Yukuna - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Yukuna marry the Tanimuka in preferential marriage by either sister exchange, matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, or through bride-service and bride-price transactions (nowadays usually merchandise). Postmarital residence is patrilocal except for a short period of uxorilocal residence at the parents-in-law's maloca. Until the 1960s polygyny was still frequent among prestigious headmen; the Christian missionaries and Colombian law have banned this tradition. Monogamy is the norm nowadays. Divorce is frequent, though it is reduced in the cases of sister exchange where the alliance bond among groups is a double-marriage transaction. Marriage occurs without major ceremony. A man cuts, burns, and clears a plot in the jungle near his maloca of residence, as a sign that he is bringing in a woman as a wife. He asks the future father-in-law for his daughter, and, if there is agreement, she proceeds to live with him. Although a wife initially learns about certain maloca rules and about the work processes in the manioc fields from her mother-in-law, once the wife has borne a child she directs her own horticultural activities. Copulation usually occurs in the manioc fields. Cohabitation is in the peripheral/domestic part of the maloca. The semen from multiple copulations is said to help the fetus grow. A boy's essence is thought to proceed from his father's, whereas a girl's proceeds from her mother's.

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit is the maloca or communal household, comprised of an extended or joint family. As a household and a unit of biosocial production and reproduction, it practices communitarian praxis subsistence in the rain forest. The maloca can either disperse or concentrate great quantities of people according to seasonal fluctuations and depending on labor requirements.

Inheritance. Maloca territories are inherited by patrilineal corporate groups. The right to habitation sites and subsistence territories accompanies the transmission of specialized knowledge about the characteristics of these sites and confers the obligation to conserve them by "paying" the masters of Nature/headmen of these sites. Shamanistic paraphernalia (ceremonial staff and rattle stick, thinking stool, feather crowns, and stones) as well as secret knowledge (e.g., the chants for curing and hunting, the formula of fermented pineapple brew, the technique to make the Yurupari trumpets, details of lineage history and mythology) are transmitted premortem and postmortem between fathers and sons. Women inherit seeds and knowledge about horticulture and birthing from their mothers. Individuals have few belongings, and these are destroyed when a person dies because it is believed these objects were part of unique personal relationships. Nowadays, capitalist items (shotguns, outboard motors) are inherited or disputed among the descendants.

Socialization. Although both women and men raise young children, they are mostly with their mothers until age 4. Children tend to play in peer groups and take care of younger siblings, teaching them games and carrying them on their hips. Children are born in a woman's garden or in the jungle. Postpartum seclusion in a hut outside the maloca is required because female heat is considered polluting. In a week or so, after a shamanic initiation and a curing session for the mother, she and the child are allowed to enter the house. Toddlers are baptized in a collective ceremony in which they are given an ancestor's name. Boys are assigned a godfather (a paternal uncle) and girls a godmother (a maternal aunt), and they are symbolically "introduced" to the shamanistic topography of the jungle and its masters. In this ceremony they are made to taste hiwi (vegetal salt). At puberty boys collectively undergo the first of a series of secret male initiation rituals, during which they are shown the sacred trumpets and learn their meaning. Girls, in turn, are isolated individually during menarche in a hut outside the maloca and are taught by their mothers the secrets of birthing and de-birthing, as well as the sexual and alimentary restrictions that must accompany menstruation.

An extensive corpus of oral traditions, myths, chants, and stories is transmitted through generations and along age and gender ranks. In the communal life of the maloca, the group is socialized to share a common roof, necessitating discreet behavior, solidarity, and respect for hierarchy. The duty to enact contentment and happiness and continually to communicate problems or illnesses to the shaman allows for communal well-being. Many games and stories are taught to children, whereas longer stories and specialized myths are told among adults. Each night, in the center of the maloca, while the rest of the people are lying silently in their hammocks, the elder men smoke tobacco and chew coca as they recount stories and comment on the state of affairs of the maloca, give advice, debate softly, and analyze events from different perspectives. During the day, the children accompany the adults in most chores (except hunting) and actively participate in subsistence activities, many times making miniature replicas of tools to perform small-scale chores. Women breast-feed their infants and, until they reach about age 2, carry them on their hips in bark-cloth slings. When a new child is born, she or he is mainly socialized by older sisters and siblings but remains under the mother's surveillance.

Industriousness is inculcated, as well as generosity. Stinginess and incest are despised, as is gossip that endangers communal life. Aggression, loudness, and overt sexuality are highly discouraged. Since the 1940s many children have been forced to attend missionary boarding schools, undergoing separation from their families and maloca. Spanish is taught in the national curriculum, and children are acculturated to national values. Nowadays the Yukuna are trying to organize their own bilingual schools near their maloca, in an attempt to maintain their own cultural vitality even as they learn the non-Indian Colombian culture. Indian health promoters are seeking to practice both Western and non-Western medicine.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: