ETHNONYMS: Carnijó, Forniô, Furniô, Iatê, Karnijó, Yatê

Most of the 2,000 Fulniô—90 percent of whom live in the Dantas Barreto Indian Park, immediately outside the town of Aguas Belas, in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil—still speak a language isolate (Itaê) that belongs to the Macro-Gê Phylum, although many also speak Portuguese.

They were contacted by Catholic missionaries by the mid-eighteenth century and, at that time, lived in two villages at 9° S and 37° W. The Fulniô are horticulturists who raise beans for their own consumption and raise cotton and sell baskets and carua fiber for cash. Culturally conservative in terms of language and performance of religious ritual, the Fulniô were fairly early acculturated in most other respects. They were living among Black and mestizo people by the 1920s.

Traditional political and ritual activities take place in a round clearing ( ouricouri ), to which the Fulniô move in August. There, under a sacred joazeiro tree ( Zizyphus joazeiro ), which women are forbidden to approach, the men feast and elect their chief; during the feast, there must be no discord. It is also in the clearing that exceptionally complex puberty rituals take place. Each stage of the ritual is administered by separate, specialized officers. Another characteristic and especially important ceremony is the Tolê dance, in which two men dance, each with an arm on the other's shoulder and in time to two stamping tubes of different sizes; the steps used are named for animals. The rest of the people present sing, while two other men shake rattles. The men stop before two girls, who afterward follow the dancers in their steps. The perpetuation of these practices and the fact that most members of the group continue to speak their native language give the Fulniô a persistingly separate identity despite the ongoing acculturation and assimilation processes that affect their society.


Hohenthal, W. D., Jr. (1960). "As tribus indígenas do médio e baixo São Francisco." Revista do Museo Paulista (São Paulo), n.s. 12:31-71.

Melo, Mario (1929). "Os carnijós de Aguas Bellas." Revista do Museu Paulista (São Paulo) 16:793-846.

Pompeu Sobrinho, Th. (1935). "Indios fulniôs, karnijós de Pernambuco." Revista do Instituto do Ceará 49:31-58.

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