This article explores the nature of interethnic asymmetry and the dynamic of long-term dependence in Amazonia. Drawing on the case of the Sanema and their neighbouring Ye’kwana, the article seeks to gain a deeper understanding of submission and indebtedness with a view to re-thinking where the power might lie in such relationships. The association between the two groups, I argue, is motivated by the Sanema’s pursuit of manufactured items, access to which the Ye’kwana had historically monopolized. The dynamic entered into in order to procure these goods is one of voluntary deference on the part of the Sanema, a demeanour that is actively pursued because it enables morally valued autonomy and a freedom from on-going reciprocity. I conclude that this ‘submissive extraction’ can offer new perspectives on the relationship between debt, predation and freedom.