Woman bathing together with her child in the Amazon, Brazil (illustration photo). © Photo Copyright Per Henriksen, Reiseliv - www.Reiseliv.no
Number of available men indicates the women's status and position. No one knows why the Awa Guaja Indians have built their society upon women on the top and at the same time they are sexual dominating (Vi Menn, Justin Sutcliffe/Scanpix, September 2000).
It's the women's world! In other ways the allocation of duties and work are not different from the modern world. Men go hunting and fishing. When they come home the women stand ready to prepare the food.
Monkeys - holy animals
Another more exact metric on the status and position is the number of monkeys the women have. As the custom is the woman breastfeeding them and give them even more attention than their own children. This is an important part of the culture. If the women lose their milk, it will be considered as a curse. The monkeys are treated as sacred animals. The tribe hunts only the big ones.
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Dr. Anthony Collins, who studies by the Jane Goodall Institute in England, believes that this serves a certain purpose: contraception!
Women who breastfeed, postpone their menstruation. In that way they will not so easily become pregnant. The reason is probably that many children will be difficult to raise under such hard living conditions. After the children are too big to hang at the women's breast, the monkeys take over.
In the late 70`s the first contact was established between these Indians and the outside world. The Indians became shocked when they understood that there was life outside their local surroundings. The Awa Guaja Indians live in the most impenetrable and unspoilt part of the jungle in Amazon in the Brazilian State Maranhao.
Of the 350 Awa Guaja Indians live only 100 in the jungle in the traditional way. Others live in four villages in Maranhao. But after they have lived so isolated for so long, their immunity system is not able to resist "unknown" sicknesses. Many of the Indians in the villages have been struck by malaria and tuberculosis, but have been saved by medicines. It has been said, that the day these Indians understood that they were not alone in the world, they became depressed. When they saw the advanced equipment and technology from the world outside, they lost their live spirit and sunk down.
According to the international organisation Survival International, have white farmers, who settled down in the area, gruesomely massacred many of these Indians. Problems have also occurred in other ways: excavation of minerals became in 1982 partly financed by EU and the World Bank. The term (condition) for the loan was that the Indian's area should be marked up and that borders should be respected. So far this has not been done.
How will their life develop in the future? Awa Guaja Indians live daily with the threat of greedy people from outside with no regard. We hope that these Indians can keep their unique culture, and that the future generations can live the life they want, with or without woman bosses? If you are a male, would you like to live together with the Amazons?
Stein Morten Lund, 5 October 2000
Read more about exotic tribes and cultures on our site. There are still few left tribes who live in their traditional way. Do any of our readers know about other tribes and societies where the women are dominating?
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Read more about the Survival International. It is a world wide organisation which support tribe people. "Land is life: Our grandparents left this land for our grandchildren. We won't sell the land, and we aren't going anywhere. We used to be able to cut down a tree to make a canoe. Today the colonists are living where we used to walk. We used to live without any problems". Amazon Quichua Indian, 1992.
For more information about the organisation: www.survival.org.uk.