Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Miskito inhabit the eastern regions of the Central American republics of Nicaragua and Honduras, a territory bordering the Caribbean coast and known historically as the Miskito (or Mosquito) Coast. The language spoken is related to the Macro-Chibchan family of northern South America. Subsistence is based on the cultivation of manioc and other root crops, plantains, and maize, combined with hunting and fishing. Miskito society has always been egalitarian, with status based on age, parenthood, and kinship. Men are often away performing wage labor and marital residence is ideally matrilocal.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Middle America and the Caribbean --Central America




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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Miskito (SA15) collection covers a period from about 1500 to the early twenty-first century. The geographical focus of this collection is on the eastern regions of Nicaragua and Honduras, an area bordering the Caribbean coast and known historically as the Miskito (or Mosquito) Coast. The primary document on the traditional culture of the Miskito is that of Conzemius (1932, no. 1), which presents an ethnographical survey of the Miskito and Sumu (Sumo) Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua from about the early sixteenth to the early twentieth century. In this study comparisons are made between Miskito and Sumu cultures (the latter group generally considered as a subgroup of the Miskito). Of particular interest in this work is the information on early contacts with Europeans, as well as on the traditional aspects of warfare, subsistence, religious beliefs and practices, material culture, and funeral customs. The remainder of the documents in this collection are community studies. Helms (1971, no. 8), provides information on how the Miskito have adapted to culture contact in the village of Asang in northeastern Nicaragua, particularly in regard to social, economic, political, and religious life. This study also provides some additional data on Miskito culture in general. Other ethnographic topics discussed in this collection include information on the health and customs of the Miskito Indians, in Pijoan (1946, no. 3), which also presents a brief historical sketch of the Miskito and a summary of the modern Indians. Two documents by Jamieson (2000, 2001, nos. 4 and 5), are focused on the village of Kakabila in eastern Nicaragua, and deal with the politics of intimacy among the Miskito and the ritual expressions of the transition to adulthood among adolescents in the village. Other topics treated here are the ethnobotany of the Miskitu of eastern Nicaragua in Coe and Anderson (1997, no. 6); ethnohistorical interpretations of Miskito political structure and function, in Helms (1986, no. 7); and women's status in Herlihy (2006, 2007, nos. 9 and 10), Both of the Herlihy documents deal with the village of Kuri in northeastern Honduras.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citation preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

Biosphere Reserves –parks– Use PARKS ( 367)

Bunya –a soured beverage made from manioc– Use WATER AND THIRST ( 271)

Buzos –lobster divers– Use FISHING ( 226)

Daktar –a herbalist– Use MEDICAL PERSONNEL ( 759)

Dama –grandfather– Use GRANDPARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN ( 603)

Grisi Siknis –a contagious hysteria afflicting adolescent girls and young women– Use PERSONALITY DISORDERS ( 158)

Isingni –spirits of the deceased– Use ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Kiamps –kinship groups to which an individual belongs by virtue of having the same family name– Use KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 602) with PERSONAL NAMES ( 551) and SIBS ( 614)

Kuka –grandmother– Use GRANDPARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN ( 603)

Kut Takaia –courting– Use ARRANGING A MARRIAGE ( 584)

Lakra –cross cousins– Use COUSINS ( 605)

Lapia –a fictive kin relationship– Use ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 608)

Lasas –evil spirits– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Lay Pastor Use CONGREGATIONS ( 794)

Libra –godparent– Use ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 608)

Mishla –a fermented beverage– Use ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 608)

Mosko –a masked dance– Use DANCE ( 535) and/or ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796)

Okuli –the highest ranking shaman– Use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756) with STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

Pana-Pana –mutual aid exchange– Use MUTUAL AID ( 476)

Praidi Saihka –sexual magic– Use SEXUAL STIMULATION ( 832)

Sikro –a commemorative feast for the dead– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769)

Swira –the concept of shame– Use DRIVES AND EMOTIONS ( 152) and/or ETHICS ( 577)

Taya –a loose kindred– Use KINDREDS AND RAMAGES ( 612)

Tiara –a female adolescent– Use STATUS OF ADOLESCENTS ( 882)

Wahma –a male adolescent– Use STATUS OF ADOLESCENTS ( 882)

Wira –the village headman– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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