Suya - History and Cultural Relations

The Suya describe their history as a series of cultural or material acquisitions from hostile beings—animals, enemy Indians, and Brazilians. During their migration from the east to the Xingu region, they met with a number of groups with whom they exchanged items and from whom they often obtained women and children. Around 1840 the Suya entered the Xingu region and encountered a group of tribes who spoke different languages but shared a similar culture, often referred to today as the "Upper Xingu Culture Area." They adopted certain features of Xingu material culture (canoes, hammocks), foods and food preparation techniques (species of manioc and manioc preparation), as well as Upper Xingu ceremonies and body ornamentation but maintained a culture and social Organization common to other Northern Gê societies. The first known contact between Suya and non-Indians was in 1884, when Karl von den Steinen visited. The Suya were peacefully contacted again in 1959 by a Brazilian government "pacification" expedition and subsequently moved back near their earlier villages on the Xingu, where the surviving Tapayuna were moved to join them in 1970. Since then the Suya have been protected from frontier violence and the national market economy by a reservation system that intermittently provides health care and material goods and involves them in a new multiethnic social system. The Tapayuna formed their own village in 1980 and later moved downstream, away from the Suya.

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