Xavante

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Xavante

ALTERNATE NAMES: Crixá, Curixá, Puxití, Tapacuá
LOCATION: Brazil
POPULATION: around 10,000 (2000 estimate)
LANGUAGE:
RELIGION: Indigenous beliefs

INTRODUCTION

In the late 16th century, the Portuguese colonizers named the Amerindians that inhabited the north of the Goiás region. The chosen name was Xavante, and the reason for it is unknown. The name the Amerindians used for themselves bears no resemblance to it: Auwe, meaning people. The Xavante were numerous, strong, and rebellious. The Lisbon government only managed to dominate them for the first time in 1784, when they were put into mission villages surrounded by military guards. The Xavante had resisted the invasion of their lands by attacking mining camps and raiding the settlers' cattle and crops. It is perhaps because of this kind of resistance that the colonial governors called the period between 1784 and 1788 the "pacification."

Life in mission villages was not kind to the Xavante and, by the time the gold mines were exhausted and many of the settlers left, a group of the surviving Xavante abandoned the missions. They went west, crossed the rivers Araguia and das Montes, and settled in eastern Mato Grosso, in the land of Roncador. The Xavante successfully defended their new territory against outsiders. They occupied these lands and lived in relative isolation until the 1930s, when they gained sudden notoriety due to their furious resistance to the new wave of settlers and government agents who were trying to bring central Brazil into the mainstream of Brazilian culture and economy. During the 1940s and 1950s Xavante, especially under the dictator Getuliuo Vargas, were mistreated, experiencing massacres and diseases. These efforts oriented to "pacify" the Xavante started again during the 1940s, this time by the Brazilian government, with the aim to open their lands to settlement. Contact was established, and the Xavante had made many adjustments during the last decades in order to deal with a wider society. However, they continue to this day to preserve a strong sense of identity. Until 1988 the Xavante, like all Amerindians in Brazil, were legally considered to be minors: they were not allowed to vote or make decisions for themselves. In 1983, Mario Juruna, a Xavante, became the first Amerindian to be elected as a member of the Brazilian Congress. He served until 1986. Brazilian Amerindians are now regarded as full citizens.

Traditionally, the Xavante were nomadic hunters and gatherers who lived in temporary horseshoe-shaped villages on the savannah and cultivated corn (maize), beans, and pumpkins on seasonally visited garden plots. They hunted tapir, deer, wild pigs, and birds and gathered roots, nuts, and honey. Xavante children are still initiated into age-based kinship societies where they are taught by their elders. This education process gives to the new generations the skills and insights of a people who depend directly on the natural world for survival.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

The Xavante live in the state of Mato Grosso, between Rio das Mortes and the Araguaia River, in a region of upland savannah. This zone is about the size of France, Germany, and Great Britain combined. It is situated in the southwest of Brazil. Mato Grosso in Portuguese means "dense forest." Xavante villages used to be found at intervals for the entire length of the Rio das Montes, until the land was sold to private companies during the 1960s. Afterwards, the new settlers pushed the Xavante to the vast wasteland of eastern Mato Grosso and even drove them to seek the patronage of either the missions or the Indian Protection Service posts, which they had fought so successfully in the past. The forest, now depleted, once supplied rubber and rare timbers; diamonds and silver are still mined. The region is known as the Serra do Roncador or Snoring Mountains, though there is no real sierra (highlands). The hillocks look like mountains, however, because of the flatness of the surrounding countryside. The Xavante land is referred to as "savanna" but is really poor country, not a prairie, and only occasionally productive land. The Xavante prefer it to the tropical jungle because it is open country where hunting, one of their favorite activities, is more thrilling. They also consider the savanna to be more beautiful than the jungle and choose to build their villages out in the open.

