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Chagnon's Definition Of Unokai In Regards To The Yanomami.

1384 words - 6 pages

Napoleon Chagnon has observed and recorded the histories of 60 Yanomami villages. The Yanomamami are Indians that live widely scattered in southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. They usually live in villages of 75 to 80 people, but there may be as few as 40 people or as many as 300 people in a single village.The Yanomami live by a combination of horticulture and foraging. Most of what they eat has been cultivated in their gardens. Each household in the village clears their own land and tends it themselves. Chiefs, who have to produce more food to meet their obligation to provide hospitality, commonly receive help from others. A village can produce all of its needs from only three hours worth of work per person.One characteristic of the Yanomami is that they are accustomed to violence as a result of their values and culture and because of this, the Yanomami live in a constant state of warfare. Warfare appears as a main interest supported by a set of beliefs urging strong villages to take advantage of the weaker ones.The Yanomami do not utilize much technology except in their weapons. The main weapon produced by the Yanomami is arrows. They make arrows that are six feet long. These arrows are very accurate. Arrows not only serve as weapons but as valuable possessions that are commonly exchanged as gifts among the Yanomami Villages that are nearby may sometimes ally so they can team up against another larger village. In order to demonstrate their friendship towards each other, the two villages trade and feast.The men drug themselves on a daily basis with a substance called ebene, which causes an excessive production of mucous. The recipient allows for the mucous to drip freely from each nostril. It is believed among these people that the usage of this drug will have an effect in which bad spirits are relieved.In recent years, Chagnon's writings have contributed to the label of the Yanomami as waiteri : fierce people. He has created an image of these people, which is not only questionable from an anthropological perspective, but also an image that has brought detriment to their society as a whole. By analyzing Chagnon's interpretations of the Yanomami lifestyle, one sees that his ideas are highly influenced by western standards of life.One of the central arguments surrounding the Yanomami as violent people is the presence of unokai in Yanomami society, a word Chagnon translates as "killer". Chagnon defines these unokai as men who have either killed another person or were involved in the attack, which led to the killing. Although his arguments presented in an article of Science Magazine do not go into great detail about the process of gaining the title of unokai, Chagnon centers many of his points around the unokai and their actions.Of the 283 deaths Chagnon recorded in 23 years among the Yanomami, he attributes 153 of these to unokai who were living when the article was published. He goes on to state that almost everyone in the villages he has...

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