From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Francisca Arara (Diaká), 2005

Arara Shawãdawa

Where they are How many
AC 677 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
Linguistic family

Like the other indigenous groups in Acre, the Arara Shawãdawa  suffered the effects of  incursions and the rubber plantation production system from the last decades of the 19th century, having been exploited, expropriated and limited in their physical and cultural reproduction.  Over recent years they have been involved in reverting this process, by means of the revalidation of their language and traditions. as well as claiming their territorial rights from the Brazilian state. They have won the right to the enlargement of their land, however it has still not been ratified by the President of the Republic.  

Identification and language

The designation Arara was attributed to the group during  contact when the first exploration began of the Alto Juruá in the 19th century. The Arara called themselves Shawadawa, but they are also known by other names, like Shawanáwa, Xawanáua, Xawanáwa, Chaua-nau, Ararapina, Ararawa, Araranás, Ararauás and Tachinauás.

The contact with agents of the rubber expansion front affected the group's  relationship with its mother tongue. Today there are few speakers of the Arara language.  According to a linguistic study carried out with the group by Cunha, only seven active speakers were found, although  many adults possess receptive competence, that is, they understand but do not speak the language (Cunha, 1993:10).

Because they had historically been ridicularized and discriminated when they spoke their own language, the Arara stopped transmitting the language to their descendants, creating a  younger generation educated only in Portuguese. However since the beginning of the 1990s the Arara have been trying to "rescue" their own language, counting with the support of CPI-Acre (Pro-Indian Commission of Acre) to consolidate bilingual education within the group. Thus, many Arara young people and children are learning the indigenous language with teachers trained by CPI-Acre.  The language spoken by the Arara of Acre is classified as belonging to the Pano linguistic group, whose speakers can be found in Peru, Bolivia and in Brazil.

In Brazil Pano speaking groups are located in the south and west of the state of Acre, stretching east into the western part of Rondonia, and northwards reaching into the state of Amazonas be  

Localization and environment

Most of the Arara population live in the Arara indigenous area of the Humaitá Igarapé- recognised with a total of 86,700 hectares, but not yet ratified by the President of the Republic - whose limits are defined by the rivers Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale (also called the Humaitá, Leonel or Amahuacas igarapé), a tributary on the righthand bank of the Upper Juruá; the Nilo igarapé, a tributary on the righthand bank of the Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale; and the Grande igarapé , which forms the  Valparaíso river.

The spacial distribution of the Arara within the Indigenous Area involves the organisation of the group in three villages - Raimundo do Vale, Foz do Nilo and Boa Vista - which have little density because the houses are spread out along the banks of the rivers. The Raimundo do Vale village is located on the right bank of Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale.  Part of the Foz do Nilo community is located on the same side of this river, near the confluence of the Nilo Igarapé with the Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale, while the rest of the houses are located along both banks of the Nilo, with the biggest concentration on the right bank.  The Boa Vista village is located on the left bank of the Grande Igarapé, a tributary of the Valparaiso river.

Access to the villages is generally by river, but the three are linked by paths which cross the Indigenous Area. The determining criteria for the spacial distribution of the Arara are mainly the facility of transport provided by riverside houses, the need to build houses relatively distant from each other in order to maintain the social and economic order, the type of house, the relation with the environment, productive activities, social organisation and the history of the occupation of the Upper Juruá by the involving society, as well as the migrations of the group and the existence of internal divisions.

The environmental importance of the Juruá valley and the Indigenous Area

The Juruá valley in Acre, where the Arara reserve is located, is considered by zoologists and botanists as one of the Amazon's regions of greatest biological diversity, containing a large  concentration of the planet's plant and animal species. Recent studies register the existence of endemic species of plants and animals which are unknown in other regions of the Amazon and in Brazil as a whole. In its exuberant landscapes different types of  forest can be found: open with palms and bambu (tabocal)  flood plains (periodically or permanently flooded) and  firm land, as well as dense forest on floodplains and on hillsides,  dwarf forest on the sides and peaks of ridges and also "campina on white sand" , a non forest type of vegetation.