Still, there are patches of tropical rain forest all over their territory, usually along the water courses. These local jungles, known as "galleries," are appreciated by the Xavante because in them they can find water and wild roots and fruits, which are the basis of their diet, as well as palms and trees that provide leaves and woods used to manufacture various artifacts. The seasons in the region are clearly marked: a very dry season from May to September, when even a shower of rain is most unusual and the lakes turn into an expanse of dried mud, followed by heavy rains in October; by January, hunters and Amerindians get used to walking perpetually in ankle-deep water.

LANGUAGE

The Xavante, though dispersed through a vast region, share a common language and culture. They are one of the Gê-speaking tribes of Amazonia. They have also been known by the names Crixá, Curixá, Puxití, and Tapacuá. Understanding their language often leads to a deeper understanding of their culture. Ro was'té-di, for example, is what the Xavante call the close country or local jungle. Ro means "country" and was'té means "bad," making no secret of their dislike of anything that is not open, that is not the savanna, which they call ro pse-di, or ro we-de. Pse means "good," and we means "pretty" or "beautiful." It is easy to guess, therefore, where they prefer to spend time and live their lives.

The Xavante language has 13 consonants and 13 syllables. Honorific and endearment terms are used to refer to others such as one's in-laws or grandchildren. Many of these key relationships are actually reflected in the grammar of the language. For example, when speaking directly to his son-in-law, a man will use the indirect (third person) grammatical forms instead of second person.

Xavante boys are not named at birth. They receive their first name at a ceremony performed by the mother's brother when they are about five or six years old. Although the naming ceremony is quite important, as it establishes their father's brother-in-law's rights over the boy, adult Xavante rarely bother to learn the names of the boys because they will take fresh names when the time comes to enter the "Bachelors' hut" (adolescence). At initiation, boys take a third name, and when they graduate to the status of Mature Men, yet another. Each name cancels out previous ones. Today, not all Xavante pass through so many names by the time they reach maturity. On the other hand, some take even a fifth name: a man may assume further names if he so wishes.

As for girls, the ceremony of bestowal of their names is performed by the whole community, but no rights are asserted. This is because women do not play a part in Xavante politics.

FOLKLORE

The Xavante tradition is very rich in legends that try to explain natural phenomenon and their history. Many highlight the value of the qualities the Xavante appreciate most: strength and courage. One tells of two young men who had the power of making new varieties of fruits grow, using only their words. But, a time came when they started using their powers to frighten their friends. Finally, they were killed, and in the place where their blood was shed, two trees grew. The Xavante use the wood from those trees to make sticks that they place in their ears to protect themselves from dangers like jaguars and bad dreams.

Another legend tells about a hunter who was abandoned by his friends in the jungle because his body was covered with horrible boils. The vultures came and took him to heaven to heal. When the hunter returned to earth, he brought some potatoes, which became part of the Xavante diet.

The Xavante believe that the stars are the eyes of heavenly people who are watching us from up above. It happened that once a young man fell in love with the beauty of a particular star. When he fell asleep, the star came to earth in the shape of a woman and found him. Their love grew, and so did the palm where they were sitting, taking them up to the sky. When the young man came back to earth, he told his family about his affair and then went back to heaven and stayed with his loved one forever.

RELIGION

Xavante are more concerned with change or discovery than with the question of creation. "The world was created because in the beginning there was nothing" was an explanation given to an interested academic. "Then Aiwamdzú came out of the earth. He was the creator and he was Xavante." By the time Aiwamdzú appeared, the earth already existed, but it was empty. The east—the beginning of the sky—had not been created yet. The north and the south were created afterwards, as well as the Whites and their towns. More-detailed are origin myths that tell about people becoming human after being like animals. For example, one myth tells how people used to eat only rotten wood because it was soft enough to chew and could be eaten without preparation, something animals do. But then a young girl discovered maize (corn) and a young boy discovered fire, so they could grow proper food and cook it.

