From Povos Indígenas no Brasil
Photo: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998

Katukina Pano

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

Just as in the ‘games’ they hold nowadays – abbreviated forms of ancient rituals in which the constitution of society emerges from the interaction between participants – the Katukina emphasize through their own history their contacts with other neighbouring indigenous groups, on the basis of which they reformulate and reconstruct their network of social relations. This no doubt explains why Pe. Tastevin, at the start of the 20th century, defined them as ‘Panos of all the races.’


Meninos na TI do rio Campinas. Foto: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998
Meninos na TI do rio Campinas. Foto: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998

Defining who the Katukina are on the basis of their name alone is not an easy task. Since the first half of the 19th century, the historical records produced by missionaries, travellers and government agents concerning the indigenous peoples of the Juruá river refer to all the known indigenous groups by the name Katukina. According to the anthropologist Paul Rivet, though, ‘Katukina’ – or Catuquina, Katokina, Katukena, Katukino – is a generic term that came to be attributed to five linguistically distinct and geographically proximate groups (Rivet 1920). Today this number is reduced to three: one from the Katukina linguistic family in the region of the Jutaí river in Amazonas state, and two from the Pano linguistic family in Acre state.

Neither of the two Pano groups known by the name ‘Katukina’ recognize the word as a self-designation. Members of one of the groups, located by the shores of the Envira river close to the town of Feijó, prefer to be known as Shanenawa, their own name for themselves. Those from the other group do not recognize any meaning to ‘Katukina’ in their own language, but have nonetheless adopted it, saying that the designation was in fact ‘given by the government.’

This text relates to the latter group only. The name ‘Katukina’ came to be accepted by members of their two villages on the Campinas and Gregório rivers, who do not possess a common ethnic designation. The only existing self-designations which are widely accepted refer to the six clans into which they divide: Varinawa (people of the Sun), Kamanawa (people of the Jaguar), Satanawa (people of the Otter), Waninawa (people of the Peachpalm), Nainawa (people of the Sky) and Numanawa (people of the Dove). It is worth noting that apart from the Nainawa, these denominations are identical to the names of some sections of the Marúbo people.


The Katukina language belongs to the Pano linguistic family. Nasalization is one of its notable features. Most of the words are disyllabic and oxytonic and new words are formed by combining two words or including one or more suffixes. Personal pronouns make no distinction between gender. All the Katukina speak their own language when talking among themselves. Portuguese is only used to converse with non-Indians. Despite their long period of contact with the latter, less than half the Katukina population is fluent in Portuguese.

The language spoken by the Katukina of the Campinas and Gregório rivers presents significant differences in relation to the language spoken by the Shanenawa.


Photo: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 2006
Photo: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 2006

The Katukina live in two Indigenous Territories (ITs). The Gregório River IT was the first to be demarcated in Acre in 1982, comprising 92,859 hectares in the municipality of Tarauacá. It is also inhabited by the Yawanawá, who occupy its southern portion. The Campinas River IT, demarcated in 1984 with 32,624 hectares on the borders of Amazonas and Acre states, is located within the municipal boundaries of Tarauacá (AC) and Ipixuna (AM). However, Cruzeiro do Sul is actually the closest urban nucleus, situated only 55 kilometres from the village. The Campinas River IT is cut in half by the BR-364 highway (Rio Branco- Cruzeiro do Sul), traversing the territory from east to west.


Photo: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 2006
Photo: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 2006

The Katukina have experienced a population growth of approximately 80% over the last two decades. According to Funai’s data, the Katukina totalled 177 people in 1977: 100 in the village on the Gregório river and 77 in the village on the Campinas river. A little more than twenty years later in 1998, the Katukina possessed a total population of 318 people: 98 in the Gregório village and 220 in the Campinas village. In addition to the demographic growth, there has been an inversion in the relative size of the population between the villages.

Relocations from one village to another are fairly common and depend on the evaluations made by each Katukina individual concerning their social, economic and political situation at a particular moment in time. Today the Campinas village has more than twice the population of the Gregório village due to a large migratory flow to the former site taking place between 1994 and 1997.

History of contact with the Whites

Like the other indigenous groups of the upper Juruá region, the Katukina were effectively surrounded when the economic exploration of the region began around 1880 with the extraction of native rubber. The region which they inhabited, rich in gum trees (Castilloa elastica) and rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis), was quickly invaded by Peruvians and Brazilians arriving from opposite sides of their territory. The presence of the former was brief, since they went in search of gum, a product obtained by felling the trees which were consequently rapidly depleted. In contrast, the Brazilian rubber tappers settled permanently in the area, since the regular surface cuts made in the trunk of the Hevea brasiliensis allowed the extraction of rubber over an indeterminate period.

The Katukina lived through a period marked by constant dislocations during their first years of contact with Whites, attempting to escape alive from the ‘correrias’ organized by the Peruvian gum extractors and Brazilian rubber tappers – incursions aimed at eliminating the indigenous populations in order to provide uninhibited access to the rubber trees. As they fled the correrias, the Katukina were scattered throughout the region. With no means of keeping themselves intact as a group, they became dispersed throughout the forest, living on game, wild plant produce and raids on the plantations they came across during their travels, since they were no longer able to make their own as swiddens: these would have provided an easy trail inevitably leading the Whites to them. Moreover, the constant relocations were also impelled by the belief that the spirits of the dead, pining their kin, could come to earth in search of the living.

