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The Xingu Region Peoples
People have occupied the headwaters of the Xingu River for thousands of years, living in large urban communities connected by networks of formal roads. In 1962, Brazil created Xingu National Park to protect cultural and biological diversity.

A traditional Xingu village has a circular plaza, with a men’s house in the center and a ring of large multi-family houses controlled by women around the periphery. These farming societies maintain extensive gardens, orchards, and fields surrounding the villages.

Each group specializes in unique products that circulate among the villages in a complex web of exchange. These interactions reinforce long-term shared social, cultural, and material bonds.

  • The Waura are known for their pottery, which is used for processing, storing, cooking, and serving of food and drink.
  • The Meinaku are celebrated for their spear-throwers and salt extracted from water hyacinth.
  • The Yawalapiti specialize in fish spears used to harvest the protein provided by the rivers.
  • The Kamayura make superior bows, arrows, and canoes.
  • The Kalapalo create beautiful shell necklaces.

"In the beginning there was only Mavutsinim.  One day he turned a shell into a woman and married her.  When his son was born he asked his wife, 'Is it a man or a woman?' 'It is a man.'  'I’ll take him with me.'  Then he left.  The boy’s mother cried and went back to her village, the lagoon, where she turned into a shell again.  'We are the grandchildren of Mavutsinim’s son' say the Indians."

- Villa Boas 1973:53 Kamaiurá First Man Myth

Two Kamayurá men decorating the Kuarup log. The men's house in the background. Photo: courtesy Cristina G. Mittermeier.