The beliefs and ceremonies of the Xavante revolve around their reverence for life and fertility. Thus, the good spirits, the Danimite, protect and create life, while the bad ones, the Tsimihöpari, cause illness and death. During the Way'a celebration, the Xavante act out a fight between the good and bad spirits with songs and dances. The good spirits win, and the bad ones are buried in symbolic barrows. Extinction is thereby avoided and the Xavante people will not only live on but will be even stronger. A similar ceremony shows the recovery of an ill Xavante. For a whole night a group of men, some painted black as bad spirits, dance and sing until the good spirits defeat the bad ones, who are once again symbolically buried.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Xavante holidays are full of joy and happiness. A sensational one is the burití competition, in which their great athletic abilities are put to the test and celebrated. Some holidays are aimed at bringing back the good times, known as Roweda. Though in many of their holidays the men have a more active role than the women, some do have women as central figures. One of them is the ceremony of the naming of a child, in which many of the staged legends have women as protagonists. They tell about the female contributions to their cultural wealth, such as the time when their ancestors could only eat rotten wood and roots. The women, however, thanks to their immense curiosity, found a parakeet in the jungle that had white maize (corn). They took some of this maize and brought it back to the village and started to cultivate it. To get the quality of maize and the kind of beans that the Xavante prefer, they had to fight bad spirits in their houses and with great courage drive them away. During the naming ceremony, the men imitate the voices of animals, like jaguars, leopards, wolves, and storks.

RITES OF PASSAGE

The Xavante have complex initiation rituals in which gender difference plays a fundamental role. The Xavante are divided into groups according to their ages: Babies; Not-Babies; Children; Boys and Girls; Bachelors; Young Men and Women; Mature Men and Women; and Elders. Each group is formed by those born in the same five-year period. Passing from one group to the next is celebrated with special rites, songs, and dances. When a group reaches adolescence, the boys leave their home and move into the Bachelors' hut. During this transition, generally at the age of fourteen, ears are pierced with small wooden sticks that are inserted in the earlobes. As time goes on, the size of these adornments is increased.

Through dramatic representations of legends, they learn the origins and significance of the new role they are about to take up. This is also the occasion to officially introduce brides- and grooms-to-be, to each other and to the rest of the village.

Among the Xavante, coupling is a process strictly regulated by laws. Marital relationships within families are discouraged. The decisions are made mainly by the parents, though they do listen to their children and take their feelings into account.

Like other Gê-speaking groups, the Xavante have an elaborate social organization. A village is divided in two halves called moieties. A moiety membership can be based on descent or on such distinctions as whether a person was born during the dry or rainy season. Moieties can carry out a number of reciprocal functions, such as burying each other's dead.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

"The Xavante are full of life" is very often the opinion of those who have had the chance to meet them and especially to witness their many festivals. The sight of their bodies artistically painted with bright colors, the joy and energy transmitted through their songs and dances, and the wisdom imparted via representations accompanied by their own timeless rhythms all communicate vitality and an enduring commitment to survival.

The Xavante community sense is evident in the way they organize their economy. They exchange goods and distribute their wealth with one premise in mind: it should be equal both within families and among the members of the tribe. They guarantee their survival as a group with a cyclical system of give and take.

Hierarchy is mostly an organizational tool. When the Xavante hold council discussions, it is up to the chief to begin the deliberations. But, that does not mean that he has more power, as all decisions are made by consensus and every man in the council has his say. Whatever is decided is commonly announced by shouting it through the village at dusk and dawn.

From an organizational viewpoint, this Amerindian tribe has a dualistic societal structure formed by two clans: the Âwawe and the Po'reza'õno. With the intention of preserving the culture richness of both tribes, marriages are not allowed between members of the same clan.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Since being contacted by outsiders in the middle of the 20th century, the Xavante have gradually ceased to be nomadic. They now live in independent horseshoe-shaped villages on the open savanna. The opening of the horseshoe faces the water. The center is the setting for meetings of the council of aldermen: it is there where important decisions are made. Some Xavante have abandoned this traditional crescent for oblong Brazilian-style houses in rows by the side of the missions, but most favor the original "beehive" houses. Built by women, the round structures are made of sticks and cane and are covered with palm leaves all the way to the floor. Up to three families can share one house. Inside the houses, the light is perpetually dim, and the smoke and odor of cooking lingers while the insects crawl or buzz around.

