From Povos Indígenas no Brasil
Photo: Isadora Brant, 2015.


Self-denomination Where they are How many Linguistic family
1.863 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)

The Ka'apor have been originated as a distinctive people about three hundred years ago probably between the Tocantins and Xingu Rivers. Perhaps because of conflicts with Luso-Brazilian settlers and other native peoples, they engaged in a long and slow migration that took them by the 1870s in Pará across the Gurupi River into Maranhão.


Self-name: Ka'apor or Ka'apór (the apostrophe represents a glottal stop, a sound heard in the first sound of English "uh-huh"; stress in the Ka'apor language as a rule falls on the final syllable).

Other names: Urubu, Kambõ, Urubu-Caápor, Urubu-Kaápor, Kaapor. Ka'apor seems to be derived from Ka'a-pypor 'forest-footprints' or "footprints of the forest." Another gloss for Ka'apor that has been proposed is "forest dwellers" ("moradores da mata"). But "forest dwellers" is actually best expressed by the Ka'apor name for the hunting-and-gathering Guajá, who are their neighbors, which is Ka'apehar.

The person can also be identified in the Ka'apor language with awá, which is used to refer to the reflexive self ("one") and to the personal subject in interrogative sentences ("who?"); awá is cognate with the uninflected terms for "person" and "people" in numerous other Tupí-Guaraní languages. Kambõ seems to have been borrowed from Portuguese "caboclo", a term applied to the Ka'apor by most regional Brazilians today, probably of Amazonian origin, and often used by Ka'apor speakers in self-reference when speaking to outsiders.

The term Urubu, meaning "vultures," was evidently applied to the Ka'apor people during the 19th century by their Luso-Brazilian enemies, and that is the etymology given by Ka'apor informants themselves, though they do not refer to themselves by that term when speaking to outsiders. The hyphenated terms Urubu-Caápor and Urubu-Kaápor were introduced by Brazilian indigenists in the 1950s, who were trying to standardize the spelling of native group names in ethnology.


Ka'apor is a Tupí-Guaraní language. Ka'apor is not spoken by any other known group except as a second language to some Tembé and other ethnically non-Ka'apor dwellers of the Gurupi region; dialects of the language are minimally developed. Minor lexical differences and free variation can be noted between Ka'apor people originally from villages of the Turiaçu basin and those from the Gurupi basin. The language is not very close to the nearest Tupí-Guaraní languages in space, Tembé (Tenetehar) and Guajá: of the two, it seems to be slightly closer to Guajá phonologically and lexically.

The Ka'apor language is probably historically most closely related to the Wayãpi language, which is spoken 600 airline miles away on the other side of the Amazon River. Both languages were heavily influenced in the last three hundred years by other languages, and they are mutually unintelligible today. Ka'apor seems to have been most influenced grammatically by Amazonian Língua Geral; Wayãpi by northern Carib languages. One major difference between Ka'apor and Wayãpi is stress: Ka'apor words are usually stressed on the final syllable, Wayãpi words on the penultimate syllable.

Although there is no rule-governed distinction between men's and women's speech, the Ka'apor are linguistically unusual in Amazonia in having a standard sign language, used in communicating with the deaf, who up until the mid-1980s made up about 2% of the entire population. The incidence of deafness was evidently due to endemic and neonatal yaws that has since been eradicated.

About 60% of the Ka'apor people are monolingual; the other 40% speak pidgin Portuguese or regional Portuguese. A very small percentage (2%?) speaks Tembé or another indigenous language, such as Guajá. Elementary instruction in Portuguese and the Ka'apor language has been offered intermittently since the 1970s in FUNAI schools at Post Canindé and the village of Zé Gurupi. No Ka'apor has yet finished the equivalent of high school, let alone college. A minority of Ka'apor youth have been enrolled in these schools, and the people have a high rate of illiteracy.

Land e contact history

Foto: Vladimir Kozak, Museu Paranaense
Foto: Vladimir Kozak, Museu Paranaense

The Ka'apor live in northern Maranhão. Their reserve is bounded by the Rio Gurupi to the north, southern tributaries of the Rio Turiaçu to the south, the Igarapé do Milho on the west, and a northwest-southeast line roughly parallel to the BR-316 highway on the east. All streams and rivers drain to three major rivers: Rio Maracaçumé, Rio Turiaçu, and Rio Gurupi which, in turn, have outflows directly into the Atlantic Ocean. Maximum elevation is about 250 masl in the hilly region where the headwaters of the Maracaçumé, Turiaçu, and Gurupi are closest to each other. It rains about 2000-2500 mm per year; most of it falls with the prevailing easterlies from January through May.

