Foto: André Ricardo, 2007

Kaiabi

  • Other names
    Kawaiwete, Kayabi, Caiabi, Kaiaby, Kajabi, Cajabi
  • Where they are How many

    MT2.202 (Siasi/Sesai, 2012)
  • Linguistic family
    Tupi-Guarani

Notes on the sources

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Compared to the sources available for some other indigenous peoples, the literature on the Kaiabi is fairly substantial. Any research on the group must start with the writings of Georg Grünberg, primarily his doctoral thesis entitled Beitrage zur Ethnographie der Kayabi Zentralbrasiliens (there is a Portuguese translation by Eugênio Wenzel). This comprises a general ethnography on the group, based on research conducted in the 1960s. It begins with an extensive and valuable survey of the historical sources mentioning the Kayabi, followed by sections on the group's material culture, social organization and finally cosmology and mythology, adopting a classical ethnographic model. Also of value is the article "Die Materielle Kultur der Kayabi-Indianer," where Grünberg provides a detailed description of Kayabi material culture.

In addition to Grünberg's thesis, two others have been written on the basis of research among the Kaiabi, both of which are fundamental sources of information on the group. At the end of the 1970s, Elisabeth Travassos undertook research with the Kaiabi of the Xingu which culminated in an M.Phil. dissertation on the topics of shamanism and music. Also recommended reading from the same author is the article "A tradição guerreira nas narrativas e cantos Caiabis," published in 1993. In 1996, the American researcher Suzane Oakdale presented her doctoral thesis at the University of Chicago, The power of experience: agency and identity in Kaiabi healing and political processes in the Xingu Indigenous Park, with important observations on the inclusion of the Kaiabi in the political and cultural setting of the Xingu Indigenous Park.

Alongside these more extensive works, the Kaiabi appear in a series of other works, a few of which can be mentioned here. In her book Diários do Xingu, Berta Ribeiro supplies important information on the group, primarily concerning their material culture. The brothers Cláudio and Orlando Villas Boas recount in their book Os Kayabi do rio São Manuel the episodes and adventures experienced with the Indians in their journeys along the Teles Pires and Tatuy rivers. Published in 1996, the field diaries of the anthropologist Eduardo Galvão contain useful and sometimes picturesque information enabling some understanding of the process of setting up the XIP and the actions of the Kaiabi in this context.

Specifically on the Kaiabi language, there is a grammar published by the Summer School of Linguistics (today the International Society of Linguistics), a missionary-run institute with many linguistic research projects among indigenous groups.