ETHNONYMS: Aura, Uaura, Wauru
The approximately 170 Waurá live in several small villages in the Indian reservation of Xingu Indian Park in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Historically, they lived in that same area on both sides of the Rio Batoví (12° 30′ S, 54° W).
They speak a language of the Arawakan Family and can understand some of the Mehinaku language.
The Waurá were not contacted by Whites until the late nineteenth century and remain largely unacculturated. They are known as diplomats among the peoples of Xingu Indian Park for their ability to communicate with and to mediate disputes among neighboring peoples.
The Waurá economy is based on fishing, hunting, and horticulture. Fishing involves a number of people and tends to be a well-organized activity; the Waurá use nets, dip nets, and baskets; at night they fish with torches. The Waurá also practice swidden horticulture, raising maize, bitter manioc, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, peppers, peanuts, various fruits, cotton, and tobacco. They keep mangabeira ( Hancornia speciosa ) orchards. Hunting parties are made up of groups of men who use bows and arrows and who stay out for days. The Waurá store ears of maize by hanging them from the roofs of their houses and keep manioc flour in pots. They broil game and fish in their skins. The Waurá used to make bark canoes of the jatoba tree ( Hymenaea sp.). Nowadays they travel the rivers in bark canoes, which they acquire by trading with canoemaking groups. They wear no clothing, but men decorate their bodies with bands on their upper arms and ankles, and both sexes wear waistbands and different kinds of necklaces. Urucú is used for body paint, and men pierce their earlobes.
Men fashion baskets, and women make nets and pottery; the Waurá make pottery for their own use and for trade with the Trumai Indians.
Waurá villages are composed of several multifamily houses arranged around a central plaza; they are located at a distance of 3 kilometers or more from the river. Because of their reduced population, each communal house is now inhabited by only a few individuals. Sacred flutes, straw suits, woven masks, bullroarers, and other ritual paraphernalia are kept in a central men's house. Men perform daily wrestling bouts on the central plaza. Ritual women's and mixed dance festivals take place there in the dry season.
Brooks, Edwin et al. (1972). Tribes of the Amazon Basin, Brazil 2d ed. 1973. London: C. Knight.
Ireland, Emilienne (1988). "Cerebral Savage: The Whiteman as Symbol of Cleverness and Savagery in Waura Myth." In Rethinking History and Myth: Indigenous South American Perspectives on the Past, edited by Johnathon D. Hill, 157-173. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Krause, Fritz (1936). "Die Waura-Indianer des Schingu-Quellge-bietes, Zentral-Brasilien." Mitteilungsblatt der Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde 7:14-31.
Schultz, Harald (1965). "Lendas Waurá." Revista do Museu Paulista (São Paulo), n.s. 16:21-150.
Schultz, Harald (1966). The Waurá: Brazilian Indians of the Hidden Xingu." National Geographic 129(1): 130-152.