The predominant vegetation is pre-Amazonian high forest. Certain pan-Amazonian species are historically absent in the region, such as Brazil nut, sandbox tree (assacu), mucajá palm, moriche (buriti) palm, and the giant Amazon water lily. Several Amazon River aquatic fauna, such as electric eels, stingrays, freshwater dolphins, and manatees are likewise absent. But the species diversity, basal area, and physiognomy of pre-Amazonian forests are comparable to Amazonian forests elsewhere. Most of the terrestrial fauna, including mammals, insects, reptiles, and birds is Amazonian; some of them are even endemic or rare and endangered, such as the jaguar, golden parakeet, the Ka'apor capuchin monkey (Cebus kaaporii), and the bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas), also a monkey.

Predominant high forest trees in the Ka'apor habitat include matá-matá (Eschweilera coriacea), breu (Protium spp.), andiroba (Carapa guianensis), pau cachimbo (Mabea caudata), toari (Couratari spp.), bacaba palm (Oenocarpus disticha), and pente-de-macaco (Apeiba spp.). In old growth forests once cleared for swidden gardens, common trees include geniparana (Gustavia augusta), babaçu palm (Attalea speciosa), tucumã palm (Astrocaryum vulgare), inajá palm (Attalea regia), hog plum (taperebá) [Spondias mombin], jatobá (Hymenaea spp.), and abíu (Pouteria spp.).

Other major vegetation complexes include swamp forests and seasonally flooded forests, with common species being açaí palm (Euterpe oleracea), kapok cotton tree (sumaumeira) [Ceiba pentandra], marajá palm (Bactris spp.), and imbaúba (Cecropia spp.). Minor vegetation complexes are swiddens of varying ages and dooryard gardens, including manioc, sweet potato vine, yam vine, banana, urucu, cotton, and papaya.

Ancestral Ka'apor, who seem to have been fleeing the expansion of Luso-Brazilian society in southern Pará, arrived and settled in their present homeland (and beyond) within Maranhão during the 1870s. The origins of the Ka'apor people as a distinct ethnic group may be traceable to an Amazonian Tupí-Guaraní center between the lower Tocantins and Xingu Rivers in the late 1600s and early 1700s; the native inhabitants there of that time were known as the Pacajás. The Wayãpi are probably another offshoot from that center; the Amanajós of the lower Tocantins/Capim basins were probably also from there. Whereas the Wayãpi migrated north across the Amazon River to their present location along the Brazil/French Guiana border, the Ka'apor migrated east, across the Rio Tocantins. They are known by documented history to have settled successively in the basins of the Rio Acará (ca. 1810), Rio Capim (ca. 1825), Rio Guamá (1864), Rio Piriá (1875), and Rio Maracaçumé (1878).

One hundred years later, in 1978, the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Reserve, consisting of 2048 square miles (5301 km2) of high Amazonian forest and inhabited by all remaining Ka'apor as well as by some Guajá, Tembé, and Timbira people, was demarcated by the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). That demarcation was ratified (homologada) by Decree number 88002 in 1982 under the administration of President João Figueiredo. As much as a third of the reserve has been illegally deforested and converted to towns, rice fields, and cattle pastures by landless peasants, cattle ranchers, loggers, and local politicians, however, since the late 1980s.


The most recent census known is from 1982, when the total Ka'apor population was 494. Population today (1998) is probably between 600 and 1000, and by far most of the increase is due to natural increase, not immigration. Earlier census estimates, followed by the year of the estimate, indicate that Ka'apor population had declined markedly after sustained contact with Brazilian society began in 1928: 2000 (1928), 1095 (1943), 912 (1954), 822 (1962), 488 (1975). The fifty-year decline in total Ka'apor population from the 1920s to the 1970s was mainly due to epidemics of respiratory infections (especially measles and other viral syndromes) and inadequate health care. Today, preliminary data strongly suggest that total Ka'apor population is rebounding, perhaps at a natural rate of increase of 3% or higher, having acquired immunity to previously lethal conditions both naturally through the establishment of reservoirs of child susceptibles and artificially by improved health care.

