find this power in their relationship with the Christian God. In the area of the Chaco there are provincial administrative bodies in charge of indigenous affairs: in Formosa, the Instituto de Comunidades Aborígenes (Institute of Native Communities) and in Chaco the Instituto del Aborigen Chaqueño (Institute of the Chaco Indians). These organs represent the ethnic groups inhabiting these provinces and articulate the community's interests in government projects that concern indigenous groups.

Social Control. Ridiculing egotistical conduct acts as a means of preserving social and economic egalitarianism. Interpersonal tensions express themselves dramatically in the actions of shamans and sorcerers. In some cases, an individual accused of murder through sorcery is ostracized from the community. Indians tend to recur to the police to put a stop to the activities of shamans and sorcerers, something that causes astonishment and incomprehension on the part of the forces of law and order.

Conflict. Contact with White settlers produced great changes in the ecology of the Chaco and in indigenous societies. Regional systems of production, schools, provincial administrative bodies, and military service force the Toba to find viable responses to preserve their collective identity: new leaders, indigenous churches, interethnic marriages, and migration to the cities. Migration, which intensified with the economic crisis of the Chaco of the 1950s, took the form of a modified nomadism that occurs in the context of an extremely hostile coastal urban environment. Interethnic friction seems to be neutralized by syncretic religious ideology, which on a representational level, nullifies or dissembles the distinction between Qom and Doqshi. In settlements around cities there is an ongoing loss of ethnic identity, of language, and of rules of social Organization, which leads to a fusion with the lowest urban socioeconomic level.


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