Many rivers and igarapés rise in this valley, among them the Cruzeiro do Vale (or Humaitá Igarapé) and its innumerable tributaries, the Gregorio, the Tejo, the Bagé, the São Salvador and the Primavera,  on the right bank of the  Tarauacá river. The climate is more humid and colder than in other Amazon regions, with the temperature reaching seven degrees Centigrade and the phenomenon of sudden drops in temperature in the months of June and July , the height of the Amazon summer. Thanks  to all these characteristics, the Upper Juruá is considered to be one of the Amazon regions with most potential for conservation and preservation. In this region of Acre different types of soil can also be found: fertile or poor, clay or sandy, well or poorly drained, subject or not to flooding.

The environmental importance of this Acre region was recognised by the federal government at the beginning of the 20th century. Part of the Indigenous Area overlaps the Forest Reserve of Acre, which was created by Decree No 8843 of 26th July 1991, with four unconnected strips. This reserve covers 2.8 million hectares, with the Gregório river strip coinciding with a considerable part of the Indigenous Area. In this strip  are the springs of some of the main tributaries of the Upper Jurua river, like the Tejo, Cruzeiro do Vale, Gregorio and the Acuraua, as well as the headwaters of tributaries of the left bank of the Tarauacá, like the  São Salvador, Primavera and Catuquina.

The Arara Indigenous Area of the Humaitá Igarape has also been included in a continuous 'mosaic' of 23 federal areas which exist in the Upper Jurua, composing an ample region of environmental significance for both the indigenous populations and the regional populations, and of great national and international interest. Among the lands belonging to the federal government which exist in the Upper Jurua, are a National Park, three Extractivist Reserves and 19 Indigenous reserves.   The environmental importance of this 'mosaic' of lands is enormous due to the rich biodiversity found in the forest.  There is a great number of well preserved species of flora and fauna in  this region, due to the sustainable use by the people who occupy these areas. In the 'mosaic' the land occupied by the Arara can be found next to the Riozinho da Liberdade Extractive Reserve, mainly where the river meets the Nilo and Grande igarapés.

History of contact

The region presently occupied by the Arara had been the territory of the Pano and Aruak groups since the pre-Cabral period, but from the middle of the 19th century it was also occupied by explorers and traders coming from Belem, Manaus and other urban centres located along the Solimoes river (Aquino & Iglesias, 1999). However the effective exploration and occupation of the Upper Jurua region only happened in the last two decades of the 19th century, after several clashes with local indigenous groups. During this period, the region was populated mainly by migrants from the northeast of Brazil, fleeing from the drought of 1877, who established rubber plantations and collection trails in order to extract latex from the Hevea brasiliensis tree.

By the end of the 1990s, the Upper Jurua was inhabited by Brazilians, when Peruvian “caucheiros” or collectors of rubber  and other forest products occupied the region for a short time, but by the beginning of  the 20th century the occupation by northeasterners was massive and lasting (Castello Branco, 1930: 640).

The Araras' own oral history as well as historiographic sources on the Upper Jurua agree that it was only at the beginning of 20th century that the group had contact with agents from Brazilian society. In 1905, when a  road linking Cocamera, in Tarauacá, to Cruzeiro do Sul was being built, Felizardo Cerqueira and  Ângelo Ferreira managed, with  índians from the Yawanawa, Rununawa e Iskunaw groups, to contact the Arara who were located in the region of the Forquila igarapé, a tributary on the right bank of the Riozinho da Liberdade (Tastevin, 1926: 49). At this time the Arara who were living near this igarapé lived with the Rununawa indians, but they were all led by the celebrated leader Tescon, who was married to the daughter of an Arara chief.

