Amy Toensing/National Geographic Stock
Papua New Guinea, 2009.
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: January 10, 2013
The custom among the Pirahã Indians of Brazil is that women give birth alone. The linguist Steve Sheldon once saw a Pirahã woman giving birth on a beach, while members of her tribe waited nearby. It was a breech birth, however, and the woman started crying in agony. “Help me, please! The baby will not come.” Sheldon went to help her, but the other Pirahã stopped him, saying that she didn’t want his help. The woman kept up her screams. The next morning both mother and baby were found dead.
THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY:What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?
By Jared Diamond
Illustrated. 499 pp. Viking. $36.
Jodi Cobb/National Geographic Stock
In Papua New Guinea, Asaro mudmen pretend to be spirits of vanquished warriors returned from the dead to haunt their enemies.
The Pirahã believe that people have to endure hardships on their own.
The anthropologist Allan Holmberg was with a group of Siriono Indians of Bolivia when a middle-aged woman grew gravely ill. She lay in her hammock, too unwell to walk or speak. Her husband told Holmberg that the tribe had to move on and would leave her there to die. They left her a fire and some water and walked away without saying goodbye. Even her husband had no parting words for her.
Holmberg was also sick and went away to get treatment. When he returned three weeks later, he saw no trace of the woman. At the next camp, he found her remains picked clean by scavenging animals. ….(more).
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