Outmarriage to Tembé, Guajá, and Brazilian people has occurred since the 1950s if not earlier; it accounts for about 5% of Ka'apor marriages. Life expectancy is about 45 at birth, 55 to 60 for those who survive childhood. The major causes of mortality (and disability) of the Ka'apor people today seem to be tuberculosis (now endemic, though probably absent before 1928); complications of childbirth; neonatal complications and syndromes; malaria; yellow fever and other liver/blood infections of uncertain etiology; hunting accidents, treefall accidents, other accidents, and homicide.

Contact history

Foto: Museu do Índio, 1951
Foto: Museu do Índio, 1951

The Ka'apor had numerous documented contacts with Luso-Brazilian society between the time of the Pacajás in the 1600s and that of the establishment of sustained contact, or pacification, in 1928. Most of the reported episodes were violent. Ka'apor from the Capim basin raided settlements in the Guamá basin in the 1820s, absconding with canoes and women; the Ka'apor in the Capim basin were in turn defeated by state militiamen and Turiuara Indian conscripts, also speakers of a Tupí-Guaraní tongue. Some Ka'apor men pillaged Luso-Brazilian settlements in the Guamá basin in 1864. After that, 25 national guardsmen defeated a Ka'apor village. Later in 1864, 150 national guardsmen chased the remaining Ka'apor people into the headwaters of the Rios Guamá and Gurupi. By 1874, some Ka'apor were living in the Piriá basin and lacked any reported contact with settlers.

In the 1870s, Ka'apor warriors defeated and expelled a maroon colony (of Afro-Brazilian refugee slaves) on the Maranhão side of the Rio Gurupi, and subsequently the Ka'apor occupied the old refugee site for their own village, near the present village of Gurupiuna. Before the Indian Protection Service (SPI) arrived in 1911, Ka'apor raids on Luso-Brazilian hamlets and towns in Pará and Maranhão as well as on telegraph workers, goldminers, balata rubber gatherers, and other Indians, such as the Guajajara, Tembé, Guajá, and Kren-Yê Timbira, continued unabated from the 1870s on. For the most part, Ka'apor raiders seemed to be intent on acquiring from their victims steel tools, to be used in swidden gardening and making steel arrowpoints.

Before the 1820s, the Ka'apor may have enjoyed intermittently peaceful relations with Luso-Brazilian society, perhaps even in mission settings, an inference confirmed in Ka'apor folklore. If so, it would help explain why there are so many borrowings and other influences in the Ka'apor language that seem to come from Amazonian Língua Geral, which was spoken by missionaries and much of the general citizenry of Pará in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1911, the SPI began efforts at "pacification" of the Ka'apor with a party that took gifts of steel tools and the like upstream on the Rio Turiaçu in the hope of "attracting" the Ka'apor. Ka'apor warriors stalking the party shot one volunteer in the jaw, and the effort was abandoned. On the other side of the Ka'apor habitat along the upper Gurupi River, SPI agents in 1911-12 also tried to pacify the Ka'apor to no avail. In 1915-17, the SPI lacked funds for pacification efforts with the Ka'apor. In 1918 and 1920, Ka'apor raids for steel tools took place in the Guamá River basin and Bragança near the Atlantic Coast respectively after a respite of several years. The Ka'apor were also assaulted by posses of enraged Brazilians during this period; a telegraph agent in Maranhão who arranged raids on Ka'apor villages impaled the heads of his victims near telegraph posts between the Viana Lakes and the Rio Gurupi.

Finally, by October 1928, both sides had experienced enough of the violence. According to Ka'apor lore, a Ka'apor man named Pa'i ("priest") "pacified" (mu-katu) the Brazilians at SPI Post Canindé, on the Gurupi. The SPI claimed that their efforts at offering steel tools and other goods under thatched shelters had led the Ka'apor to seek peace. By 15 December 1928, 94 Ka'apor Indians visited the SPI Post Canindé. At about the same time, Ka'apor warriors approached the town of Alto Turi, on the Turiaçu River, with their arrows pointed downward, signifying friendly intentions. The Ka'apor Indian wars had ended, but perhaps not forever.

About 1300 settlers, loggers, and ranchers have been invading and deforesting lands within the ratified Turiaçu Indian Reservation since about 1989. About one-third of the Ka'apor reserve, mainly along the western boundary area between the Igarapé do Milho and the Igarapé Jararaca, has been deforested and populated by landless people encouraged in the process by land swindlers (grileiros) and local politicians. The present situation there is marked by tension and escalating violence. Raids on Indian villages by squatters and loggers and counterraids by Indians on squatters' and loggers' camps inside the reservation have occurred since 1993 with at least two fatal karaí casualties.