There are many references to Tescon leading the Arara in written sources dealing with the Upper Juruá, like that of Army lieutenant Luiz Sombra, who in 1907 had a contact with  “xauánauás (araras)” at the Riozinho da Liberdade. In the same year the engineer Nunes de Oliveira visited the malocas (huts) of several indians in the region, and met Tescon near the Forquilha igarapé.  Tescon and the other indians led by him were still living near  Riozinho da Liberdade when the engineer Máximo Linhares, who worked for the Indian Protection Service and Localization of National Workers agency  (SPILTN), travelled through the valleys of the Juruá and Tarauacá rivers. Máximo Linhares found Arara, Ararapinas, Contanauás, Caxinauás, Jaminauás and Tuxinauás along the Humaitá river, a tributary of the Upper Muru; Caxinauás, Jaminauás, Curinas, Catuquinas, Aninauás, Ararauás and Capanauás in the Upper “Embira” (Envira); and huts  of the Caxinauás and Araras, near the headwaters of the Forquilha (Castello Branco, 1950: 19-23).

After 1912 the French priest Constantino Tastevin visited the Upper Juruá. He reported constant intertribal wars fought by the Arara at the beginning of the 20th century,  besides distinguishing between the Arara of Tauari and those of Forquilha, indicating that  the Arara were divided into more than one group, or in different villages  of the same group. Tastevin also described the migrations undertaken by the Arara along the Tejo, Bagé, Liberdade and Amahuaca (Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale) rivers and referred to the clash that resulted in the death of Tescon during a conflict with the Arara (Tastevin, 1928: 208-209).

In 1914 Tescon was murdered by Arara indians, and the group dispersed. According to Arara memory, Tescon had beaten his Arara wife and threatened his in-laws, which led them to start a war against Tescon's group near the Riozinho da Liberdade region, which led to his death. After this conflict, several other wars took place as the indians who had been led by Tescon sought to avenge his death, and this led the Arara to migrate to the vicinity of the Bagé, Tejo, Gregório and  Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale rivers. The Arara probably established themselves on the banks of the Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale and Valparaiso rivers in 1914, when they made several migrations, until they were located in the 1920s in the rubber plantations Cruzeiro do Vale and Humaita. Even though the area was by now divided into plantations. The group did not remain fixed in one place, but continued travelling along the Valparaíso, Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale, Riozinho da Liberdade and Bagé rivers.

In this period part of the Arara, who were also known historically as the Ararauás and Ararapinas, were living on the banks of the  Humaitá, a tributary of the Muru, the Turunaia, the Tauari and the Embira (now the Envira) rivers.  However it is impossible to state on the basis of oral and written information that the Arara later united with those who were living in the Forquilha igarapé. According to the oral memory of the Arara they were in the Riozinho da Liberdade region and then after various migrations they established themselves in the  Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale area. During these migrations the Arara fought many intertribal wars, which came to an end when they became workers on the rubber plantations.

To capture the Arara for labour, the "bosses" sponsored various incursions, using some of the old (ancestral) Arara as agents of the process of inserting the group into the economic activities in the rubber plantations. These ancient ones are a strong presence in the Arara memory, and are references for the identity of the group and territory which they have always occupied.  In general the information referring to the "ancient ones"  is linked to the incursions, the intertribal wars, kinship, social organisation, traditional customs, the practices of splitting up and the migrations of the group over a vast area which includes the regions of the basins of the  Liberdade, Gregório, Bagé, Cruzeiro do Vale, Tejo, Humaitá and Envira rivers.

During the second half of the 20th century, the Arara remained under the yoke of the bosses,  constantly migrating in search of better conditions to the rubber plantations in their old territory, among them the Valparaíso, the Russas, the Nilo, the Humaitá and the  Concórdia. Due to illnesses and reprisals by bosses. some of the Arara who lived near the Bajé river migrated in the 1970s and 1980s to the regions of the Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale and the Valparaíso river,  where several Arara families were living. At this time they began to claim their territorial rights and they managed  to get the Arara do Igarapé Humaitá Indígenous Area, with 27.700 hectares, recognised and delimited in 1985.

After recovering part of their territory again, many families who were scattered throughout the rubber plantations along the Liberdade and Baje rivers, preferred to abandon the work and go to live with their relatives in the reserve, or near it.  When the anthropologists of the Working group established by Regulation 1204/93 went to the area in 1994, they did not find any Arara families at Riozinho da Liberdade, but  many families were living outside the limits of the Indigenous Area, in the region of the Grande igarapé, a tributary of the Valparaiso river, besides many others who were living in the town of Cruzeiro do Sul.  With the aim of adding another area to the reserve, the Arara  demanded, throughout the 1990s, that the Indigenous Area  should be enlarged, which they achieved in 2000, when anthropological studies of identification and delimitation of the area were carried out.

