The actual configuration of Kayapó groups is the result of a long process of social and spatial mobility, marked by the constant formation of factions and political divisions. In the nineteenth century the Kayapó who had separated from the Apinayé and who at that time were called "Gorotire Kumren," split after crossing the Araguaia. The original group remained on the Rio Pau d'Arco, an affluent of the Araguaia, whereas the group called "Pore-Kru" (ancestors of the present-day Xikrin) headed in a northerly direction to the area of the Rio Itacatunas. In the second half of the nineteenth century the Pau d'Arco group split again, and the dissidents (direct ancestors of the Gorotire) migrated toward the Xingu and Fresco rivers and settled in that area. It is from this group that, after successive fissions, all remaining Kayapó groups descend (except for the Xikrin).
The Pau d'Arco Kayapó, after coming into contact with the local population and with Dominican missionaries who founded the town of Conçeição do Araguaia in 1987, became extinct, victims of epidemics. In 1946 anthropologist Curt Nimuendajú identified just six survivors.
The Porekru (ancestors of the Xikrin) split into three groups. One of them, the Diore, in 1910 fell victim to a punitive expedition by the local settlers. The two other groups, the Kokorekre and Putkarôt, while fleeing from rubber tappers, encountered and fought with the Gorotire. Around 1926, fearful of the Gorotire, these groups settled in the area of the Rio Bacajá. Between 1930 and 1940 a group that did not like the area separated and returned to the Cateté.
As of 1880, the large town of Pukatôti, with more than 1,000 people, located on the margin of the Riozinho do Afrísio, 60 kilometers south of Cachoeira da Fumaça, came to be the center of reference for the Gorotire. Between 1900 and 1910 there occurred the first great split, which separated the Gorotire from the groups from whom present-day Mekranoti and Metuktire (Txukahamãe) descend, and who settled west of the Rio Xingu. Between the 1930s and 1950s, owing to internal fissioning, illness, and conflicts with the rubber owners and tappers in the area, the Gorotire divided again, forming the groups known as Kararaô (nowadays located to the south of Altamira), Kuben-Krã-Kein (on the Fresco River) and Kokraimoro (on the Xingu). Beginning in 1970 there was renewed fissioning. In the Metuktire village on the Xingu, there occurred a split between the people led by Raoni, who accepted the invitation of the Villas Boas brothers and settled in the Xingu Indian Park, founding a new village, Kretire, and the people led by Kremoro and Krumare, who headed toward the Rio Jarina. In 1967, after a disagreement, chief Tut-Pombo left with his followers from Gorotire and founded the village of Kikretum in Nova Olinda. In 1979 a third of the Kuben-Krã-Kein left the village to found another one, Aukre, a village of Paiaká in the middle of the Riozinho. In 1981 a number of people from the Mekranoti village on the Rio Xixé moved to found Pukanu on the Rio Iriri, and finally in 1983 another group left Xixé and took up residence on the Iriri Novo. The Txukahamãe have once more come together in a new village in the area of Kapôt in the Kayapó Indian Reservation.
During this entire period, conflicts between Kayapó and pioneers who invaded their territory were always very violent, and there was great population loss. In the 1960s plantations and cattle ranches began operating in the area. The construction of the PA 279 highway linking Redenção no Araguaia with São Felix on the Xingu was also begun. In the 1980s gold prospecting started in the area, and lumber mills were established for the exploitation of high-quality timber, including mahogany. Such uncontrolled activities were highly predatory. Large state projects involving the development of mining and metallurgy (Projecto Grande Carajás) and the construction of hydroelectric plants (Tucuruí and Kararaô on the Xingu, the latter still under study) have also affected the area.