The Xavante people, aproximately 15,000 individuals within the territory of eastern Mato Grosso state in Brazil. They speak the Xavante language, part of the Jé language family. They were enslaved in the 18th century, after which they have tried to avoid contact. A temporary coexistence with westernized society in the 19th century in the state of Goiás, was followed by withdrawal to Mato Grosso (between 1830–1860). They were re-"discovered" during the 1930s. From 1946 to 1957, they were brought under dictator Getúlio Vargas’s National Integration Program, and experienced massacres and disease. Due to this history, they have a distrust of White or Portuguese men. Today they are still wary of any approach of non-Xavante, called "waradzu". The Xavante leader Mário Juruna was the first indigenous Brazilian to become a federal representative.

The Xavante, like other indigenous tribes, were treated badly by the "white man" beginning in the 1960s, the Xavante were moved from their homeland in Mato Grosso to a southern, malnourished area of Brazil. There, thousands of Indians died due to disease, famine and warfare. Within the last decade, the Xavante have been relocated back to their original lands. Unfortunately, due to landgrabbing and squatters, the land was destroyed. Lush forest was burned to create sparse wasteland and pasture.



Village Life

The people are renowned as beautiful and prideful. They may be most famous for their dualistic societal structure. Two clans, the Âwawẽ and Po'reza'õno compose the culture, and marriage is not allowed between members of the same clan. An example of inter-clan relationships are the traditional log races, where the two clans compete in a race to carry palm tree trunks weighing as much as 80 kg to a defined point.

The Xavante are also known for their complex initiation rituals for young males, such as when small wooden sticks are inserted in the earlobes at the age of fourteen. As time passes, the size of these adornments is increased for the rest of their lives.

Agriculture & Subsistance

The Xavante inhabit a central zone of the Brazilian cerrado in a complex ecozone which combine the vegetation of the cerrado and the woods. It is a zone with two well defined seasons: the dry season between April and October known as the 'winter' and the rainy season, or 'summer' in the other months. Agriculture, above all maize (used by the Xavante in socio-cosmological ceremonies) beans and squash, has only a secondary role in the economy. The crops harvested from each plot belong to each household, and while the men carry out the tasks of clearing and burning, the women do the planting. The traditional basic diet consists of products collected mostly by the women: wild roots, nuts, fruit and other vegetables.

Collecting is supplemented by the men's contribution from hunting and fishing. Game and fish provide proteins and can be preserved by smoking. Up until the intensification of colonization in the 1960s, the Xavante obtained these foods on hunting and collecting excursions: long trips, sometimes lasting months, made by groups of extended families. In the dry season, the groups of travellers met in large semi-permanent villages to hold their ceremonial activities.


Information Referenced from the Instituto Socioambiental | Povos Indígenas no Brasil

Date accessed 01.04.15

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