Yawalapití - Orientation

Identification. The Yawalapití are a South American Indian group living in the Brazilian federal state of Mato Grosso. The name "Yawalapití" is derived from the Yawalapití word for a certain type of nut, yawala, so they call themselves "People of the yawala nut." Any Indian who marryies a Yawalapití man or woman, lives in their community, and learns the Yawalapití language is considered a Yawalapití.

Location. The Yawalapití traditionally occupied the territory of the lower Rio Kuluene in the region of the upper Xingu, which is now a part of the Xingu National Park. At present there is only one Yawalapití village, located near the Rio Totoari (in the Yawalapití language, Tipatipa, the River of Stones), a small tributary of the Rio Kuluene. The settlement is near the Leonardo Villas Boas Indian Post.

Demography. According to their own statements, the Yawalapití were near extinction not long ago. The family of the former chief, Parù, and the Mapukayaka, Sariruá, and Yacao families—a total of 17 people—were the entire population in the 1950s. In 1977 there were 77 people; in 1979, 100; by 1989 the number of the Yawalapití living in their village had increased to 160.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Yawalapití language belongs to the Arawaken Family, as do the languages of their neighbors, the Mehinaku and Waurá.

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