The peace attained in 1928 between Brazilian and Ka'apor society has been undermined and a new style of warfare seems to be underway. For the Ka'apor it is not as clear now as it was in 1928 exactly who the enemy is. At that time, the enemy was anyone who was not Ka'apor. The interethnic contact situation of today is much more complex. The Indigenous Missionary Council, other concerned NGOs, such as Survival International-UK, and concerned individuals, have taken the issue of illegal invasions of Ka'apor lands to the attention of various entities, including the local and national press in Brazil, the federal government in Brazil, the European Steel and Coal Community, the European Parliament, and the United States Congress. But the Brazilian government has not intervened yet to halt or reverse these invasions.

The last seventy years (1928-1998) have seen an ever greater accommodation by Ka'apor society and culture to Western ways, but not entirely. Many speak Portuguese, though everyone speaks Ka'apor as their first language. Some profess a belief in Tupã-ra'ïr ("Thunder's son," or "Jesus Christ"), as the Christian deity has been introduced by fundamentalist missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, who were active in the area from about 1963-1985. But many Ka'apor believe in the healing and divinatory powers of Ïrïwar, an indigenous female water deity invoked in shamanism, the concept having been partly borrowed from the Tembé.

The Ka'apor of all ages listen to Brazilian and world news and music on short-wave transistor radios, but still spend a great deal of time gossiping and visiting each other's villages on foot in the deep forest.

Social and political organization

Foto: Museu do Índio
Foto: Museu do Índio

A Ka'apor village (hendá) consists usually of one or two uterine residential clusters of houses. The senior brother of the married sisters in a uterine cluster usually is the "headman" (kapitã) of the cluster, so a village can have more than one headman if it has more than one residential cluster. Whereas residence tends to be uxorilocal, with most men leaving their natal cluster upon marriage to take up residence among their wives' people, at least one man, usually a headman's son, stays behind while his wife moves from her cluster to live with him, or if she is his father's sister's daughter (FZD), real or classificatory, she may be from the same cluster. The cluster is politically a faction, one based as much on the fact of coresidence as on the ideology of shared descent.

The headman's political power is limited to helping arrange the marriages of his sisters and classificatory sisters to inmarrying men, who provide him with diffuse allegiance as well as their unmarried, nubile daughters for him or his sons to marry at a later time. A slight tendency exists for real and classificatory FZD and ZD (sister's daughter) marriage contracts (named 'oblique', in the second case).

The kinship terminology is basically Dravidian, meaning that people call some of their in-laws by consanguineous terms (for example, "uncle" and "father-in-law" are the same word, tutyr). The Dravidian kin terminology implies a rule for the marriage, therefore, of cross cousins (children of siblings, real or classificatory, of opposite sex). Descent is bilateral, and there are no moieties, sibs, or lineages. There are no ceremonial age grades or ceremonial feast groups, either. The privilege of polygyny and a modicum of respect is earned by a headman who is generous with his peers, and circumspect in his political and material ambitions.

The society is basically egalitarian, lacking centralized authority (but this may be changing with increased pressures from invading settlers). Each village tends to act as a politically autonomous entity.

More than one uterine residential cluster may constitute a village, especially villages that are larger than about 30 persons. In the past, average village size was between 25-50 persons; today, a few villages, such as Gurupiuna (in the north) and Zé Gurupi (in the south), have exceeded 100, and it is unclear whether the postmarital residence and leadership patterns of the past can survive. A few Ka'apor villages today are becoming like towns. This nucleation reflects an increased natural rate of population growth together with tightening pressure on the available land in the reserve, both because of the rebounding population and invasion by landless settlers from the outside. Perhaps there is safety in numbers.


 A horticultural people, the Ka'apor, like many other settled Amazonian groups, depend on bitter manioc for the bulk of their calories. They consume it mostly in the form of farinha. They grow in total about fifty domesticated plants. These domesticates are used for food, seasoning, medicine, fiber, tools, and weapons. In addition, they hunt game and gather fruits in the dense forests and fish in the tiny creeks of their habitat for most of the rest of their food.

