Skip to main content

Yanomami Mobility and Its Effects on the Forest Landscape

Abstract

The Yanomami are a hunter-gatherer and gardener people with high mobility, which influences the regeneration of forest in agricultural clearings. Increasing contact with the wider Brazilian and Venezuelan societies may lead to sedentarization. Population groups and clearings were mapped in the Yanomami Land in Brazil using four mosaics of Landsat images from within a two-year period. The mosaics were separated by intervals of 7 years. Few groups were sedentary, and most of these maintained alternative residences. The Yanomami cleared 16,856 ha (0.17% of the Yanomami territory in Brazil) over the 21 years covered by this study. Individuals in mobile groups deforested more than those in sedentary groups, but secondary-forest regeneration occurs mainly in clearings made by mobile groups. Permanent settlements had impeded regeneration of 48% (2,025 ha) of the area cleared prior to 1988. Access to health care has led to population growth but has not increased sedentarization.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11

References

  • Albert, B. (1985). Temps du sang, temps des cendres: representation de la maladie, système rituel e espace politique chez les Yanomami des Sud-est (Amazonnie Brasilienne). Doctoral thesis, Paris X, Nanterre, Paris, France.

  • Albert, B. (1992). Urihi: terra, economia e saúde Yanomami. Série Antropologia 119: 1–20. http://vsites.unb.br/ics/dan/Serie119empdf.pdf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Albert, B., and Gomez, G. G. (1997). Saúde Yanomami: Um Manual Etnolingüístico. Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, Belém, Pará, Brazil.

    Google Scholar 

  • Albert, B., and Tourneau, F. M. L. (2007). Etnogeography and Resource Use Among the Yanomami: Towards a Model of Reticular Space. Current Antropology 48: 584–592.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Almeida-Filho, R., and Shimabukuro, Y. E. (2001). Digital Processing of a Landsat-TM Time Series for Mapping and Monitoring Degraded Areas Caused By Independent Gold Miners, Roraima State, Brazilian Amazon. Remote Sensing of Environment 79: 42–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Balée, W. (1989). The culture of Amazonian forests. In Posey, D., and Balée, W. (eds.), Resource Management in Amazonia: Indigenous and Folk Strategies, Vol. 7. New York Botanical Garden, New York, pp. 1–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Balée, W. (2009). Culturas de distúrbio e diversidade em substratos amazônicos. In Teixeira, W. G., Kern, D. C., Madari, B., Lima, H. N., and Woods, W. (eds.), As Terras Pretas de Índio da Amazônia: Sua Caracterização e Uso deste Conhecimento na Criação de Novas Áreas. Embrapa Amazônia Ocidental, Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil, pp. 48–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borgoin, P. -E. (1998). Enquête epidémiologique des communautés Yanomami du Rio Cauaburi Parc National du Neblina État d'Amazonas-Brésil. Doctoral thesis, Faculté de Médecine de Marseille, Marseille, France.

  • Brazil (1975). Projeto Radambrasil, Levantamento de Recursos Naturais. Departamento Nacional de Produção Mineral, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bush, M. B., and Silman, M. R. (2007). Amazonian Exploitation Revisited: Ecological Asymmetry and Policy Pendulum. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 5(9): 457–465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carneiro, R. L. (1960). Slash and burn agriculture: a closer look at its implications for settlement patterns. In Wallace, F. C. (ed.), Men and Cultures: Selected Papers of the Fifth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, September 1956. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pp. 229–234.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chagnon, N. A. (1988). Life Histories, Blood Revenge, and Warfare in a Tribal Population. Science 239: 985–992.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chagnon, N. A. (1992). Yanomamö, 4th ed. Standford University, Fort Worth, Texas. HBJ Ed.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chagnon, N. A., and Hames, R. B. (1979). Protein Deficiency and Tribal Warfare in Amazonia: New Data. Science 203: 910–913.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chander, G., and Markham, B. (2003). Revised Landsat-5 TM Radiometric Calibration Procedures and Postcalibration Dynamic Ranges. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 41: 2674–2677.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clastres, P. (1973). Elementos de demografia amerindia. L’Homme, Revue Française d’Anthropologie 13: 23–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clement, C. R. (2006). Demand for two classes of traditional agroecological knowledge in modern Amazonia. In Balick, M., and Posey, D. (eds.), Human Impacts on Amazonia: The Role of Traditional Knowledge in Conservation and Development. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 33–50.

    Google Scholar 

  • Colchester, M. (1982). The Economy, Ecology and Ethonobiology of the Sanema Indians of Southern Venezuela, Vol I. Doctoral thesis, Oxford University, Oxford, UK.

