Foto: Kimiye Tommasino, 2000.


  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    PR, RS, SC, SP33.064 (Funasa, 2009)
  • Linguistic family

Notes on the sources

The present text utilized both historical records produced over the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, left by indigenists and settlement directors such as Telêmaco Borba and Horta Barboza, as well as by other people who recorded aspects of Kaingang symbolic and material culture, such as Pierre Mabilde and Ambrosetti, who knew the Kaingang in the early years of interethnic contact. These are publications which, although they lack a certain anthropological basis and were almost always contaminated by ethnocentrisms, recorded ethnographic data which are indispensible for analyzing the historical and cultural trajectories of a people who by now have lived in contact with the national society for nearly two hundred years.

The ethnographic and ethnological sources of a more academic nature which were utilized are authors such as Curt Nimuendaju, Herbert Baldus and Egon Schaden, who were the first to focus on fundamental aspects of Kaingang culture.

Nimuendaju (1913) was the first to see a system of moieties in operation and can be considered the father of Kaingang ethnology. In 1937, Baldus published an ethnography of the ritual of the dead (kikikoi) among the Kaingang of Palmas-PR. Schaden dedicated a special chapter to the heroic mythology of the Kaingang. The studies by Nimuendaju served as source material for Métraux’s article published on the Kaingang in the Handbook of South American Indians in 1946.

The studies of the authors cited above also revealed a concern with the process of culture change among indigenous societies which, at that time, adopted the perspective of the progressive acculturation of the groups in permanent contact with the national society and which foresaw in a not-too-distant future the disappearance of these societies as specific socio-cultural entities. The Kaingang, as well as the Xokleng, were not included in the comparative study on the Jê done by the researchers of the Harvard-Central Brazil Project coordinated by David Maybury-Lewis in the 1960s.

Between the 1960s and the end of the ‘80s, studies that assumed the anthropological paradigm of interethnic relations predominated; these gave special attention to aspects of the indigenist policies and their sociological repercussions. There are studies that analyze the violent expropriation of the territory of the Kaingang undertaken by the colonizers together with the state governments which decreed the reduction of Kaingang lands and freed them for occupation by national and foreign colonists. The indigenist policies and indigenist agents were figured into the analyses, almost always occupying the researchers’ principal focus of attention. The main exponents of these studies are: Silvio Coelho dos Santos (1963), Cecília Maria Vieira Helm (1974) and Lígia Simonian (1981).

In this period, it is important to recall the publication by Delvair M. Melatti in 1976 on the Kaingang of São Paulo. Armed with ethnographic methodology and ethnological interests, Melatti brought to light important aspects of the social organization of the Kaingang in the State of São Paulo. However, in her conclusion, the author foresaw among those Kaingang a complete abandonment of the traditional customs as a result of constant external pressures.

The authors of this period studied the groups they researched historically and this can be considered as one of the contributions of their work, having reconstructed the process of conquest of these peoples and its consequences. However, most historians have worked with recent history based on the idea of the inexistence of indigenous populations in the South and Southeastern regions of the country, creating the false notion of a “demographic vacuum” at the time the lands of the interior plateaus were colonized by European immigrants. Questioning this view of official history, the ethnohistorical researches by Lúcio Tadeu Mota (1994; 1998), focus on the Kaingang, Guarani and Xetá from the time of first contacts in the 18th century until 1924, presenting another version that disputes the widely-accepted history in textbooks and academic literature where the indigenous societies either are totally absent or appear only in the first centuries of the conquest in a stereotyped and ethnocentric way. On the indigenous history of the state of Santa Catarina we have the contributions by Sílvio Coelho dos Santos and Wilmar D’Angelis and in Rio Grande do Sul, the researches by Lígia Simonian. These are important works but of difficult access.

In 1976, Ítala Becker organized a publication on an extensive bibliographic research in which she systematically organized the historical and ethnographic material on the Kaingang of Rio Grande do Sul. This publication is of undeniable worth for Kaingang ethnology although the methods are basically historical and the results present the Kaingang as “largely acculturated, but not assimilated” (Becker, 1976:11).

From the 1990s on, ethnological studies on the Kaingang were renewed with the pioneering studies by Juracilda Veiga. In 1992 Veiga undertook a systematic organization of the bibliographic information on ethnological aspects such as mythology, moieties and clans, descent, residence, kinship and naming. Based on this bibliographic review and field research undertaken in the Xapecó Indigenous Land-SC, Veiga presented her Master’s thesis on “Kaingang social organization and marriage: an introduction to kinship, marriage, and naming in a Southern Jê society”, in 1994. This study placed the Kaingang squarely onto the scene of the ethnological studies on the Jê groups.

Recent studies on the Kaingang done by various contemporary anthropologists continue researching specific ethnological aspects of this group, such as Juracilda Veiga (1994; 2000), Kimiye Tommasino (1995), Maria Conceição de Oliveira (1996), Moacir Haverroth (1997), Ricardo Cid Fernandes (1998; 2003), José Ronaldo Fassheber (1998), Ledson Kurtz de Almeida (1998), Angela Célia Sacchi (1999) and Sérgio Baptista da Silva (2001). These researches continue to confirm the relevance of ethnological analyses for the understanding of the Kaingang ethnographic present.