On 19/12/2001 the approval of FUNAI studies to identify the area  was published in the Official Gazette, and on 04/12/2002, an order issued by the Ministry of Justice declared that the area was one of  permanent possession by the indians. The Arara are still waiting for the conclusion of the process of offical recognition of their land by the President of the Republic.


At the beginning of  2000, village areas included various rubber plantations and houses, where  numbers varied widely.  The villages of Raimundo do Vale, with 126, Foz do Nile with 108, and Boa Vista with just 41 people, altogether added up to a population of 275 inside the Indigenous Area. Yet a considerable number of Arara lived outside the Indigenous Area, in nearby towns. When all these are added together, including those related by marriage to the Arara, they total  94, of which 82 are Arara and 12 white.  The total of the two populations is 369,  of which 319 are Arara, 37 whites, 1 Yawanawa and 12 Poyanawa.

Due to the growing number of Arara from the towns who are  returning to live in the Arara reserve, the numbers  there are growing, and this tendency looks likely to continue.  Since the first census in 1985 to the last, in 2000, the population of the Indigenous Area has increased from 130 to 275 persons.  This means that in fifteen years  the population more than doubled, an increase of 111.54%. The birth rate in the reserve is high, and the number of young people is far larger than the number of elderly.  The main reasons for this increase in the Arara population over the last fifteen years are the improvement in their quality of life, following the partial identification of their land in 1985; the end to their relation of dependency on the rubber bosses; the training of health agents; the acquisition of boats for river transport; the greater presence and activity of the government indian organisation (FUNAI) and of NGOs; and the organisation of their own association. 

Social organization

After various years of contact between the Arara and the agents of the rubber trade, the group's former type of habitation in large "malocas" or communal huts was changed to several houses occupied by small domestic groups. With this new model of habitation, the Raimundo do Vale and Foz do Nilo  villages were formed in the 1980s. The Boa Vista village was consolidated in the 1990s, when some Arara families migrated to the region of the Grande igarapé.  Extended families seek to live in houses near each other, each with a nuclear family. The villages are made up of several Arara houses located along the  Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale, the Nilo igarapé  and the Grande  igarapé. There is no information about linear halves, groups of houses, ideal marriage, extended and nuclear families, models of behaviour, the terminology of kinship, and other aspects referring to social organisation and to the kinship of Arara in the period before the occupation of the Upper Juruá by the expansion of the rubber trade.

There is information that the Arara stopped speaking their language and adopted Portuguese because people laughed at them. As a result, not only the terminology for their kinship disappeared, but also the possible social division in halves, and in four sections (a characeristic of other Pano groups).  Today, the unity of the group is better understood by descendancy from the "ancient ones" those Arara who were the first to have contact with the agents of the rubber trade.

Instead of a chief for each 'maloca' there is now a chief for each of the three villages. There are members of the main extended families  (the Pereira, the Cazuza and the Varela) in each village.  The Arara have carried out a rearrangement of the group's kinship, altering the patrilinear model which is characteristic of Pano groups  in order to recognise as Arara,  descendants of these  "ancient ones"  the issue of, for example, the union between a Duwadawa man and a Shawanawa (Arara) woman.  The same happened with the union of a Poyanawa man and an Arara woman, whose descendants include the leader of the Boa Vista village.

As to marriages, in general the Arara have only one wife, and there is no ritual to consolidate the union. The few who have gone through a marriage ritual did so in the Catholic church. Basically, in order to marry, a man needs only a rifle for hunting and a  planted field to sustain his wife. He must also build a house, and until this is  ready the wife lives in the house of the husband's father.  It can therefore be inferred that the Arara possess a rule of patrilocal residence combined with neolocality. Marriage is encouraged between young couples in the 13 to 16 years old age group, which favours population growth.  