Before and after the first "pacification" carried out by the Portuguese, the Xavante furiously defended their land and people. After their experience in the missions, around the middle of the 19th century, they remained isolated for some 80 years. The isolation protected them, among other things, from epidemic disease. When contact with outsiders was restored in the 20th century, various studies described the Xavante as powerful, numerous, and muscular, with keen vision, lack of dental decay, slow pulses, and low blood pressure. They were also among the tallest and heaviest of Lowland South American Indians. But, contact often led to a demographic crisis, through introduced diseases, and deaths by fighting to resist territorial incursion. Still, the Xavante groups that survived the shock have not only recovered but have increased their numbers. In some cases, the doubling time of population is 15 years or less. The Brazilian government Indian Agency initiated a vaccination program in 1990.

FAMILY LIFE

Women are still the queens of Xavante homes. They build the houses, and inside they manage the whole operation: they prepare the food and distribute it. Collecting, the most important economic activity, is primarily a woman's job. Though gathering is not regarded as a prestigious activity, it is an essential contribution to the household and the survival of the group. It also provides one of the few opportunities for women to go out and have a good time together. In the past, women were also responsible for the preparation of the land, as well as the planting and harvesting. Nowadays, because of the increasing importance of agriculture for the society, and a wider variety of crops, men share those tasks.

It is quite common to find Xavante men married to more than one woman. Young men marry 5 to 10 years later than young girls, as the boys are not permitted to marry until they are initiated. At the ceremony, the boys are introduced to their future wives, but the girls are often so young that the couples wait years before they can go to the next step: the wedding hunt. When the time comes, the bride then takes part in the Adaba ceremony: she kneels in front of her house until one of her friends approaches and removes all of her necklaces. The groom goes out hunting with a few friends and can only come back when he has caught enough game to impress his father-in-law. If all goes well, he can then visit his bride at night until their first child is born, after which he moves into her family's house.

Frequently a man's brothers marry into the same household with the younger sisters of their older brother's wife. Cases of polygyny also often involve sisters: a young man marries the eldest daughter in a household and then marries her younger sisters as they become of marriageable age. Some monogamous or widowed men marry much younger women. Women, however, if widowed after the age of 30 usually do not remarry.

CLOTHING

Like many tribes of the eastern Brazil region, the Xavante originally went virtually naked. In contrast with the lack of clothes, however, there was an abundance of ornaments, such as ear-plugs, distinctive haircuts, body painting, and tattoos. Men wore penis-sheaths from the moment they entered the Bachelors' hut and were never seen without it again. The sheath is a tiny conical spiral of palmito bark. It is worn over the folds of the foreskin, covering only the tip of the genital organ, and the men would only take it off when urinating or having sex. In fact, were it to fall off when they were running or bathing, it would be the cause for great embarrassment.

Today, though, men usually wear shorts, and most no longer wear their penis-sheaths or their ear-plugs. Women have taken to wearing clothes and even make-up when they can get it. Most Xavante wear boots, and both sexes cut their hair short. In traditional Xavante communities, it is the men who do all the preening, but that has changed since contact with Whites and other tribes.

The Xavante are noted for their beautiful body painting. Urucú scarlet seeds are used to make red paint, and genipa is used for black ink. Red is the Xavante's favorite color. It is thought to be beautiful and have beneficial and creative properties. Furthermore, they believe it makes a person strong. Some of the designs also have special powers: the armbands of the wrestlers are believed to increase strength. Babassú nuts are the Xavante's favorite cosmetic. Men, who are more into taking care of their appearance than women, keep a supply of nuts that they chew carefully to extract the milky juice with which they oil their hair and bodies at least once a day.