  • Connell, J. H. (1978). Diversity in Tropical Rain Forests and Coral Reefs. Science 199: 1302–1310.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denevan, W. (1976). The Aboriginal population of Amazonia. In Denevan, W. (ed.), The Native Population in the Americas in 1492. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin, pp. 205–234.

    Google Scholar 

  • Denevan, W. M., and Padoch, C. (1987). Swidden Fallow Agroforestry in the Peruvian Amazon. Advances in Economic Botany 5: 1–104.

    Google Scholar 

  • Do Pateo, R. D. (2005). Niyayou: Antagonismo e aliança entre os Yanomami da Serra da Surucucus, RR. Doctoral thesis, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.

  • FBV (2010). Yanomami fazem manifestação em frente à Funai. Folha de Boa Vista (FBV), Boa Vista Roraima, Brazil. http://www.folhabv.com.br/ fbv/Noticia_Impressa.php?id=83718.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fearnside, P. M., and Guimarães, W. M. (1996). Carbon Uptake by Secondary Forests in Brazilian Amazonia. Forest Ecology and Management 80: 35–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson, B. (1995). Yanomami Warfare, A Political History. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fragoso, J. M. V. (2004). A Long-term study of white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari) population fluctuations in Northern Amazonia: Anthropogenic vs. “Natural” Causes. In Silvius, K. M., Bodmer, R. E., and Fragoso, J. M. V. (eds.), People in Nature: Wildlife Conservation in South and Central America. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 286–297.

    Google Scholar 

  • FUNASA (2009). Demographic Census of Indigenous Societies. Fundação Nacional da Saúde (FUNASA), Brasília, DF, Brazil. http://sis.funasa.gov.br/transparencia _publica/siasiweb.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gomez, G. G. (2008). Forest disturbance and health risks to the Yanomami. In Colfer, C. J. P. (ed.), Human Health and Forests a Global Overview of Issues, Practice and Policy. Earthscan / People and Plants International, London, UK, pp. 239–257.

    Google Scholar 

  • Good, K. R. (1989). Yanomami Hunting Patterns: Trekking and Garden Relocation as an Adaptation to Game Availability in Amazonia, Venezuela. Doctoral Thesis, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

  • Gross, D. (1975). Protein Capture and Cultural Development in the Amazon Basin. American Anthropologist 77: 526–549.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hames, R. B. (1995). Yanomamö, Varying Adaptations of Foraging Horticulturalists. http://www.unl.edu/rhames/212/YANREADG.htm. Accessed: 10 Oct. 2009.

  • Harris, M. (1984). Animal Capture and Yanomamo Warfare: Retrospect and New Evidence. Journal of Anthropological Research 40(1): 183–201.

    Google Scholar 

  • Huber, O., Steyermark, J. A., Prance, G. T., and Alès, C. (1984). The Vegetation of the Serra Parima Venezuela Brasil: Some Results of Recent Exploration. Brittonia 36: 104–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Istria, J., and Gazin, P. (2002). O estado nutricional de crianças Yanomami do Médio Rio Negro, Amazônia. Revista da Sociedade Brasileira de Medicina Tropical 35: 233–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jensen, J. R. (2009). Sensoriamento Remoto do Ambiente: Uma Perspectiva em Recursos Terrestres. Parentese, São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil.

    Google Scholar 

  • Junqueira, A. B., Clement, C. R., and Sheppard Jr., G. H. (2010). Secondary Forests On Anthropogenic Soils in Brazilian Amazonia Conserve Agrobiodiversity. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 1933–1961.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kelly, R. L. (1992). Mobility/Sedentism: Concepts, Archaeological Measures, and Effects. Annual Review of Anthropology 21: 43–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laudato, L. (1998). Yanomami Pey Këyo: O Caminho Yanomami. Universa, Brasília, DF, Brazil.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lawrence, D., Radel, C., Tully, K., Schmook, B., and Schneider, L. (2010). Untangling a Decline in Tropical Forest Resilience: Constraints on the Sustainability of Shifting Cultivation Across the Globe. Biotropica 42: 21–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lima, D., and Pozzobon, J. (2005). Amazônia socioambiental. Sustentabilidade ecológica e diversidade social. Estudos Avançados 19: 46–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Little, P. (2002). Territórios sociais e povos tradicionais no Brasil: por uma antropologia da territorialidade. Série Antropologia 322: 1–31. http://vsites.unb.br/ics/dan/Serie322empdf.pdf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lizot, J. (1977). Population, Resources and Warfare Among the Yanomami. Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 12: 497–517.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lizot, J. (1978). Économie primitive et subsistence—essai sur le travail et la alimentacion chez les Yanomami. Libre 78: 69–111.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lizot, J. (1980). La agricultura Yanomami. Antropologica 94.

