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The Kayapó
The Kayapó live to the south of the Amazon River between the Tocantins and Tapajos rivers. They refer to themselves as the Mebengokre, “people of the space between waters.” The combination of plentiful rain and warmth results in the incredible biodiversity of their environment.

Traditional Kayapó villages were organized in three concentric rings around a large plaza. Men live in a central men’s house while women and children reside in the large houses surrounding the plaza.

Ceremonies are generally considered the domain of men, although women are permitted to participate. Women maintain the gardens, which produce the bulk of  the food, while men are the hunters. The Kayapó use hardwoods, bamboo, and stingray spines to make their arrowheads and spear points used in traditional hunting.

Over the last twenty years the Kayapó have become political activists to protect their environment and culture. To stop dam construction and gain control of mining and logging revenues, the Kayapó have demonstrated in the capital, used public media, and even threatened violence.

A Kayapó-Aukre man crafting a feather headdress. Photo: Courtesy Russel A. Mitterneier

"The Kayapó lived in the upper regions of the sky with many other animals but were weak and disorganized. Wasps and other animals were always fighting with the people.  The Kayapó watched how the wasps lived and were organized and learned all about wasp society. Then people organized themselves in groups and villages as the wasps did and defeated them in a fierce battle. Thus by observing them, did the Kayapó become mightier than the wasps."
- Kayapó Myth