FOOD

The Xavante have a real passion for meat. Any game is hunted and eaten. Peccary, deer, and anteaters are fairly plentiful. Pigs, wild or domestic, steppe rats, monkeys, and armadillos, as well as most birds, are also part of their diet. The meat is roasted for a long time and protected with a covering of ash and earth so it can be kept for any length of time. Turtles are sought for their meat and their nourishing and fatty eggs.

Preferences aside, the Xavante live primarily on roots, nuts, and fruits. The roots are boiled or roasted and eaten with their skins, unless they are too dirty. Nuts and palmitos are eaten year-round. Palmitos are edible shoots of a palm that grows all over the interior of Brazil and can be found canned in supermarkets around the world. The Xavante collect the shoots and eat the younger ones raw. Older, thicker ones are cooked in an earth oven. Nuts, particularly babassú nuts, are a constant in the Xavante diet. Whenever they are hungry, they help themselves to their supply of nuts. This is the only food they eat without offering some to everyone present. From July until the end of the year, carob fruit is a staple food. Carob, burití (a fruit with a high vitamin-C content), and piquí are the most important fruits in the Xavante diet.

When first encountered, the Xavante mainly grew maize (corn), yucca, two kinds of beans, a few types of pumpkins, and potatoes. Later on, some groups were encouraged by government programs to grow upland rice, keep enough for their own needs, and sell the rest.

To prepare the brew for feasts, the women start the fermentation by chewing some corn or cassava mash and spitting it into a bowl, which is then covered and kept in a dark corner for three days. The result is a mildly alcoholic beverage that, according to some explorers, if drunk in huge quantities can produce a "grand intoxication." The Xavante also eat honey anytime they catch sight of a beehive. As many bees are stingless, the Xavante simply climb the trees, open the hive, and eat the contents, bees and all.

EDUCATION

The level of formal education among the Xavante varies according to the geographical situation of their villages. It ranges from groupings where only one or two of the younger men speak some basic Portuguese for the purpose of dealing with the outside world, to villages where most children and young Xavante are literate and some have become teachers in their own hometown.

The very important skills to face life, like learning how to overcome exhaustion, pain, and fear, are taught by the elders through traditional legends. Many bear the message: "Be strong and courageous, and multiply." The education of children is a shared responsibility. In the early years, the mother is the main figure, but as they grow older, the grandparents help with the education of the girls. The boys, on the other hand, are guided by their godfathers, a group of young men about 10 years older.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

Music and dance are at the core of the Xavante's ceremonies. Accounts of the Jaguar and girls naming ceremonies tell of groups of men singing from the morning through the day and the following night, of the hiding of gourd flutes for the girls to fetch, and of beating time with rattles made of pig's teeth. In their relentless quest "to make beautiful" the melodies, the Xavante choreograph their dances in a series of highly formalized patterns designed to inspire and delight both the performers and spectators.

WORK

The Xavante practice shifting cultivation. Toward the end of the rainy season, a man fells an acre or two of trees and leaves them to dry. Just before the next rainy season begins, he sets them on fire. The ashes add mineral nutrients to the soil. Planting is time-consuming and sometimes even dangerous, for gardens attract snakes and stinging insects. Traditionally, the Xavante planted crops that required virtually no tending, such as maize (corn), beans, and pumpkins. Manioc (cassava) is also an important crop. These shrubs with starchy tuberous roots, even with indifferent cultivation, will yield four or five tons of tubers, which is quite convenient as the Xavante do not like to give much time or thought to their agriculture. Hunting is their passion: Xavante men spend a lot of their time planning communal hunts, discussing the possibility of finding deer or peccary in particular regions, or going out to enjoy the activity for the fun of it. Fishing, which used to be the males' responsibility, is still a very important activity among the Xavante.

The traditional way of hunting is using darts with curare. Curare is a formula whose active ingredient comes from the sap of the vine Strychnos toxifera, along with 30 other magical ingredients, like stinging ants and powdered snake fangs. The active ingredient blocks nervous impulses to the muscles so they become flaccid, making the animals easy to retrieve: a monkey would simply fall to the ground. Nowadays, the Xavante hunt with firearms. Meat is regarded as a prime delicacy.

