The Tsimane

Team Tsimane The Tsimane are South American Indians, numbering approximately 8,000, who live in the tropical rainforest and moist savannas of the Beni region of Bolivia . They live in semi-autonomous extended family groups within small villages, ranging in size from 60-400 individuals. The communities are relatively stable, and while there exists (at times) frequent movement between villages due to post-marital residence rules and migration, most women have extensive knowledge of the history of other women's behaviors in their community due to years of social interaction. Analysis of two Tsimane villages indicates that post marital residence is an opportunistic mixture of patrilocality and matrilocality. However, even when women are moving away from their birth community, they usually have extended kinship networks from which to rely upon in their new husband's community.

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Tsimane subsistence consists of small-scale horticulture, fishing along a vast network of rivers and streams, hunting wild game in the dense forests, and gathering fruits and other resources from the natural environment. Wild game, such as paca, collared peccary, deer, and numerous monkey species, are hunted with bow and arrow and shotgun. The diet staples come from small family fields, including plantains, rice, sweet manioc and corn, all of which are commonly used in the creation and fermentation of calorically-dense types of traditional beer. The women of the study communities spend most of their food productive time budget in their fields growing and harvesting diet staples. Not all women grow all staples though, thus there is reliance on food sharing too.

Women marry on average by age sixteen, have their first child by age nineteen, and have an average of seven births over their lifetime. Marriages are fairly stable, monogamous unions, although polygyny is not uncommon in many villages. Divorce is most common in first marriages before the birth of the first child. Post-marital residence is usually matrilocal until at least the first child is born, and then the new family may choose to move or stay. Women often prefer to stay when they have large, influential families, and so decisions about residence can be a source of conflict when husbands prefer to live closer to their own families.

Observations and data indicate that several types of resources cause conflict and competition among women. These include social resources (friends and exchange partnerships), food, and mates. The fact that social resources creates the greatest conflict among women indicates the intense desire and need for women in small-scale societies to cooperate with one another and to create sufficient social networks of helpers and cooperators with which to rely upon in times of stress due to resource depletion, bouts of illness, or overburdening of motherhood.

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