Saturday, August 29, 2009

Socio-Economy Pattern-2

Hill tribe villages are likely to break up at any time for many reasons, such as: shortage of good cropland nearby, dissatisfaction with village leaders, intravillage disputes, disputes with neighboring villages, frequent harassment by bandits, many deaths in quick succession of either villagers or their livestock, expulsion of new religious converts by the traditional group and in more recent years, fear of terrorism by political insurgents. Dispersion is more frequent among the opium-poppy growing communities.
Highland villages, except those of the Lisu, are led by a headman with one or more assistants. This is especially likely if a village is formed by many households coming from different places. In general, the headman is responsible for maintaining the peace, settling disputes, hosting visitors to the village and also action as the village liaison with government authorities. In a mature village, there is usually an informal council of elders whose advice is sought on important issues by the headman. This council participates in the making of all important decisions which affect the village. Typical issues include whether the village should be moved to a new site or not, whether outsiders should be allowed to cut swiddens on village land, or whether a particular household should be expelled.
In tribal culture there is no supra-village organization. This also means there is no higher leader or chieftain for each tribe who can extend his power over all villages belonging to his ethnic group.
Most highlanders are animists and mostly pantheists who believe in spirits of all kinds: heavenly spirits, natural spirits, ancestral spirits, house spirits and spirits in certain things. These spirits, either benevolent or malevolent, usually require propitiation and sacrifice and for some tribes, their highest and most respected spirits are godlike. Many cases of sickness are believed to be caused by offended spirits, especially the evil ones. These spirits are considered to have cast bad fortune on the individual or group concerned by taking away their souls, causing sickness and harming their livestock. Either the shaman or the religious leader must diagnose the cause of sickness. The benevolent spirits are requested to come and are provided with offerings in return for force the evil ones to return the soul to the sick person. However, many spirits can be either benevolent or malevolent depending on whether or not they are treated properly.
In some tribes, the religious leaders also perform village wide rituals and pray for the welfare and prosperity of the whole village or individual house holds. These people are therefore very important local leaders in highland society, and in some tribes, like the Pwo Karen, the shaman may also be the village headman. In traditional groups, with the exception of the Lua, most of whom are well integrated into lowland society, there are no social classes. The only group which might be defined as exclusive is that of the village elders who are widely respected beyond their own households. In other words, highland society is egalitarian.
The second important corporate structure in tribal villages is the household. Hill tribe households consist either of the extended or the nuclear family hold. The nuclear family household consists of just two generations, a husband and his wife and their children. Extended family households are more common among the Meo and the Yao. These people are also polygynous, while the Lahu, Lisu, Akha, Karen, Lua, H'tin and Khamu are monogamous.
The household is the basic socio-economic unit charged with the responsibility of providing food, shelter, welfare, education, religious training, and socialization.

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