ETHNONYMS: Aaingáng, Aweikoma, Caingáng, Coroado, Coroados, Coroasos, Guayaná, Ingain, Kaingangue, Kayapo del Sur, Southern Cayapo, Tupy

The 10,426 Kaingáng speak a language belonging to the Gê Family and live in southern Brazil (between 22° and 27° S and 50° and 53° W). They are an offshoot of the Guayána and traditionally lived on the open savannas. Culturally and historically, they are closely related to the Xokléng. The Kaingáng were foragers who harvested the Araucaria pine nut, with which they made bread; hunters of monkeys, tapir, and peccaries; and small-scale horticulturists. The Kaingáng moved into the more protective forests to flee other Indians and Portuguese slave raids. In the early 1800s there were 6,000 Kaingáng living in twelve villages.

The major obstacle to their pacification was their disinterest in trade goods, which both missionaries and the Brazilian government used elsewhere to entice aboriginal peoples into permanent settlements. During the early 1800s settlers were allowed to enslave those Kaingáng whom they captured, despite the decades-old illegality of the practice. By 1850 many Kaingáng were assisting Brazilians in fighting other Indians. At the same time, many were settling permanently. This settlement of various groups in concentrated areas meant insufficient hunting grounds for some, however, and the result was warfare among Kaingáng groups that lasted until the 1860s. The last Kaingáng group was pacified and settled in 1911. Today, there is wide variation among Kaingáng groups in terms of their assimilation and acculturation.

Traditionally, the Kaingáng hunted and practiced horticulture. They raised pumpkins, beans, and three varieties of maize, and they ate their crops as they came into season, storing none for winter. The tiller of a garden had exclusive rights of ownership; if he died before the crop matured, his plants were destroyed. Pine nuts, obtained by climbing trees, were basic to the Kaingáng diet. The Kaingáng also gathered wild tubers, honey, birds' eggs, papayas, and several other fruits. Manioc flour has now replaced the once-important pindo -palm sago in cooking. Hunting activities consume great amounts of time.

Both individuals and groups hunt; formerly the hunting of peccaries involved the entire band. In group hunts, the hunters use drives and encircling techniques. Dogs, which were not aboriginal to the Kaingáng, are now invaluable members of the hunting party. In the past, the Kaingáng caught parrots by using tame parrots as decoys. Transportation was always by foot.

The Kaingáng traditionally lived in lean-tos, which became gabled roof structures when two lean-tos were placed together. When traveling, they make rudimentary shelters or a nest in a tree. The Kaingáng traditionally wore no clothes save a belt and, in cold weather, a cloak.

The Kaingáng were divided into exogamous patrilineal moieties, each of which was further divided into two subgroups; members of a moiety considered each other cousins. Chiefly authority generally extends no further than the initiation of group activities. The chief gives gifts to his followers, and feasts are given in his name. An unpopular chief is simply no longer followed. The chief is succeeded by his son if the members of the band agree. If a man has been offended by another member of his own group, he shouts his grievances from in front of his own hut as his enemy does the same from the other end of the village. Later, the two men and their respective supporters fight with wooden clubs but avoid killing. In warfare against other groups, which involved surprise attacks at dawn, defeated men lost their heads, but women and children were adopted.

Kaingáng children are raised indulgently. Men usually marry girls or women younger than themselves. If a man reaches the marriageable age of 18 to 20 but his bride has not reached puberty, he lives with her family until she begins to menstruate. Parents must observe food and other taboos when their children are born. Death is believed to be caused by an abduction of the soul. The Kaingáng bury their dead in a flexed position.


Henry, Jules (1941). Jungle People: A Kaingáng Tribe of the Highlands of Brazil. New York: Vintage Books.

Horta Barboza, Luis Bueno (1913). A pacificação dos caingangs paulistas: Hábitos, costumes e instituiçoes dêsses índios. Rio de Janiero.

Melatti, Delvair Montagner (1976). Aspectos da orginazação social dos kaingang paulistas. São Paulo: Departamento Geral de Planejamento Comunitario, Divisão de Estudos e Pesquisas, Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI).

Wiesemann, Ursula (1970). "Purification among the Kaingáng-Indians Today." Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 95:104-113.

Wiesemann, Ursula (1974). "Time Distinctions in Kaingáng." Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 99:120-130.

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May 22, 2011 @ 10:10 am
Thank you for this information. This helped me a lot on my essay
Sylvia Lott
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Sep 27, 2014 @ 5:05 am
Can you tell me a tipical kaingan-prename for a man and for a women, please?
Theank you very much. ;-)

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