  • Lizot, J. (1984). Historia, organización y evolución de la población Yanomami. L’Homme, Revue Française d’Anthropologie 24: 5–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mather, P. M. (2004). Computer Processing of Remotely-Sensed Images: An Introduction, 3rd ed. Wiley, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milliken, W., and Albert, B. (1999). Yanomami: A Forest People. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • Milliken, W., Albert, B., Tourneau, F. M. L., DoPateo, R. D., and Pereira, E. S. (2002). Degraded Areas in the Yanomami Territory, Roraima, Brasil: Ethnoenvironmental Evaluation of the Homoxi region, Boa Vista. Roraima, Brazil. www.proyanomami.org.br. Accessed 21 Dec. 2006.

  • Nepstad, D. C., Veríssimo, A., Alencar, A., Nobre, C., Lima, E., Lefebvre, P., Schlesinger, P., Potterk, C., Moutinho, P., Mendoza, E., Cochrane, M., and Brooks, V. (1999). Large-Scale Impoverishment of Amazonian Forests by Logging and Fire. Nature 398: 505–507.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nietschmann, B. (1973). Between Land and Water. Seminar Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nilsson, M. S. T. (2011). Organização indígena Yanomami: das ameaças ao seu território à representação política numa sociedade sem Estado. Revista Agrária 9 (in press).

  • Oliveira, R. C. (1973). Povos indígenas e mudança socio-cultural na Amazônia. Série Antropologia 1 1–20. http://vsites.unb.br/ics/dan/Serie1empdf.pdf.

  • Pellegrini, M. (1998). Falar e comer: um estudo sobre os novos contextos de adoecer e buscar tratamento entre os Yanomamè do Alto Parima, MSc dissertation. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

  • Pithan, O. A. (2005). O Modelo hekura para interromper a transmissão da malária: uma experiência de ações integradas de controle com os indígenas Yanomami na virada do século XX. MSc. dissertation, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Boa Vista, Roraima, Brazil.

  • Posey, D. (1987). Manejo da floresta secundária, capoeiras campos e cerrados (Kayapó). In Ribeiro, D. (ed.), Suma Etnológica Brasileira, Vol. 1. Vozes, Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, pp. 173–185.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prance, G. T. (1987). Etnobotânica de algumas tribos da Amazônia. In Ribeiro, D. (ed.), Suma Etnológica Brasileira Vol. 1. Vozes/Finep, Petrópolis, RJ, Brazil, pp. 119–133.

    Google Scholar 

  • Py-Daniel, V., and Souza, F. S. (2004). O Sistema brasileiro de atendimento à saúde indígena e algumas de suas implicações na cultura Yanomami. http://nerua.inpa.gov.br/, Accessed 3 July 2008.

  • Ramos, A. R. (1993). O papel político das epidemias: o caso Yanomami. Série Antropologia 153: 1–21. http://vsites.unb.br/ics/dan/Serie153empdf.pdf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ramos, A. R. (1995a). A Profecia de um boato. Série Antropologia 188: 1–9. http://vsites.unb.br/ics/dan/Serie188empdf.pdf.

  • Ramos, A. R. (1995b). Por falar em paraíso terrestre. Série Antropologia 191: 1–9. http://vsites.unb.br/ics/dan/Serie191empdf.pdf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott, G. A. J. (1978). Grassland Development in the Gran Pajonal of Eastern Peru, A Study of Soil-Vegetation Nutrient Systems. University of Hawaii, Manoa Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sirén, A. H. (2007). Population Growth and Land Use Intensification in a Subsistence-Based Indigenous Community in the Amazon. Human Ecology 35: 669–680.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smiljanic, M. I. (2002). Os enviados de Dom Bosco entre os Masiripiwëiteri. O impacto missionário sobre o sistema social e cultural dos Yanomami ocidentais (Amazonas, Brasil). Journal de la Société des Américanistes 88: 137–158.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, D. (2005). Garden Game: Shifting Cultivation, Indigenous Hunting and Wildlife Ecology in Western Panama. Human Ecology 33: 505–537.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smole, W. (1976). Yanoama, A Cultural Geography. Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

    Google Scholar 

  • Urihi. (2004). Informações gerais sobre as regiões assistidas: Arathau, Haxiu, Homoxi. www.urihi.org.br/downloads. Accessed 23 Dec. 2009.

