Xokléng



ETHNONYMS: Aweikoma, Botocudos, Bugré, Caingang of Santa Catarina, Cayapo del Sur, Kayapo del Sur, Shokleng, Shokó, Socré, Southern Cayapo, Southern Kayapo, Xakléng, Xogléng, Xokré, Xokréng, Xonkléng


The Xokléng speak a Gê language and traditionally inhabited a large forest and savanna area in what is now the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. Nearly all 634 remaining Xokléng now live on a reservation near Ibirama (27° S, 50° W). Culturally, they are closely related to the Kaingáng.

In the nineteenth century there were approximately 1,000 Xokléng in three groups, and they were hunted by professional Indian hunters known as bugreiros. One group settled peacefully on a reservation in 1914, and this is the group that survives today. Another group settled in 1918 but is no longer a group. A third group fought the Brazilians well into the 1930s and disappeared by the 1940s. The Xokléng are acculturated to a considerable degree; they wear Western clothing, participate in the cash economy, and speak Portuguese as well as their own language. They still live primarily by hunting, despite persistent efforts by the Brazilian government to encourage them to settle and to engage in agriculture.

Early in their recorded history, the Xokléng hunted and practiced horticulture. Sometime later in the historic period, however, the Xokléng gave up horticulture entirely and subsisted only on game and gathered foods, perhaps because of the mobility required by their warfare with Whites. In that early period, they raised three varieties of maize as well as pumpkins and beans. 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.

The gathering of pine nuts, by climbing the trees, is essential to the Xokléng diet. Also gathered are wild tubers, honey, birds' eggs, papayas, and several other fruits. Manioc flour has now replaced the once important pindo palm pith in cooking. Hunting activities consume great amounts of time. Both individuals and groups hunt, although the hunting of peccaries involved the entire band. In group efforts, the hunters use drives and encircling techniques. Dogs, which were not aboriginal to the Xokléng, are now invaluable members of the hunting party. The most desirable game is the tapir. Parrots are caught by using tame parrots as decoys.

The Xokléng traditionally lived in arched lean-tos, which were sometimes paired to make a hut. Today, when traveling, they make rudimentary shelters or a nest in a tree. The Xokléng wear no clothes save a belt, and a cloak in cold weather. Transportation is always by foot; to cross a river, the Xokléng fell trees across it.

The Xokléng traditionally were organized into exogamous patrilineal clans, each with its own distinctive personal names for members and body-paint designs. Chiefly authority is limited primarily to being able to initiate group activities. The chief gives gifts to his followers, and feasts are given in his name. An unpopular chief simply loses his followers. The chief is succeeded by his son if the members of the band consent. A man offended by another member of his own group will shout his grievances from in front of his hut while 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 traditional warfare against other groups, which involved surprise attacks at dawn, defeated men lost their heads, but women and children were adopted.

Xokléng children are raised indulgently. Xokléng boys have their lower lips pierced at 2 or 3 years of age in a great celebration. Men usually marry girls or women younger than they. If a man reaches the marriageable age of 18 to 20, before his intended bride has 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 Xokléng cremate their dead.

Bibliography

Baldus, Herbert (1937). "O culto aos mortos entre os kaingang de palmas: Ensaios de etnologia brasiliera, Brasiliana." Biblioteca Pedagogica Brasiliera, ser. 5a, 101:29-69.


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


Hicks, David (1965). "A Comparative Study of the Kaingáng and Aweikoma of Southern Brazil." B.Litt. thesis, University.


Santos Silvio Coelho de (1973). "Indios e brancos no sud do Brasil; a dramática experiênca dos xokléng." Florianópolis: EDEME.


Urban, Greg (1985). "Interpretations of Inter-Cultural Contact: The Shokléng and Brazilian National Society, 1914-1916." Ethnohistory 32:224-245.

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