The Yanomamo (Yah-no-mah-muh) also
called Yanomami, and Yanomama Tribe in
A closer look
Some Basic Information
 Area: The Yanomomi territory covers an area of approximately
192,000 km2, located on both sides of the border between Brazil
and Venezuela. Each area is roughly twice the size of
 First Contact: 1929
 Population: 11,700 in Brazil (in 2000) and 15,193 in Venezuela (in
1992); largest of the Amazon tribes
 Today: Continuous active genocide including the senseless massacre
in September, 1993. An estimated 23 persons died, mostly
women and children. Sixty two percent of Yanomami tested
positive for new strains of malaria introduced by garimpeiros (gold
miners) which have brought every conceivable disease known to
modern man, from the common cold (Yanomami have no
immunity to combat our most common ailment) right up to and
including AIDS. The adult life expectancy is only 45 years; and
most children don’t live past infancy.
The Yanomami
 They are deep jungle Indians
living in the Amazon basin in
Amazon rainforest among the
hills that line the border between
Brazil and Venezuela. The
Yanomami are believed to be
the most primitive, culturally
intact people in existence in the
world. Their numbering system
is one, two, and more than two.
They cremate their dead, then
crush and drink their bones in a
final ceremony intended to keep
their loved ones with them
forever. They are hunters and
gatherers also tend small
garden plots. They are one of
the most successful groups in
the Amazon rain forest to gain a
superior balance and harmony
with their environment.
Stone Age People or Not ?
 Some reports claim that the Yanomami are literally a stone
age tribe. Cataloged by anthropologists as Neo-Indians
with cultural characteristics that date back more than 8,000
years, these are a Last Encyclopedia. They have never
discovered the wheel and the only metal they use is what
has been traded to them from the outside.
 However, another source claims that this characterization
is inaccurate in that the Yanomami are horticulturalists,
possessing a relatively advanced knowledge of crops and
their culture. In addition, they possess advanced bow and
arrow technology, whose use was only introduced about a
thousand years ago in the Americas. Even the advanced
civilization of the Incas lacked this level of technology.
Living in the Shabono
The Ya̧nomamö live in villages usually
consisting of their children and
extended families. Village sizes vary,
but usually contain between 50 and 400
people. In this largely communal
system, the entire village lives under a
common roof called the shabono. a
characteristic oval shape, with open
grounds in the center measuring an
average of 100 yards. The shabono
shelter constitutes the perimeter of the
village, if it has not been fortified with
Under the roof, divisions exist marked
only by support posts, partitioning
individual houses and spaces.
Shabonos are built from raw materials
from the surrounding jungles, such as
leaves, vines and tree trunks. They are
susceptible to heavy damage from
rains, winds, and insect infestation. As a
result, villagers build new shabonos
every 1 to 2 years.
Food & Language
 The Ya̧nomamö are known as hunters, fishers, and
horticulturists. The women cultivate plantains and cassava
in gardens as their main crops. Men do the heavy work of
clearing areas of forest for the gardens. Another food
source for the Ya̧nomamö is grubs. Traditionally they did
not farm.
 In the language has four main subgroups and many
additional variations, such that people from different
villages cannot always understand each other. Linguists
believe the Ya̧nomamö language is unrelated to any of the
other South American indigenous languages. The origins of
the language are unknown.
 Historically, about 40% of adult
males have killed another person
and about 25% of adult males will
die from some form of violence.
Anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon
observed that the majority of
internal violence within the
Yanomamo was related to
reproductive opportunity.
Chagnon also asserted that men
who participated in killings had
more wives and children than
those who did not. Some
Ya̧nomamö men, however,
reflected on the futility of their
feuds and made it known that they
would have nothing to do with the
Gold & Culture
 In the mid-1970s, garimpeiros (small independent golddiggers) started to enter the Ya̧nomamö country. Where
these garimpeiros settled, they killed members of the
Ya̧nomamö tribe in conflict over land. In addition, mining
techniques by the garempeiros led to environmental
degradation. In 1990, more than 40,000 garimpeiros had
entered the Ya̧nomamö land.
 Disoriented by the influx of miners with their unfamiliar
culture, technology and diseases, Yanamomi self-respect
has plummeted as their belief and cultural systems are
undermined. The Yanomami are not being integrated into
Western society; instead begging, prostitution and
drunkenness are being introduced into theirs.

The Yanomami Tribe in Amazonia