The Xilixana Yanomami of the Amazon:
History, Social Structure, and Population Dynamics

John D. Early and John F. Peters

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"A most worthy addition to the growing body of literature on Yanomamology. The authors demonstrate that Yanomami demography is not simply a means to advance some theoretical fads and/or
the careers of academics, but that it has very practical humanitarian implications in the context of the ongoing genocide in the Amazon. . . . I most highly recommend this book."--Leslie E. Sponsel, University of Hawaii

"Simply the best demography we have of a tribal horticultural people. . . . I expect it will become one of the standard reference works on the Yanomamo."--Raymond B. Hames, University of Nebraska, Lincoln


The Xilixana Yanomami, an Indian tribe of the northern Amazon Basin in Brazil, has been widely studied as the largest indigenous people to retain a traditional way of life. Breaking new ground, this book presents the most complete account available of the Yanomami before and after their encounter with the modern world.
Recapturing details of the group's history and demography back to 1930, the authors describe the fortunes and misfortunes of the Yanomami over a period of nearly seven decades, including 28 years prior to their first contact with the outside world. For each of eight villages, they present a complete demographic profile of fertility, mortality, and migration. They also explain some of the mysteries of Yanomami social structure and offer specific information on both the number and the reasons for the tribe’s infanticide, a topic that has received vague treatment in other writing.
The historical sweep of the book finds the contemporary Yanomami in a life-or-death situation, with their health seriously threatened by contact with infectious disease and their land being expropriated by government action and inaction. It also shows the impact of the modern industrial world on the Brazilian rain forest and its tribal inhabitants.
Presenting rich data--the sort that in many cases can no longer be gathered--in an even-handed way, this seminal work will become indispensable for anyone who would use the Yanomami to exemplify a particular theoretical position on a variety of topics and issues. And since genocide and ecocide continue among the Yanomami and in the Amazon, the book offers not only a significant scholarly study but also a major humanitarian contribution.

John D. Early, retired professor of anthropology at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, is the coauthor of Population Dynamics of a Philippine Rain Forest People: The San Ildefonso Agta (UPF, 1998), which received a Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award, and coauthor of The Population Dynamics of the Mucajai Yanomami.


John F. Peters, professor of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada, is the author of Life among the Yanomami: The Story of Change among the Xilixana on the Mucajai River in Brazil and coauthor of The Population Dynamics of the Mucajai Yanomami.

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"A thorough demographic profile of an indigenous population that, against all odds, managed to grow from an initial baseline population of 11 to a current 108. The book is an important contribution to our understanding of population dynamics in general and Yanomami in particular. To understand how and why other Yanomami subgroups have recovered, Early and Peter's demographic research is certainly an inspiration. " American Anthropologist American Anthropologist

"This press is rapidly taking the lead as the publisher of important revisionist monographs on Brazilian indigenous populations. The authors utilize demographic sampling techniques that are quite different from those of traditional Yanomami studies to arrive at conclusions about the population dynamics of this group. Their argument is clear, incisive, and consequently convincing. Highly recommended for graduate students and faculty." -Choice Choice

" One of the most important recent contributions to the Yanomami Literature. Provides another crucial example that demographic data can provide the best objective measure of the alleged assistance provided by agencies and programs that receive funds. If Yanomami populations closely oriented to mission stations show higher survival than those at FUNAI posts, no amount of political propaganda can deflect the truth that missionaries are doing a better job than government agents at ensuring Yanomami survival. Such observations should be critical to all NGOs who get involved with indigenous human rights issues. " - Journal of Anthropological Research Journal of Anthropological Research

"An important contribution to the literature. This is a fascinating and important, if occasionally forbidding, piece of work." - H- Net Reviews H-Florida

"Provides welcome and valuable material. Fieldworker and ex-missionary John Peters provides highly detailed accounts of the population structure over several decades in the area he knows best. And demographer John Early helps him make the best analytical use of the field data. The books ends by considering the anthropology of the Yanomami language group as a whole revisiting the issues that have become familiar form writings of Chagnon, Harris and to others, about the meaning of war and aggression in this simple distinguishing, for instance, between 'factions' and 'lineages' -an approach that seems to make sense of some of the puzzles posed in the writing of others." Population and Development Review Population and Development Review

"The importance of The Xilixana Yanomami of the Amazon is not in its historical surveys. It is in the very detailed demographic studies of the eight Xilixana villages. . . . . This is the first time that demography has been applied to Amazon Indians in such detail or has revealed so much about them and their reactions to contact. I was fascinated by the authors' transformation of arid-looking tables of population figures into a very human account of a tribe struggling to come to terms with alien forces that threaten its society. It is a splendid, fresh approach to the study of these people." Cambridge Journals Latin American Studies

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