Trio - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. There are no formal groupings in Trio society; the main social distinctions are based on kinship, affinity, age, sex, and residence. In general, increasing old age confers respect, and this status is often bolstered by the influence that a man or woman can exert on his or her daughters' husbands. The relationship between the sexes is relatively egalitarian, although men tend to be overtly dominant whereas women exercise a more subtle control. The roles of men and women are complementary; together they form a self-sufficient productive and reproductive unit. In a similar way, the settlement, which is the main center of social interaction, is seen as economically and socially self-sufficient.

Political Organization. The Trio had no overarching political system; each traditional settlement was an autonomous unit. The village leader had no authority outside his settlement and relatively little within it. What authority he possessed rested on his personal qualities and ability to persuade others to do his bidding. His success in doing this was evident in the size of his village: the biggest check on a leader's undue exertion of his will was the ease with which people could migrate. The Suriname government appoints chiefs, but these receive little respect, unlike the missionary-selected church elders, who exercise more than traditional authority.

Social Control. The Trio lack tolerance for conflict, and the tendency is always to move in order to avoid confrontation. The village leader and the shaman, who may be the same person but are not necessarily so, have important roles to play in settlement disputes. There was a traditional idea that the actions of individuals affect the well-being of those closely related, and that certain actions bring supernatural retribution. Missionary teaching has reinforced these ideas in a Christian idiom.

Conflict. There is a strong ideal of harmonious relations, which are maintained by the fact that settlements cannot contain conflict, either physical or supernatural. If either arises, the settlement will automatically fission. Conflict, usually in the form of accusations of sorcery, is deflected to the outside. Trio traditions speak of past wars and raiding, but within this century these seem to have been on a small scale. Cases of physical violence are rare.

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