The cultivation of a clearing is basically a masculine activity, but during the harvest the women help the men.  From the manioc they plant the Arara make flour, which is also a masculine activity, as game and flour are the basis of the Arara diet.  The women are in charge of household activities, looking after the house, the children and some domestic animals, like chickens and pigs. Other animals which have been captured young during hunting expeditions and domesticated are also in their care. The women do not go hunting. Children, growing up in the midst of a nuclear family,  learn from an early age about the division of labour according to sex, and to carry out the activities that are appropriate  to them.

Cosmology and rituals

Today, the elders are the "guardians of the Arara memory" and they try as much as possible to transmit it to their descendants.  The interest of the younger ones in learning the myths and rituals which were intensively practised in the past  by the Arara can be seen. Nowadays the rituals are practised without regularity, which is not to say they are absent.  The ritual of mariri,  of the "injection of the frog" and sinbu are still practised. The first of these is an indian dance also found amongst other Pano groups. Now it is mainly practised as a means of maintaining the cohesion of the group, emphasizing the Arara identity. It is the oldest ones, who are still fluent in the language, who sing and teach the younger ones during the ritual.

The ritual of sinbu (liana/ayahuasca) is still practised by some of the Arara, and most of the group have taken part in one or other of these rituals. However some of the Arara do not ingest the sinbu any more, even if they have made use of it at some time. Before they began to work in the rubber plantations the Arara partook of sinbu on a regular basis, sometimes as a cure, when the shaman took the drink and sought to remove the ills from the patient and bring him back to health. According to one of the Arara:

My late father was a shaman. When somebody got ill, say he was burning with fever, or with another illness, when he saw he was going to die, my dad drank it. He took it and began to sing for that illness, because the person had that illness, he would sing. When he saw that he was getting better, he would say he was getting better. When he saw that he would not get better, that he was going to die, dad told him he would not escape

From the 1990s some of the Arara took up the  doctrine of Santo Daime, which had a strong presence in the town of Cruzeiro do Sul. A temple was built in the village of Foz do Nilo. Most of the Arara in the Indigenous Area did not join the Santo Daime church when it came to the reserve, and the few who did consider themselves "daimistas" suffered certain reprisals from the Arara who used the liana drink in a more traditional way. This means that among the Arara there are now two ways of using the ayahuasca in rituals, one traditional, including  healing sessions,  and the other, by the followers of Santo Daime.

Another characteristic ritual of the Pano groups, which is now practised  by the Arara, is that aimed at recovering the luck of the hunter. When the hunter is out of luck, the Arara prepare the ritual of the "injection of the frog" to recover the essential qualities of the hunter: aim, vision, hearing and luck. They catch a campo frog and with a hook, extract the "milk" which covers its body- the milk which comes out of the frog's  head is only used for the snuff which is applied to the hunter's dog.  Then they burn two or three small  circular points in the hunter's skin with a cigarette, or with a braca,  to introduce the frog's milk. A small amount of  milk is enough to produce vomits and evacuation, which is also stimulated by the largescale consumption of caissuma, a drink made from fermented manioc, before the injection. Next day, the hunter will be ready to continue his hunting activities with much greater skill and efficiency. According to Arara Chico Cazuza: 

The injection is made when a person is weak. When he climbs these slopes, which we here call earth. When we stop climbing we get that buzzing in our heads, and our legs go weak. Then we take the frog's milk, the injection to make us improve. That cleans everything, what we are feeling, we get better. But we also have to take a little of some other things to clean the stomach as well, to provoke vomit. At the moment when you take the injection, which puts the frog's milk on top, which disagrees with everything you've got in your head, then it all heats up. The ears gets hot, there is that buzzing, you can't stand it, because that's what is the weakness. (Chico Cazuza, 17/02/2000, Raimundo do Vale).

The Arara attribute some medecinal properties to the frog's injection,  and its use is not restricted to the group's belief in its capacity to restore the hunter's skills. The same happens with the sinbu which also possesses various medecinal properties, besides operating in the metaphysical world. Another ritual used by the Arara to help the hunter is the use of snuff:

the person scrapes the powder from the bone of a deer, or a pig, from the shinbone of the deer and from the pig you scrape the bone of the thigh, you gather the powder, then you scrape the frog's milk as well, put it on a board, then you scrape the mixture, and roast it with a little tobacco. So you make the snuff. Taking the snuff like that is better than taking the injection. You sniff it. (Chico Cazuza, 17/02/2000, Raimundo do Vale).

