Mehinako

The Mehinako are part of the Aruak linguistic group and their population is approximately 254. The Mehinako subsist off both hunting and fishing while farming manioc and maize as their primary crops. The group live with little privacy and a striking degree of transparency; their huts house families of 10 or 12 people situated around an open communal area with no walls.

They share similarities with the other upper Xingu groups with their system of trade, rituals and intermarriage. They divide the world of humans into 3 categories: wajaiyu, kajaiba and putaka. According to the Mehinako, all the people of the upper Xingu have a single origin; putaka. The Mehinako are also dream interpreters; they make a deliberate effort to recall and interpret their dreams to help guide their way through each day.

 

 

 

Xingu National Park

The Xingu National park was founded in 1961 with the help of the Villas-Boas brothers and covers over 2.6 million hectares in the southern part of the Amazon. 

There are 16 ethnic groups who inhabit the park, they are; Aweti, Kaiabi, Kalapalo, Kuikuro, Matipu, Mehinako, Nahukuá, Naruvotu, Wauja, Trumai, Yawalapiti, Ikpeng, Kamaiurá, Kĩsêdjê, Tapayuna and the Yudja. The first 11 groups in this list are located in the “Upper Xingu” and share much in common in regards to their way of life and world view. For the most part they share similar beliefs and superstitions, ceremonies and feasts. In addition, they all have essentially the same cosmology and religious concepts. With exception to the Kayapo and Suya who are nomads and hunter-gatherers, all the other Xingu natives primarily practice agriculture and fishing. 

Village Life

Xinguano villages are well adapted to their environment; typically spacious, built on flood free foundations and strategically positioned away from mosquitos. Their large long houses can reach 25 meters long and 14 meters wide. Each house is constructed around an extensive comunal area where feast are ceremonies are held. The long houses are not inhabited by families, rather by groups of relatives. In respect to marriage, marriage between relatives is taboo and marriages are traditionally arranged by the parents when a girl reaches 2 or 3 years old. The hammocks which are woven by the women are hung around the outer part of the house to leave the central area as free space. Each long house has one chief who is responsible for the economic activities of the group. In contrast, the general chief “Cacique” of the village has little governance and his principal role is to maintain the tradition of the tribe in the form of rituals and ceremonies. 

Trade between villages is formalised in a ceremony called the “moitara”; men trade amongst the men and women among other women. Items exchanged include ceramics, weapons, flutes, canoes, hammocks, baskets, fishing nets, feathered adornments, jewellery and even animals. Before trading takes place, traditionally men take part in the ‘huka-huka” wrestling matches.

Agriculture & Subsistance 

The upper Xingu region contains a lot of “Terra Preta” which is a rich black soil, unusual to the more common red and yellow soils of the Amazon that are notoriously poor in nutrients. Terra Preta is full of organic matter and this Indian soil is vital for the production of their crops. The crops that they cultivate are the same as before the arrival of Columbus, including manioc, yams and potatoes as the principal crops. The staple food is the manioc which is most commonly consumed in the form of tapioca (beiju) bread. Men and women work together in collective fishing expeditions. The men are responsible for making the wooden fish traps, while the women and children collect and cook the fish. However, when bow and arrows are used to fish, it is solely a male activity.

The Spirit World

The ceremony of “Kuarup” is a Xingu ceremony for honouring the dead. Kaurup is considered as a symbol for the Upper Xingu, both by the various tribes of the  region and outsiders. Basically, Kuarup is a funeral ceremony but in truth it is much much more. It involves their myths of creation, hierarchical classifications, the initiation of pubescent girls into society and the reinforcement of alliance between various Xingu tribes. 

For the moment Xapiri is working most closely with the Mehinako group with plans to build relationships with the other tribes in time.  

 

Information Referenced from the Instituto Socioambiental | Povos Indígenas no Brasil

Date accessed 01.04.15

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