The correrias came to an end in the first decade of the 20th century, in part due to the depletion of the gum trees which had been felled, but also due to the border conflicts between Brazil and Peru, which were resolved by treaty in 1909. A fall in the price of rubber on the international market in 1912 also contributed to cessation of the correrias. Although over, the Katukina retain horrific memories of these events transmitted by their parents and grandparents, recollections telling of flights and separations in the forest, filled with images of mutilated bodies and marked by violence.

As the region became populated by non-Indians, the Katukina witnessed both the territory in which they lived and their population drastically reduced – and here we must also take into account the population losses arising from the diseases which had not existed among them in the past. Faced with no alternative, the Katukina ended up working in rubber extraction, but continued to be dispersed across the region, since it became usual for each nuclear family to settle to work in a different rubber zone. This obviously caused a rupture in their society, since they were no longer able to organize and share their lives in accordance with their own principles and sociocultural values.

In this to and fro between rivers and rubber zones, the reference point was always the Gregório river, or more precisely the Sete Estrelas (Seven Stars) rubber plantation, a place to which the Katukina invariably returned after varying periods in different locations. The moves from one river or rubber area to another are part of Katukina memory. The main areas they passed through were the Sete Estrelas and Cashinahua rubber plantations on the Gregório river, Universo on the Tarauacá, and Guarani and Bom Futuro on the smaller Liberdade river.

During the 1950s there was a break in the constant dislocations and the majority of the Katukina – though not all of them – were reunited at the Sete Estrelas rubber plantation. The group was split in the following decade as a result firstly of misunderstandings between the Katukina, their chief and the new owner of the rubber plantation for whom they were working, and secondly due to disputes with the Yawanawá, a neighbouring Pano indigenous group from the Gregório river, with whom relations had always oscillated between open hostility and reserved friendship. Seeking a new boss and wary of the threat of conflicts with the Yawanawá, part of the group decided to look for another place to live. They eventually settled for about eight years at a rubber plantation close to the mouth of the smaller Liberdade river, on the frontier between Acre and Amazonas states.

The 1970s witnessed two events which contributed in a definitive form to the contemporary location of the villages: the opening of the BR-364 (Rio Branco-Cruzeiro do Sul) highway and the arrival of the New Tribes of Brazil Mission (Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil – MNTB) to begin working among the Katukina of the Gregório river. With the start of the construction works for the BR-364, part of the group which had settled during the previous decade close to the mouth of the Liberdade river relocated to work with the 7th BEC (Batalhão de Engenharia de Construção/Construction Engineering Battalion) in clearing forest for construction of the highway; they were also joined by other peoples from the Gregório river. After the clearance work was complete, the Katukina received permission from the 7th BEC to live alongside the highway, which they thought would be a good location due to the proximity to the town of Cruzeiro do Sul, an urban centre where – so they hoped – they would be able to sell what they produced easily and also obtain the industrialized goods they required. Those who returned to or remained in the village on the Gregório river, saw the missionaries of the MNTB as a potential regular source of medical and educational assistance.

It was only in the middle of the 1980s, after many years of wandering and relocations, that the Katukina were guaranteed their rights to possession of the territory where they lived, finally breaking the ties which had bound them to the rubber bosses.

Contact with other ethnic groups

Throughout their history, the Katukina have maintained contact – peaceful or otherwise – with various indigenous groups in the Juruá river region and, more recently, with other groups from the Javari river basin. The Kulina, Yawanawá and Marúbo are the three groups with which contacts were and are the most intense and significant for the Katukina.

Contacts between the Katukina and the Kulina – speakers of an Arawá language who currently live in villages scattered along the Juruá and Purus rivers in Brazil and Peru – remained frequent at least until the 1960s. Members of the two groups used to meet mainly in order to perform specific rituals together. Nowadays, the Katukina and Kulina no longer meet, since the successive dislocations of the Kulina have meant the two groups now live far apart. However, the Katukina still recall the songs taught to them by the Kulina. These songs were incorporated into the Katukina musical repertoire and they still sing them today, despite being unable to understand the content of the songs.

Of the two Pano groups in the upper Juruá region, the Yawanawá are the Katukina’s closest and oldest neighbours and currently share the Gregório river IT with them.

The Yawanawá were also their most assiduous adversaries. The Katukina accuse the Yawanawá of abducting their women in the past, thereby provoking warfare between them. Sorcery accusations – also frequent – continue until today. Despite the rivalry, the Katukina and Yawanawá do not confront each other the whole time. The joint performance of rituals, inter-marriages and co-residence, in both past times and the present, are fairly frequent among them. Ambivalence rather than pure and simple opposition acts as the baseline to their relations. So much so that the countless years of rivalry did not definitively push them apart, and during the 1980s the two groups actually united to demand joint demarcation of their lands.

