The Yawalapiti live in the southern part of the Xingu Indian Park, Brazil, a region which has become known as the Upper Xingu, where different language-speaking groups in large part share the same cosmological repertoire, have similar ways of life and are interconnected through commercial trade, marriages and inter-village ceremonies. They are part of the Aruak linguistic family and approximate 156 persons.
Typical to Upper Xingu tribes, the Yawalapiti village is circular in shape and has communal houses surrounding a square (uikúka) cleared of vegetation. In the center of the square is the men's house: frequented only by the men and where the sacred flutes are stored and played. It is in this house, or at river banks nearby, that the men congregate to talk in the twilight and where they paint themselves for ceremonies.
The men's house is similar to the residential houses. It only has one or two doors, always smaller than those of residences, which face the center square. The flutes are hung in the beams and during the day they may be played only in the house's interior; at night (after the women have retired) the men can play the flutes in the patio.
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.
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
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
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