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Nambikwára, Nambiquara, or Nambicuara, a term that designates a minor linguistic family with a geographical distribution limited to Brazil. It extends from northeastern Mato Grosso to southeastern Roudônia. The Nambikwára linguistic family contains three distinct languages: Sabanê, Northern Nambikwára, and Southern Nambikwára. The latter two constitute, in reality, dialects. Northern Nambikwára is comprised of four dialects: Tawandê or Tagnaní, Lacondê, Mamaindê, and Nagarotú. Southern Nambikwára, which has the greatest variety of dialects, can be clustered into four groups: Mundúka, Nambikwára do Campo, Nambikwára do Guaporé, and Nambikwára do Sararé (also called Kabixi). Within the languages of the Nambikwára family, Sabanê appears to be the most different from the rest. Nambikwára languages employ an abundance of high and low sounds.

The name "Nambikwára," which means "They who have holes in their ears," is a generic designation bestowed by the neighboring Tupi groups on all of the groups who belong to the Nambikwára linguistic family. Nevertheless, those groups refer to themselves by the name "Anunsu."

During periods of dry weather, the Nambikwára live as hunter-gatherers; in the rainy season, they cultivate fields along riverbanks, where they plant manioc, millet, cotton, and weepers. From the root of the Strychnos shrub they extract a poison that they use on their arrows. Among the beliefs of the Nambikwára is one of an abstract force called nande that is found in solid objects and magical or real poisons. The thunder is the greatest of the supernatural beings, with whom the pajé (shaman) can communicate by means of visions. The inevitable coming of death is linked to the appearance of a mythical being named atasu, who can take the form of a jaguar. The Nambikwára have been visited and studied by various anthropologists and ethnologists, among whom were Edgard Roquette Pinto (1912), Claude Lévi-Strauss (1939), K. Oberg (1949), and L. Bolgar (1959).


Additional Bibliography

Gomes, Mércio Pereira. The Indians and Brazil. 3rd ed. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Family and Social Life of the Nambikwara Indians. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files, 1970s.

Pereira, Adalberto Holanda. Os espíritos maus dos Nanbikuára. São Leopoldo: Instituto Anchietano de Pesquisas, 1973.

Pinto, Edgard Roquette. Rondonia. 4th ed. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1938.

Price, David. Before the Bulldozer: The Nambiquara Indians and the World Bank. Cabin John, MD: Seven Locks Press, 1989.

Roosevelt, Anna Curtenius. Amazonian Indians from Prehistory to the Present: Anthropological Perspectives. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1994.

                                   Charlotte Emmerich