Yukuna - Settlements

Most Yukuna live in dispersed dwellings along the main rivers, either in large malocas or in small, unifamily houses built on stilts. Each maloca is part of a regional network of central and dependent households. Habitation sites are usually near the Río Miriti, but on high terraces, away from the floodplain. Each maloca has a round base, a diameter of about 16 to 20 meters, and a semiconical roof about 20 meters high. Two triangular openings—one in the eastern apex and one in the western apex of the roof—permit ventilation and admit the sun's rays for the reckoning of time.

There are no interior walls or compartments within the maloca, but the symbolism of its interior space is very elaborate. The headman's place is in the west, shamans reside in the intercardinal points of the southern side of the maloca, and single men reside in the eastern side by the main door. The front (eastern) part is male, and the back is female, whereas the southern side is that of kin and the northern side that of allies. A sacred square in the center is reserved for ritual activity. Toward the maloca wall lies the domestic space, where people sleep, cook, and are buried. Between the sacred center and the domestic periphery is a large annular area for public dancing and daily work.

Around each maloca there are the nearby house gardens, and in the jungle are the chagras (garden plots) and the hunting, gathering, and fishing territories. The network of maloca habitats constitutes a regional system of resource management and intergroup alliances. A new maloca is built every decade within the traditional territory of each minimal lineage, where fallowed sites are cyclically reoccupied. At the beginning of the twentieth century as many as 200 people lived under the communal roof of malocas that measured scarcely more than 20 meters wide. In the late twentieth century the maloca is smaller, its permanent residential group consisting of an extended family of a father and his married sons. In monthly gatherings, dances, and rituals, however, it temporarily houses up to 100 individuals. There are a few central malocas, physically larger in size, where the most prestigious rituals take place under the leadership of its senior-ranking headmen.

In the Miriti area the only nucleated center is the area of the mission school. Otherwise, the settlement pattern is usually dispersed. In contrast with the pattern of the Miriti, the Yukuna in the lower Caquetá area cluster in Puerto Córdoba or near the town of La Pedrera. In Puerto Córdoba they live in unifamily houses near a maloca, sharing community life with coresident mestizo fishers. Those in La Pedrera live in mestizo houses as they work for wages. The Yukuna group that is in front of La Pedrera within the Komeyafu Resguardo tends to reside permanently in unifamily houses, occasionally attending rituals in a nearby maloca.

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