Wild roots, nuts, and fruits gathered in their wanderings are really the basis of the Xavante's diet, rather than meat. The Xavante collect roots and babassú nuts as part of their day-to-day activities. Fish are also stupefied with poisonous forest vines. Their sap dispersed through the water paralyzes the breathing apparatus but leaves the meat edible. This method works best in low waters and slow currents, as the poison lingers long enough to take effect.

However, the Xavante traditionally were not particularly interested in fishing. They did not have special arrows for the task and preferred to walk rather than sail, so they had rafts instead of canoes and would cross rivers by swimming. Nevertheless, the introduction of metal hooks and nylon has transformed some sedentary Xavante into passionate fishers: it is a way of feeding the family without wasting time planting.

SPORTS

The Xavante are superb runners. As often as once a week, teams of relay runners, each carrying a length of burití palm that weighs around 80 kg (175 lbs), compete in a long race that may begin far out in the plain, ending with a dash into the village. The runners decorate their bodies with red and black vegetable dyes and tie a white cord around their necks with the tufted ends in the front like a bow tie. The winner is the team that can continue the longest, so the one who arrives first does not always win. The Xavante are reputed to be capable of catching game on foot. In some communities, the Xavante have developed a passion for soccer. Everybody plays, young and old, and when all the men get tired of playing, the women take over.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

Hunting provides not only a means of subsistence but also a source of entertainment. Xavante men spend hours planning treks and telling tales of fights and hunting exploits. Xavante men enjoy all aspects of hunting, especially since it allows them to make a public exhibition of their manliness. It is an expression of virility. Xavante women, for their part, are interested in the end product. They are cold towards an unsuccessful hunter, discuss at great length the prospect of getting meat, and send their children to find out for them when the hunters are expected to return.

Xavante ceremonies have been compared to classical ballet, as the performers try to create a harmonious spectacle where beauty is most important. The Xavante word for "ceremony" is dasïpse, which translates as "something that makes oneself good." The performances are carefully prepared, enjoyed by players and spectators, and regarded as a major form of aesthetic expression.

In 1996 an unusual event took place in Brazil. That year the world-wide-known Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura (grave) recorded with the Xavante people and featured it on their album Roots. A small number of Xavante even traveled to Sao Paulo to participate in Sepultura's "Noise Against Hunger" concert in 1998.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

Among the first Xavante artifacts to become known to the outside world were the uibro. Characteristically used by the Young Men's age-grade, the uibro are war clubs that symbolize power. They are made from a young tree so that part of the root can be left as a knob at one end. The other end is sharpened to a point, and the club is exposed to the heat of the fire to make it hard. Many uibro were found by the corpses of people they had killed in the days when the Xavante were fighting the Brazilians. Other more polished clubs, decorated with woven bastwork, are carried by Mature Men. With one end pointed and the other broad, they can be used for digging and striking respectively.

One of the most stunning art forms of the Xavante is body painting. The process of making the paint the Xavante use to decorate their bodies is almost as elaborate and interesting as the designs themselves. They use the pasty covering of scarlet seeds, which are boiled to release the pigment. The bright red pigment is then mixed with oil and left until it congeals. The mixture is shaped into a ball and is then ready for use as a dye, insect repellent, or in decoration. To make domestic objects of wood, the Xavante use a chisel and fire. Fire is made by twirling between their palms a thin stick of wood into the surface of a thicker one until sparks are produced that ignite the sawdust. The chisel has been made in the same way for the last 200 years. Using a splinter of stone, they rub a piece of iron until they can cut it. Then it is sharpened with another type of fine stone. Finally, it is attached to the handle, which is made of wood. Other tools are the cutting teeth of the piranha fish and the sharp claw of the great armadillo. Palm leaves and bark from trees are plaited to make most household utensils, such as baskets, mats, and fans. A Xavante man can make a carrying basket out of green palm fronds in a matter of minutes, an ability that proves useful when hunting away from home.