  • Welch, J. R., Ferreira, A. A., Santos, R. V., Gugelmin, S. A., Werneck, G., and Coimbra, C. E. A. (2009). Nutrition Transition Socioeconomic Differentiation, and Gender Among Adult Xavante Indians, Brazilian Amazon. Human Ecology 37: 13–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zent, S. (2009). The political ecology of ethnic frontiers and relations among the Piaroa of the middle Orinoco. In Alexiades, M. N. (ed.), Mobility and Migration in Indigenous Amazonia. Berghahm Books, London, UK, pp. 167–194.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) provided fellowships to both authors. The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) provided Landsat imagery and the System for the Protection of Amazonia (SIPAM) provided SAR radar imagery. Logistical support was provided by the National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA), the National Foundation for Health (FUNASA), the Service for Cooperation with the Yanomami People (Secoya), the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), and by many Yanomami, especially Davi Kopenawa. Valuable comments were provided by François Le Tourneau, William Milliken, Janet Chernela, Charles Clement, Rita Mesquita, Henrique Pereira, Reinaldo Imbrozio Barbosa, Paulo Mauricio Lima de Alencastro Graça, Flavia Capelloto Costa, Bruce Nelson, Eduardo Venticinque, William Magnusson, Albertina Lima and Euler Nogueira. We thank Sueli Costa, Julia Salem, Desirée Paço and Jucilene Silva for their help in obtaining a research license from the National Council for Ethics in Research (CONEP).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Philip Martin Fearnside.

Appendix

Appendix

Each of the four Landsat mosaics corresponds to at least twelve scenes (Table A-1), for a total of 67 scenes. A tolerance of 2 years per mosaic was adopted due to the difficulty of finding satisfactory coverage without cloud cover. Clearings are areas of forest felled for cultivation that are detectable on Landsat images. Yanomami clearings rarely exceed 3 ha (equivalent to approximately 33 pixels); these are difficult to detect and the difficulty can increase with partial cloud cover or with atmospheric interference. The age of regeneration detectable on Landsat images can vary from a minimum of 7 years (in cases of ephemeral openings in continuous forest, with the regeneration reaching a height up to 8 m in the TIY) up to an undefined limit that depends on the degree of disturbance and the dimensions of the clearing. Scenes from intermediate years were used to resolve doubts, allowing a refinement of temporal dynamics of opening swiddens, insuring greater certainty in the interpretation with greater convergence of evidence (Jensen 2009).

Table A-1 Landsat 5 and 7 satellite images: Path, row and dates of passage from each of the four Landsat mosaics used to interpret Yanomami clearings

Treatment of Images

The images were georeferenced using a Geocover2000 mosaic, scene N 20 00, converted to decimal degrees. Since the region is located near the Equator (0 to 4° N), the distortion caused by the map projection should be minimal because it is distributed uniformly throughout the study area.

Channels 3, 4 and 5 were treated individually to maximize the gain in contrast. The progressive decline in the sensitivity of the sensors since the satellite was launched in 1984 was considered (Chander and Markham 2003), producing differences between the images of the two initial mosaics as compared to the images of the two most recent mosaics.

The Geocover image that provided the basis for georeferencing was geometrically corrected to Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) units, which allows good accuracy in the calculation of area. The conversion factor was:

$$ {\text{Area}}\left( {{{\text{m}}^2}} \right) = {\text{polygon}}\;{\text{area}}\;\left( {{\text{in}}\;{\text{square}}\;{\text{decimal}}\;{\text{degrees}}} \right) \times 12,484,703,500. $$

The conversion factor was calibrated using measures of the circumference of the Earth at the equator (NASA, IBGE, UFRJ) for calculating the distance corresponding to one degree of longitude. The distance corresponding to one degree of latitude was calculated using the same sources. Values were calibrated empirically with existing databases for the region using the numbers closest to the official calculations (area of the state of Roraima from IBGE, areas of indigenous lands from Funai/ISA, and areas of conservation units from MMA/ICMBio).

Categories of Alteration

Two categories of legend were established, to distinguish types of alteration:

  1. A)

    “Altered/in regeneration”—areas that are vegetated but where the spectral response indicates vegetation of lower stature than the forest (highest reflectance value in channel 4);

  2. B_)

    “open”—open areas, indicating a clearing opened near the date of passage, burning of the vegetation producing the spectral behavior of exposed soil (highest reflectance value in channel 5).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Tomioka Nilsson, M.S., Fearnside, P.M. Yanomami Mobility and Its Effects on the Forest Landscape. Hum Ecol 39, 235–256 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-011-9400-4

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-011-9400-4

Keywords

  • Amazon rainforest
  • Forest regeneration
  • Human ecology
  • Landscape
  • Yanomami
  • Brazil
  • Tropical forest
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Migration
  • Swidden
  • Shifting cultivation
  • Hunting