The most important game animals in their diet are red brocket deer, collared and white-lipped peccaries, paca, agouti, howler monkey, two species of tortoise, caiman, and several species of guans, curassows, and tinamids. Not everything in the habitat that is edible is eaten. And some items that are edible are only sometimes by some people eaten. The food taboo complex centers on rites associated with female fertility, especially the couvade and the female puberty rite. For people in these ritual states, the only acceptable terrestrial meat is from the yellow-footed tortoise (jaboti). Important fish species include surubim, pacu, piranha, traíra, and jeju. Important nondomesticated fruits that they gather for food include bacuri (Platonia insignis), cupuaçu (Theobroma grandiflorum), piquiá (Caryocar villosum), açaí (Euterpe oleracea), bacaba (Oenocarpus distichus), abiu cutite (Pouteria macrophylla).

The sexual division of labor is not rigid, but women spend significantly more time in food preparation, especially that concerned with processing bitter manioc, than do men. Men spend significantly more time hunting than women. In general, men weave the baskets, including the twill-woven manioc press (tapeši) and women make the pots, including the ten gallon vessels (kamuš_) used in serving manioc beer at infant-naming ceremonies.

Art and material culture

Ka'apor featherwork is their most renowned art, and two entire volumes have been devoted to it. The feathers used in this art come from numerous birds, including manakins that are especially difficult to hunt because of their small size and preference for the forest canopy. Older male artisans make diadems, earrings, necklaces, wristbands and bracelets, and lip plugs from feathers. These are displayed in full regalia only at infant naming ceremonies, bearing conscious witness to the people's sense of themselves as a people.

Ka'apor art is also seen in distinctive geometric designs that women paint on people's faces in urucu juice and on calabash bowls in dye derived from the bark of makuku (Licania spp.) trees. Ka'apor artistic work, when carried out not for its own sake, shades into material culture.

Material culture includes house and landscape architecture, tools, weapons, utensils, hammocks, and clothing. Pottery is to a large extent being replaced by imported aluminum and copper utensils, but it is not altogether a lost art. The house is built from a rectangular ground plan, and has a pitched roof. It normally houses a nuclear family or at most one extended family. The houseposts are mainly from rot-resistant acariquara; rafters and beams are from about twenty hardwood species. The housemates sleep on cotton hammocks fastened to the posts and beams, logged and erected by adult males. Normally one fire is kept burning in the house for cooking and warmth in the cool dry season evenings. Women gather most of the firewood, tend the fire, and do most of the cooking.

The space immediately around the house is the dooryard garden, and it is kept generally free of weeds. Each residential cluster normally has its own manioc processing shed, where the manioc griddle (formally of clay, now of copper) sits atop an adobe oven. There the women for the most part rake the manioc meal over the heat until it turns into farinha (u'i), the caloric mainstay of the diet, usually softened and drunk with water in small calabash bowls as chibé (u'i-tikwar). Also in the dooryard garden, men do most of the woodwork, basketry, and fashioning of steel implements, while women tend to most thread-making, sewing, and weaving.


Foto: Vincent Carelli
Foto: Vincent Carelli

Some Ka'apor say their authentic shamans (paye) died in a cosmic flood, but shamanism is a reality in some villages, though it seems to have been borrowed from the Tembé. The Ka'apor shaman of today invokes the "ancestors" (yande ram__) and assorted divinities such as Ïrïwar (glossed as mãe d'água, or "Mother of the Waters") who are believed to help the shaman in divining the future, restoring depleted game supplies, and diagnosing and curing illnesses.

Some African-Brazilian influence seems to be evident in Ka'apor shamanism. One of the divinities whose appeasement is sought is Kurupïr, a mischievous dwarf with deformed feet and black skin, sometimes glossed as "o pretinho" (the little black one). Ritual chanting, dancing, tobacco smoking, and trance by the shaman accompany these invocations. Apprentices help with the chanting, and sometimes undergo trance states as well.

Shamanism involves public performance, and villagers of all ages attend it. Ka'apor shamans claim to have been spiritually called to this avocation by having been "tossed" (ombor) into a creek by the Mother of the Waters, a fact difficult to verify empirically but perhaps it involves altered states of consciousness induced by fasting and heavy tobacco consumption.

The specter of death is presented by ancestral ghost appearances, called a_ã, which elicit morbid fear and have no cure. Infractions of "taboos" (indicated also by the polysemous term paye) can subject one to supernatural penalties. Purification rites involving human blood (awa ruwï) and bloodletting abound. Men who have killed others, including karaí, ritually mortify their flesh with an agouti tooth and are confined to special diets, as in the couvade.

