Yanomamö - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Yanomamö may be characterized as foraging horticulturists. Crops, most notably plantains and bananas, compose up to 75 percent of the diet calorically and are cultivated through pioneering shifting cultivation. Wild resources gained through gathering, hunting, and fishing supply important protein needs. Typically, the Yanomamö devote two to three times more effort (measured in hours per day) to these subsistence tasks than to horticulture. Many Yanomamö trek for a month or more during the year, living in provisional camps some distance from their village and depending heavily on wild resources. The Yanomamö associated with missions engage in light commercial trade or wage labor, but such Yanomamö probably amount to no more than 15 percent of the entire population.


Industrial Arts. The few technological items the Yanomamö make are mostly used for subsistence tasks. They include burden and food-serving baskets, bows and arrows, and a variety of single-use items such as tree-climbing thongs, leaf containers, and vine hammocks. Western manufactures have nearly replaced many traditional artifacts such as crude clay pots and fire drills. Where the Yanomamö have close contact with the Yekuana, they are adept at making tools necessary for manioc preparation and dugout-canoe construction.

Trade. Internal trade among the Yanomamö is extremely well developed. Some trade is the result of differential distribution of primary resources (e.g., hallucinogenic plants) or a temporary surplus of prime domesticates (e.g., cotton or good hunting dogs), but in other instances trade is the exchange of material tokens to symbolize alliances between individuals. Since about 1970, most Yanomamö have become totally dependent on outside sources of axes, machetes, aluminum cooking pots, and fishhooks and line. Most of these items have come from missionaries as gifts and wages. Through mission-organized cooperatives, the Yanomamö recently have begun to market baskets and arrows and some agricultural products. Trade has a much longer history where the Yanomamö are in close contact with Yekuana.

Division of Labor. Weapon making, tree felling for gardening, and hunting are the only exclusively male activities. Women spin cotton thread and plait baskets. Nearly all other activities may be done by either sex, although in many, one sex tends to be predominant. Women do most of the weeding, harvesting, food processing, and collecting of fuel and water. Both sexes frequently cooperate in gathering and fishing. When working cooperatively, however, one sex may concentrate on a particular phase. For example, in house construction men collect heavy poles and lash them together to form the structure, and women collect endless bundles of palm thatch that the men intermesh and tie for the roof.

Land Tenure. Individuals are free to clear and cultivate any forest land near their village. Once land has been cleared of trees and a garden has been planted, it is owned by the cultivator. Theft of garden produce (tobacco, in particular) is a serious offense. Village mobility is such that semiproductive garden plots may be at a considerable distance from one's current village. Owners of such plots may find it difficult to assert ownership to valuable crops such as peach palms.


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Johanne Vaalund
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Dec 5, 2013 @ 6:06 am
What do they worship (which gods or things)?
Do they have any kind of currency or do the just trade?
Does the tribes have a leader?
What language do they speak (or do they speak different languages)?

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