Xavante's women weave an amazingly strong kind of basket, which is used for carrying newborn babies. The basket's wide strap is placed across their forehead while the basket lays against their back, freeing up the woman's hands for other tasks.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Amerindian tribes in Brazil are still burdened by colonization. The groups that survived the European "discovery" of the Americas were being pushed off of their land at the end of the 20th century by private companies. Contact with Whites has also created the need among the Xavante to learn the national language and culture, in order to be able to function in the newly imposed way of life. However, education is not attainable by all, a fact that leaves many unable either to continue living in their traditional way or to embrace the new one.

Nevertheless, the Xavante are recognized as one of the most forceful people of the many Brazilian tribes. They frequently send their representative to Brasilia to defend their rights and insist on better treatment. The Xavante Mario Juruna, the first Amerindian to become a deputy in Brazil's parliament, spoke of the dangers and the wishes of his people: "Indian wealth lies in customs and communal traditions and land that is sacred. Indians can and want to choose their own road, and this road is not civilization made by Whites….Indian civilization is more human. We do not want paternalistic protection from Whites. Indians today…want political power."

The Xavante, like many other Amerindian tribes, are an endangered people. Modern technological society is threatening their way of life with the dangers of environmental degradation and cultural extinction. The Xavante and 11 other tribes such as the Karajá, Krikati, Bororo, and Tapirapé, among others, are facing the construction of a series of dikes on their life-sustaining rivers. The industrial waterway would dynamite, canalize, and dredge 1,200 miles from the mouth of the Amazon River through the Araguaia/Tocantins river basin, one of the world's most important reserves of biological and cultural diversity. Alterations of the river systems, proposed for 87 different sites, could have disastrous effects on the ecosystem causing the collapse of river banks, siltation, erosion, and flooding.

GENDER ISSUES

Xavante perceive their society through a male ideology. Men are seen as the guardians of culture and tradition and are responsible for the continuity of society. If it is through men collectively that society is culturally maintained, it is through women individually that it is renewed, through each body and each birth. In contrast to the central plaza of a Xavante village, considered as male and public space, the Xavante house is a female domain. The authority of Xavante women derives mainly from their control over the production, transformation, and distribution of food at the domestic level.

The women are responsible for looking after the house and plantations, while the men tend to do more of the hunting. There are some tasks that are gender specific to the tribe and there are some tasks that are shared between the genders.

Xavante society presents a sharp distinction between male and female naming practices. Women have a "girl's name," usually known and used only by members of their household, and a "woman's name" as a proof of maturity. The latter is conferred by groups of men in a public ceremony and never abandoned or substituted. A Xavante girl is said to become a woman at the birth of her first child.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Burgess, Eunice. "Foco e Tópico em Xavante" Série Lingüística, No 9, Vol. 1: 11–38. 1987.

Bennett, Ross S., ed. Lost Empires, Living Tribes. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Book Service, 1982.

Garfield, Seth. "Beholding the Miracle: Xavante Indians and Economic "Development" under Brazilian Military Rule" The Americas, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Apr., 2001), pp. 551–580

Graham, Laura R. Performing Dreams: Discourses of Immortality Among Xavante of Central Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Harrison, Alec J. "Xavante Morphology And Respect/Intimacy Relationships." SIL International.http://www.sil.org/americas/brasil/PUBLCNS/ANTHRO/XAVHONOR.pdf

Lopes da Silva, Aracy. "Social Practice and Ontology in Akwe-Xavante Naming and Myth" Ethnology, Vol. 28, No. 4 (Oct., 1989), pp. 331–341

Maybury-Lewis, David. Akwe-Shavante Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.

Steward, Julian Haynes, ed. Handbook of South American Indian. New York: Cooper Square, 1963.

—revised by C. Vergara

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