Yukuna - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The Yukuna rank their sibs according to the categories of newakana: "important/respectable people" and "common/ordinary people." The common people consist of the Urumi and Matapi, who were considered slaves in the past, as well as the junior members of the Junior lineages and moieties. In the Miriti area the Senior and Junior moieties each have their own riwaka kaneka or captain, and in the lower Caquetá each local community has its elected leader. Each captain must reside in a maloca and must know extensively the group's mythology and tradition. A captain's wife directs the women in large gatherings. Each maloca headman directs its domestic group in semiautonomous fashion, consulting sporadically with its captain only for panregional management. Chiefs and leaders must work in association with two types of shamans: a defensive one who cures and protects the community and an aggressive one (usually the youngest brother of the former) who attacks other communities as he masters death; he legitimates and enforces decisions by the leaders.

Political Organization. As a minimal chiefdom the Yukuna captains are supralocal chiefs to the degree that their arena of control is beyond their local residence or village site. A maloca headman's authority extends only to its corporate local group. The agnatic power structure in a maloca distributes authority among groups of brothers maintaining patrilineage ideology and androcentric authority within domestic groups. Alliances among maloca units and their initiated men are generally determined by the ascribed status of partners, permitting only incremental transformations of the system by individuals who achieve competitively the roles of shaman, headmen, or great men. Nowadays the Yukuna are in government-protected resguardo territories. The Miriti-Paraná Resguardo (created in 1981) has an area of 1,162,500 hectares; in the Caqueta area, the Puerto Córdoba Resguardo (created in 1985) has 39,700 hectares and the Komeyafu Resguardo (created in 1985) has 19,180 hectares. These resguardo territories are governed by annually elected members of a cabildo (with a governor, a treasurer, and a secretary), who legally represent their group before Colombian authorities. Some Indians are seeking to diminish the existing conflict between traditional sociopolitical authorities and the cabildo members by further subdividing the cabildo groups into parcialidad regions that roughly correspond to central maloca units.

Social Control. In prehistoric times, when conflicts over resources could not be resolved between groups, there were wars and raids. Ritual combat with tapir-hide shields and poisoned arrows and spears and human poisoning were common. The captain was said to have great authority and the right to punish infractors with death. Nowadays social control is mainly through shamanistic positive injunctions or sanctions. Public commentary, temporary withdrawal of group collaboration, and the shamans' explanation of the consequences of wrongdoing usually suffice. Small-scale conflict is settled internally by the traditional leaders and/or the cabildo, whereas homicide is usually dealt with in conjunction with Colombian police and officials.

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