Another ritual practised by the Arara, also aimed at improving the qualities of the hunter, improving his  and his dog's skills, is smoking with tipi. One of the Arara hunters explained:

Tipi is to smoke, when the person is having difficulties, he is smoked. With hair from the deer and the pig. You put it in the sun to dry. You do it very early in the morning so you can go into the forest to hunt. You do the smoking, then you go and hunt. You do it three times. You might do it this morning, Thursday, then next Thursday another smoking, then the one after. You do it three times. (Chico Cazuza, 17/02/2000, Raimundo do Vale).

The rituals described above are generally practised near the houses, on the open ground or inside the houses.  The essential ingredients for the rituals come from the forest, where they are found in almost all the reserve.  The Arara say, however that the campo frog  is found mostly in the region of the Nilo and grande igarapés. 

The aforementioned rituals come from a mythic time, without a precise date. One of the older Arara referring to the frog injection said: 

"...this is from the beginning of the world. The frog vaccine is good for anyone who has tired legs, who wants to put on weight, to go hunting, it's very good. For headache it's very good. A person who sleeps a lot, takes the frog vaccine, he's better. I have taken a lot of frog vaccine". (João Martins, 10/03/2000, Cruzeiro do Sul).

The Arara myths are recounted  especially by the older ones, but some of the young people have begun to learn them and repeat them. The myths are told in the Arara language or in Portuguese, and as with practically all mythic narratives,   the  versions that are told vary, but not the structure of the myth.  The narration of the myth of the origin of the Arara is quite long and has suffered some alterations in the way it is told, depending on the narrator.  To sum up, the main elements of the myth are the following: there is a village with several children, and near the cultivated land there is a Sumaúma tree in which lives a hawk. Almost every day this hawk goes out to hunt and bring food for its chick. When the hunting gets scarce he begins to catch the indian children. He eats all of them except for one.

Then a man from the village decided to kill the hawk before he finishes off the indians. After a lot of difficulty he manages to kill the bird, building a ladder to reach the nest, and he puts the feathers inside a basket. One night this basket begins to make a noise, which the caboclo thinks is cockroaches eating the feathers. The next day he opens the basket, and there are no cockroaches, only feathers. After several nights hearing the noise, and checking the basket in the morning without finding what can be making the noise, one day when the noise is repeated all the Pano tribes emerge from the basket singing with happiness, each of them saying their name,  Shawãdawa, Yawanawa, Kaxinawa, Xaranawa, Duwanawa, Poyanawa and others. It is interesting to note that in Arara cosmology they like the other Pano groups should have originated from the feathers of the same hawk, from which it is also possible to infer a socio-cultural and linguistic proximity.

Productive activities

At the height of the rubber boom, towards the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, the Arara were not working as rubber tappers. Later they were brought into the rubber production system as an alternative source of labour to the tappers coming from the Northeast.  The Arara economy then began to depend heavily on the trading posts. Almost all the rubber produced was traded through  the bosses' trading posts in exchange for essential items.

Trade with the regatoes, the trading boats which plied the rivers, was not permitted, although it did occurr on a smallscale, clandestine way. Even under the bosses' thumb, with all their activities directed at the production of rubber, the Arara never abandoned their hunting, fishing,  subsistence agriculture and collecting. The results were all for their own consumption, not for trade. But after contact with the dominant society, they introduced various technological changes in their food production. In hunting, the bow and arrow was replaced with firearms, in fishing they used rods, nylon lines and nets, and in their cultivation of the land, they began to use  iron tools, like spades, axes, knives and others. The introduction of these new instruments added to the Araras' own traditional knowledge developed over the years.  