Upon her first menses, a girl is secluded in a ritual enclosure for about twelve days. Upon emerging from the enclosure, her adult attendants shave her head; apply strings of live, stinging tapií ants (Pachycondyla commutata) about her waist and chest; and prick her legs with an agouti tooth, drawing blood. The new menstruant (yaï-ramõ) undergoes a cognate ordeal among the Wayãpi, suggesting it is of considerable antiquity, dating perhaps from the origins of the Tupí-Guaraní family itself.

Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1980
Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1980
The concept that "menstrual blood" (yaï) is polluting to society is reinforced in food taboos (menstruating women can eat terrestrial meat only from yellow-footed tortoises [jabotis]); restrictions on activity (menstruants cannot work in the swidden, cook or handle food for others, or bathe in the community stream); and disproportionately numerous folk remedies for "excessive menstrual discharge" (yaï-hu). During the Ka'apor couvade (nino-rahã or "resguardo"), both mother and mother's husband are confined to foods like those of the menstruation diet for a few months or longer in the belief that eating other foods would harm their newborn.

The most positive ceremony in the culture is the infant-naming ceremony. It is essentially an affirmation of Ka'apor fertility and a reaffirmation of the exogamous ties between residential clusters that enable the population to survive and grow. Having survived birth and its parents' food restrictions and seclusion period, known as the couvade, an infant is a candidate for naming. Normally this is done about the time the infant can turn and crawl on its own, but it can be as late as a year or so after birth. For the ceremony is not individualistic, as is the female puberty rite, but rather intensely communal. Several infants within an age range of a year or so are named at once. Because each infant must have sponsoring coparents (ipai-anhang)as well as its own parents present, the ceremony involves the largest group feasts in the society.

One of the infant's parents will be "sponsor" (-yar) of the event, and he or she must prepare the ritual brew from fermented manioc, cashew, or bananas. All the adults and older children are expected to drink from it the night before. At dawn, the entire assemblage hangs their hammocks in the largest house in the village, where the men recline and smoke long cigars. In the dooryard garden before that house, the mothers of the infants to be named sit on mats woven from bacaba palm, and hold their infants in the carrying straps (tipoias) made from woven cotton. All the adults and many of the young wear their featherwork, and the panoply of red, yellow, green, and black feather ornaments helps to brighten even a morning that might exhibit dark rolling clouds coming up on the eastern horizon.Soon a male sponsor of an infant begins to cll out the name he has selected; this is repeated numerous times by the seated men and women. Next, the father or mother of the infant announce a second name, the one they have chosen, and it, too, is repeated by the audience numerous times in unison. Then the infant is "lifted up" by the sponsoring male, who blows on a whistle made from eagle bone, which is attached to a red, blue, and black feathered pendant. He dances back and forth with the crying infant in arms, announcing to the world the name of a new Ka'apor person. And so is it done with all infants and their sponsors, until the new names have been well stamped into collective memory. The sponsor is often an in-law or opposite-sexed sibling to one of the parents, so it is conceivable that the sponsored infant could in the future be wed to the sponsor's own child. Ultimately, Ka'apor society is recycled into the future by name bestowal. Yet whether this rite of renewal can for long perdure as an integral part of the culture depends on the outcome of the Ka'apor people's struggle for land and justice.


Note on the sources

The published books on the Ka'apor treat the general situation of the society and culture as seen from the perspectives of their pioneer ethnographers of the 1950s (Francis Huxley, 1956, Affable Savages, New York: Viking Press [available in Portuguese and French editions] and Darcy Ribeiro, 1996, Diários Indios, São Paulo: Companhia de Letras); effects of epidemic disease and depopulation on the group during the early part of the 20th century (Darcy Ribeiro, 1976, Uirá Sai em Procura de Deus, Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra); vocabulary of the Ka'apor language by semantic domains, translated into Portuguese (James Kakumasu, 1988, Dicionário por Tópicos, Urubu-Kaapor-Português, Brasília: Summer Institute of Linguistics/FUNAI); the feather art and related crafts of the people (Darcy and Berta Ribeiro, 1957, Arte Plumária dos indios Kaapor, Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira and Peter Gerber (ed.), 1991, Ka'apor: Menschen des Waldes und ihre Federkunst, Zurich: OZV Offizin Zürich-Verlang, Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich; and the human ecology and ethnobotany of the group over time (William Balée, 1994, Footprints of the Forest, New York: Columbia University Press).

