Central Jê

The Xavante, Xerente and Xakriabá form a close knit group, whose languages are classified in the central branch (or Akwe, after their word for "people") of the Jê family. Extinct groups like the Akroá and Guegué are mentioned in early sources, from the 18th century on. The Akwe occupied a huge area, from the vicinities of the Paranapanema in the Southern Kayapó frontier to the Parnaíba river in the north, close to Timbira groups. As their eastern and western borders they had respectively the São Francisco river and the Araguaia river. A recent crossing of the Araguaia towards west was accomplished by the Xavante in the 19th century. Only in the middle 20th century this fierce and warlike society was peacefully contacted, after years of voluntary isolation. Now only the Xavante preserve the traditional village layout, with the matrilocal houses arranged in a semicircle around a plaza, the center of which is occupied by the men's house. Exactly as among the Kaingang, a Dravidian kinship system is equated with a system of exogamous clans - in fact, there are three clans, though marriage is allowed for two of them, in such a way that they play the role of actual moieties. Swidden farming is practiced by the Xavante, but most of their diet comes from hunting, performed through long expeditions in a similar way as done by the Kayapó, with all the consequences for the male dominant ideology expressed in the interpretation of Terence Turner.


Central Brazilian Savanna.
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Subpages (1): The Xavante