Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Pumé speak a distinctive language and live in discrete, permanent settlements on the open plains or along the major rivers of the western Orinoco river basin of southwestern Venezuela. Extensive flooding during the wet season forces some villages to relocate temporarily. Staples include fish, manioc and maize. Villages are politically autonomous, each having a headman who holds minimal authority. Shamans act as guardians of ancestral spirits and preside over curing ceremonies. The earliest recorded contact with the Pumé by Spanish explorers occurred in 1589 and the first Catholic mission was established in 1739. The development of cattle ranches in the region beginning in the 1930s has had a significant impact on Pumé economy and society.


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


South America --Amazon and Orinoco



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author and date of publication.

Two early ethnographers, Petrullo (1939) and Le Besnerais (1966, 2 documents), working in the 1930’s and 1940’s, respectively, wrote basic monographs of the Pumé describing their history, environment, tribal relations, subsistence activities, settlement patterns, and material culture. Based on his 1958 fieldwork, Leeds wrote about the relationships between ecology and subsistence patterns (1961) and ecology, subsistence activities and leadership (1962). He also wrote about the relationship between religion, social organization and economic activities (1960). Leeds also wrote an article critiquing earlier monographs and their depiction of Pumé horticulture and social organization (1964). Mitrani (1973) also weighs in on the inaccuracy of the early ethnographies, and discusses the role of religion in preserving a core Pumé identity in more recent times. In another article, Mitrani (1975) provides an overview of the territorial and political organization of Pumé communities that also includes a discussion of Pumé kinship and kinship terminology. Orobtig Canal (1998) presents a study of urbanized Pumé and failed government aid programs. Several specialized studies look at harvesting and use of palm leaves in house building (Gragson 1995), infant mortality and fertility (Kramer 2007, 2009), resource transport (Hilton 2004), and subsistence productivity (Gragson 1992).

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

Overview by

Ian Skoggard

Indexing Notes

gui -- See o'ara me

havetcha -- culture heroes -- Use Spirits And Gods ( 776 ) and Mythology ( 773 )

ikara -- physical body -- Use Ethnoanatomy ( 826 )

o'ara -- sacrificial ceremony -- Use Prayers And Sacrifices ( 782 )

o'ara me/gui -- male celebrant/female celebrant -- Use Magicians And Diviners ( 791 )

Puméh tho -- soul -- Use Animism ( 774 )

the -- See tōhé

tōhé -- religious shamanistic ceremony -- Use Organized Ceremonial ( 796 ) and Magic And Mental Therapy ( 755 )

tonghé -- shamanistic ritual (see tōhé ) -- Use Magic And Mental Therapy ( 755 )

tonghé goua me -- shaman -- Use Shamans And Psychotherapists ( 756 )

yarka -- See yaruké

yaruké -- spirits -- Use Spirits And Gods ( 776 ) and Sorcery ( 754 )

Indexing Notes by

Ian Skoggard

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