Researchers have published in articles and chapters of books significant studies of the human genetics of the Ka'apor population (Aguiar and Neves 1991, Human Biology, vol. 63); Ka'apor hunting and hunting rituals (Balée 1985, Human Ecology, vol. 13); their early history of contact in the 20th century and the devastating effects on the population of introduced diseases during that time (Lopes, International Congress of Americanists, 1934, vol 1; Ribeiro, Sociologia, 1951 and 1956, vols. 8 and 18; Rice, Journal de la Société des Americanistes, 1930, vol 22); the primate fauna of the Ka'apor habitat (Queiroz, Goeldiana, Zoologia, 1992, vol. 15); a description of Ka'apor grammar (Kakumasu in Derbyshire and Pullum [eds.], Handbook of Amazonian Languages, 1986); a series of articles dealing with Ka'apor ethnobotany and the relation of the people to their environment (Balée, Journal of Ethnobiology, 1989; L'Homme, 1993, vol 33; in Viveiros de Castro and da Cunha (eds.), Amazônia: Etnologia e História Indígena, 1993); and legal and land problems facing the Ka'apor people at the end of the 20th century (Balée, Texas International Law Journal, 1997).

Dissertations and theses of interest on the Ka'apor include a general ethnographic and ethnohistorical study (Balée, 1984, The Persistence of Ka'apor Culture, Columbia University) and an excellent contribution to the study of the Ka'apor language (Corrêa da Silva, 1997, Urubú-Ka'apór: Da Gramática à História - A Trajetória de um Povo. Master's Thesis, University of Brasília).

Sources of information

  • AGUIAR, Gilberto F. Souza; NEVES, Walter Alves. Postmarital residence and within-sex genetic diversity among the Urubu-Ka’apor indians, Brazilian Amazon. Human Biology, Detroit : Human Biology Council, v. 63, p. 467-88, 1991.


  • BALÉE, William L. Biodiversidade e os índios amazônicos. In: VIVEIROS DE CASTRO, Eduardo; CUNHA, Manuela Carneiro da (Orgs.). Amazônia : etnologia e história indígena. São Paulo : USP-NHII/FAPESP, 1993. p. 385-93. (Estudos)


  • --------. Footprints of the forest : Ka’apor ethnobotany - the historical ecology of plant utilization by an amazonian people. New York : Columbia University Press, 1994. 419 p.


  • --------. Indigenous transformation of Amazonian forests : an example from Maranhão, Brazil. L’Homme, Paris : Ecóle des Hautes Études en Sciences Soc., v. 33, n. 126/128, p. 231-54, abr./dez. 1993.


  • --------. Ka’apor ritual hunting. Human Ecology, New York : Plenum Press, n. 13, p. 485-510, 1985.


  • --------. Language, law and land in pre-Amazonian Brazil. Texas Int. Law Journal, Austin : Univ. of Texas, v. 32, n. 1, p. 123-9, 1997.


  • --------. Nomenclatural patterns in Ka’apor ethnobotany. Journal of Ethnobiology, Tucson : s.ed., v.9, p. 1-24, 1989.


  • --------. People of the fallow : a historical ecology of foraging in lowland South America. In: REDFORD, Kent H.; PADOCH, Christine J. (Eds.). Conservation of neotropical forests. Nova York : Columbia University Press, 1992. p. 35-57.


  • --------. The persistence of Ka’apor culture. New York : Columbia University, 1984. 290 p. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • --------. Os Urubu Ka’apor : quem são. In: CEDI. Programa “Povos Indigenas no Brasil”. O índio imaginado : mostra de filmes e vídeos. São Paulo : CEDI/SMCSP, 1992. p. 44


  • GERBER, Peter R. Ka’apor : menschen des Waldes und ihre Federkunst, Eine bedrohte kultur in Brasilien. Zurich : OZV/Universitat Zurich, 1991. 186 p.


  • HUXLEY, Francis. Affable savages : an anthropologist among the Urubu indians of Brazil. New York : Viking Press, 1957. (Edição em português: Selvagens amáveis. São Paulo : Companhia Editora Nacional, 1963).


  • JENSEN, Allen Arthur. Sistemas indígenas de classificação de aves : aspectos comparativos, ecológicos e evolutivos. Belém : MPEG, 1988. 88 p. (Coleção Eduardo Galvão)


  • KAKUMASU, James Y. Dicionário por tópicos, Urubu-Kaapor-Português. Brasília : Funai/SIL, 1988.


  • --------. Urubu-Kaapor. In: DERBYSHIRE, D. C.; PULLUM, G. K. (Eds.). Handbook of Amazonian languages. Amsterdan : Mouton de Gruyter, 1986. p. 326-403.