After they had contact with the society around them, the Arara developed great abilities in handling firearms, while at the same time maintaining their traditional knowledge about the forest and the fauna, and about the methods used by hunters to obtain success. Today the hunting areas are located in the interior of the forest, reached by the hunting paths that lead out behind their houses and  continue for several hours' walk towards the interior of the forest. The hunting areas are ample, occupying all the central region on the right bank of the Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale and both banks of the Nilo and Grande igarapés.  

One of the causes of the worst conflicts between the Arara and the local people are the invasions by professional hunters from Porto Valter of their hunting areas. These hunters kill large amounts of game to commercialize in the nearby towns. These invasions were taking place in the Nilo and Grande igarapés, places where game is plentiful.

The Arara also practice fishing, called "marisco" in the Nilo an Grande igarapés, as they did on a large scale in the period before the rubber trade arrived in the region. During the "mariscos" which almost always happen in the Amazon summer, they fish with plants like  plassacú, timbó, awaka, purá, chatá and others which paralize the fish, facilitating their capture. Now there are other methods of fishing: with fish hooks, harpoons, spears, diving, with bullets, with knives and with casting nets.  The method of fishing most used is with fishhooks and tingui poison. Fishing occurs along the Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale, the Nilo and Grande igarapés, and their tributaries. In other words fishing takes place practically in all of the rivers and igarapés of  the Indigenous Area.  The Arara usually fish near their own homes, but now and again expeditions are organised  to the headwaters of the Nilo and Grande igarapés,  believed to be the richest  fishing areas in the reserve.   

The Arara also breed animals for their own consumption or for sale, including chickens, ducks, pigs and sheep.  Pigs are the  most traded, being sold in Porto Valter. The money from the sale is used to buy salt, sugar, medecines,  gunpowder, shot and fuses.  Pig breeding demands a favourable environment, far from the vegetable gardens, to avoid the pigs destroying them, so the pigs are usually bred on the opposite shore from where the houses are located. 

Collecting is an important source of complementary food, building materials, and vegetable oils, among others. Much of the group's traditional knowledge about the extraction of forest products has been transmitted from generation to generation, while the contact with the occupants of the Upper Juruá introduced other products like latex from rubber trees.  The main extractive activities are for family consumption, not for rubber production.  Each forest product has its own season for collection, and they are found almost all over the indigenous reserve in large swathes, near the rivers or further into the forest.

Another productive acitivity is  farming. Several sorts of manioc, maize, banana, mamão, sugarcane, sweet potatoes, yams, beans, rice, pepper, tobacco and others are planted. Recently the cultivation of pupunha was introduced, and on a smaller scale, guaraná. The  basis of the Arara diet is manioc flour with game and fish.  The flour is also sold in the nearby towns. After the decline of rubber in the 1980s, manioc flour became one of their main trading products. The Arara families usually cultivate  more than one plot, some near their homes, others further into the forest. Some of them have a flourmill nearby, where the manioc is processed. The Arara also plant fruit, medecinal plants, spices, and other plants in their yards or gardens. Their agricultural knowledge includes the best place and period to plant, how to care for the plants, their growth, and the upkeep of cultivated areas.  The best places for planting are those where the forest is thick, or on the floodplains of the rivers. 

The Arara  have also taken up craftwork again. Before the rubber period they had a  large scale production of items. These include domestic utensils, adornments, and hunting and fishing weapons.  Contact with the surrounding society had led to a big reduction in this activity. Now the Arara make graters, brooms, baskets and earthenwaire pots.  These are not destined for trade, unlike others.  Items that are traded include adornments, like rings and necklaces, or woven bags, which are taken to Cruzeiro do Sul and sold at the HQ of CIMI, which then passes on to the Arara the money obtained from sales.   

Sources of information

  • DAL POZ NETO, João. A etnia e a terra : notas para uma etnologia dos índios Arara (Aripuanã-MT). Cuiabá : UFMT, 1996. (Série Antropológica, 4)
  • --------. "Nova sociologia" da Funai impede reassentamento Arara. In: RICARDO, Carlos Alberto (Ed.). Povos Indígenas no Brasil : 1987/88/89/90. São Paulo : Cedi, 1991. p. 442-5. (Aconteceu Especial, 18)