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The Karajá
The Karajá are actually three groups, the Karajá, the Javahé and the Shambioá, who share a common language.  They live on a large island which is subject to the Araguaya River’s seasonal flooding. In this aquatic realm, fishing is a year-round activity and provides a major part of the Karajá diet. Both men and women participate in farming.

The Karajá have two types of settlements. During the wet season, villages are established on the high river-banks above the flood line. When the river recedes in the dry season, the villages move to sandy beaches.

Karajá society is characterized by a strict hierarchy and adherence to roles based on age. For example, at about the age of 45, both parents must discard their body ornaments and accept the status of old age, involving different behavior and dietary observances.

Several levels of social class are observed in Karajá society, with the top position in the tribe being held by the shaman. Each village has two chiefs. The most important one is selected because he is a mature man who has proven himself as an able provider and protector of his family. The second chief inherits his position through the family line. While men exclusively occupy these roles today, women held ranks equally high in the tribal mythology.

Photo Caption: Karajá: Male initiate into adulthood wearing trditional ornamentation. IIlustration by of Mr. Winfield Coleman.