  • KAKUMASU, James Y.; KAKUMASU, Kiyoto. Karai je’eha jakwarahã! - Comunique-se bem!. Cuiabá : SIL, 1994. 99 p. (Livro de Frases Úteis Urubu-Kaapor). Circulação restrita.


  • --------. Outros textos urubu-kaapor. Brasília : SIL, 1995. 224 p. (Arquivo Lingüístico)


  • KAKUMASU, Kiyoko. Urubu-Kaapor girl’s puberty rites. In: MERRIFIELD, William R. (Ed.). Five amazonian studies : on world view and cultural change. Dallas : International Museum of Cultures, 1985. p. 79-94.


  • LOPES, Raimundo. Os tupis do Gurupy (Ensaio comparativo). In: CONGRESO INTERNACIONAL DE AMERICANISTAS (250). Actas y trabajos científicos. v. 1. Buenos Aires : s.ed., p. 139-71, 1934.


  • QUEIROZ, Helder Lima de. A new species of capuchin monkey, genus Cebus Erxleben, 1777 (Cebibae: Primates) from Eastern Brazilian Amazonia. Godelina (Zoologia), s.l. : s.ed., n. 15, p. 1-13, 1992.


  • RIBEIRO, Darcy. Atividade científica da secção de estudos do Serviço de Proteção aos Índios. Sociologia, s.l. : s.ed., n. 8, p. 363-85, 1951.


  • --------. Convívio e contaminação : efeitos dissociativos da depopulação provocada por epidemias em grupos indígenas. Sociologia, s.l. : s.ed., n. 18, p. 3-50, 1956.


  • --------. Diários índios : os Urubu-Kaapor. São Paulo : Companhia das Letras, 1996. 628 p.


  • --------. Os índios Urubus : ciclo anual das atividades de subsistência de uma tribo da floresta tropical. In: SCHADEN, Egon. Leituras de etnologia brasileira. São Paulo : Companhia Editora Nacional, 1976. p. 23-43. (Originalmente saiu nos Anais do XXXIo Congresso Internacional de Americanistas, v. 1, São Paulo : Anhembi, 1955. p. 127-57. Republicado em Boletim Geográfico, Rio de Janeiro : s.ed., v. 20, n. 169, 1962 e em Uirá sai a procura de Deus, p. 31-59, obra citada abaixo).


  • --------. Uirá sai à procura de Deus. Rio de Janeiro : Paz e Terra, 1974.


  • --------. Uirá vai ao encontro de Maíra. Carta, Brasília : Gab. Sen. Darcy Ribeiro, n. 9, p. 255-67, 1993. (Publicado originalmente em Anhembi, São Paulo : s.ed., v. 26, n. 76, 1957 e republicado em Uirá sai à procura de Deus, p. 13-29, obra citada acima).


  • RIBEIRO, Darcy; RIBEIRO, Berta G. Arte plumária dos índios Kaapor. Rio de Janeiro : ed. dos Autores, 1957. (Existe outra edição do mesmo ano, com texto condensado e tratamento especial das policromias, feita para os Laboratórios Silva Araújo-Roussel S.A.).


  • RICE, F. John Duval. A pacificação e identificação das afinidades lingüísticas da tribo Urubu dos estados do Pará e Maranhão. Journal de Société des Américanistes, Paris : Société des Américanistes, v. 22, p. 311-6, 1930.


  • SILVA, Beatriz Carretta Correa da. Urubu Ka’apor : da gramática a história - a trajetória de um povo. Brasília : UnB, 1997. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • TEIXEIRA, Raimundo Wilson R. Mitos, psicanálise e o simbolismo na cultura Kaapor (Urubu). Campinas : Unicamp, 1994. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • Os índios Urubu : um dia na vida de uma tribo da floresta tropical. Dir.: Heinz Forthmann. Filme preto e branco. 35 mm., 36 min., 1950. Prod.: SPI. (Negativo original perdido, cópia sem som na Cinemateca Brasileira, em São Paulo, e cópia incmpleta na cinemateca do Museu de Arte Moderna do Rio de Janeiro). Reproduzido como vídeo com o título Darcy : índios Kaapor, Prod.: Audio-Visual do Hospital Sarah Kubitschek.


  • Uirá : um índio em busca de Deus. Dir.: Gustavo Dahl. Filme cor, 35 mm., 1973. Prod.: Alterfilmes; Embrafilme. (Longa metragem inspirado em artigo de Darcy Ribeiro de 1957).