Yukpa - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The various Yukpa subtribes are independent bands consisting of a number of extended and nuclear families; these families form settlements and small communities linked by bonds of kinship. A number of Yukpa are now living outside subtribal territories and residing in local towns. Each band is largely endogamous and, in earlier times, lived in a state of almost perpetual hostility toward each other.

Political Organization. Each subtribe traditionally enjoyed political autonomy, and each community recognized, to varying degrees, the authority of a headman who played a major role in guiding the community toward consensus. Today a more institutionalized form of political leader is appearing in the form of a village or community chief. This is particularly true in the larger, more acculturated settlements, where the legitimacy of this position is reinforced by missionaries and the Venezuelan state.

Social Control. Rights and obligations defined along kinship lines, gossip, and fear of ostracism are important forms of social control in less acculturated Yukpa communities. In more acculturated settlements, these mechanisms are less strong and are very quickly being replaced by institutional processes. The emerging office of chief brings with it some authority to establish Yukpa laws and regulations. An appointed Yukpa police force has been organized to enforce the decisions of the chief. Although these formal mechanisms of control, including the presence of the Venezuelan police and judicial systems, are becoming more significant, traditional forms of social control, including fear of witchcraft, remain very important for most Yukpa.

Conflict. Before contact with Western society, intertribal hostilities were believed to be widespread among the Yukpa. With the increased involvement with missionaries and settlers, conflicts decreased between subtribes and increased between Yukpa and Watia. Today conflict over land is increasingly a problem among the Yukpa. There is growing land pressure and privatization of what was once considered land owned by the community. With contact, there has been an increase in violence stemming from greater alcohol consumption by men. Conflict among Yukpa today is more at the individual than the group level.

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