A little more distant, the Marúbo have also maintained regular contacts with the Katukina, though only in recent years. Nevertheless, the brief time in close contact has not prevented the Marúbo from becoming the group with whom the Katukina most identify today.

The first encounter between the two groups seems to have occurred in the 1980s, when missionaries from the MNTB (who also work among the Marúbo on the Ituí river) took two Katukina living on the Gregório river to meet the Marúbo. However, this meeting appears to have led to nothing. Closer contact between the Katukina and the Marúbo happened only in the following decade, in 1992, following a chance encounter in the port of Cruzeiro do Sul. The Katukina were walking through the port area when they overheard some people speaking a language similar to their own and decided to approach. They introduced themselves, exchanged a few words and soon discovered they shared other aspects in common besides language. The main point of similarity was that some people among the Marúbo were also identified as Satanawa, Varinawa, Kamanawa, Waninawa and Numanawa. They swapped a number of presents during this encounter and arranged to meet again.

After the meeting in Cruzeiro do Sul, two Katukina visited the Marúbo villages on the Ituí river, and five Marúbo visited the village on the Campinas river. On the basis of these visits, the Katukina started to reflect on the similarities and differences between themselves and the Marúbo and the causes that could explain them. The main conclusion reached was that the Marúbo had made up the same group as the Katukina in the past. However, the separation between them occurred at a time when neither the contemporary Katukina and Marúbo, nor their parents and grandparents, had been born. And thus long before they first encountered the Whites.

According to the Katukina, their similarities with the Márubo can be attested in various ways: the Marúbo are subdivided into a number of sections and some of these have the same denominations as those of their own clans; the Marúbo language is very similar to that of the Katukina; the communal houses in which the Marúbo live are similar to the houses in which they themselves lived before establishing contact with the Whites. The Katukina agree that the form in which the Marúbo live nowadays represents their own way of life in the past and the Marúbo are thus seen by them as a proto-Katukina society.

Social life

Um agrupamento residencial, TI do rio Campinas. Foto: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998
Um agrupamento residencial, TI do rio Campinas. Foto: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998

The more typical composition of Katukina villages involves a domestic group formed by an older couple, surrounded by their unmarried children, married sons and grandchildren. It can be observed, then, that after marriage women go to live next to their husbands’ families. This practice inverts the residential rule which operated in the past, since, as the Katukina themselves admit, it was the young men who used to move to live next to their wives’ families. United by bonds of kinship and marriage, the residents of the same domestic group cooperate in undertaking day-to-day activities.

At the Campinas River village, the domestic groups are made up of two to seven houses which are scattered along the edge of the highway at intervals varying from five to fifteen minutes walking distance from the next. At the Gregório River village, almost all the domestic groups are distributed on the right-hand shore of the river, close to the landing strip and the MNTB’s buildings.

The marriage rule among the Katukina determines that a man should marry with a woman he calls pano, a category that includes his mother’s brother’s daughter and father’s sister’s daughter. In cases of separation or widowhood, it is common for a man to marry the sister of his ex-wife. Polygyny is admitted and normally the wives of a same man are sisters.

The Katukina have a vast repertoire of myths telling of the punishments awaiting those involved in or desirous of incestuous relations. The Moon is the head of Oshe, a boy caught having sexual relations with his sister who was forced to escape death by taking refuge in the sky. The morning star is also the head of an incestuous boy, Oshe’s brother-in-law, who met the same fate. All young Katukina men know these stories, which were told innumerable times during their childhood by their grandparents.

The Katukina clans

As we saw previously, the Katukina divide into six clans: Varinawa, Kamanawa, Nainawa, Waninawa, Satanawa and Numanawa. These clans are organized on the basis of a principle of unifiliation. However, the Katukina are in disagreement here: while some assert matrilinearity, others assert patrilinearity.

There is a lively debate among the Katukina as to which principle of unifiliation is ‘correct.’ On one side, supporters of matrilinearity say they are more faithful to the past. On the other side, practitioners of patrilinearity openly recognize that there has been an inversion in the rule of filiation in recent years.

Dominating this discussion is the idea that a ‘correct’ or ‘pure’ principle exists that expresses the traditional order. Those who assert filiation along the maternal line look to the past for the model of this order and cite irrefutable genealogies to exemplify what they hold to be the ideal. However, those who nowadays contest this saying the Katukina are patrilineal also do so by seeking the same sense of ‘purity’ and tradition. But with an important detail: their chosen model is Cashinahua. Some Katukina say that about fifteen years ago, they discovered that the Cashinahua are patrilineal. As it had already been some time since anyone knew for sure how the ‘ancient ones’ lived, some of these Katukina decided to adopt patrilinearity following the Cashinahua pattern. The premise behind this borrowing is clear: if there is no consistent and unquestionable native ‘rule,’ it may be found elsewhere.

The issue of determining what in the end is the true principle of affiliation of the Katukina groupings remains open. The debate among them generates positions as disparate as they are interesting, since their common aspect is the claim that they lost something in contact with the Whites. Something that can only be regained by a return to their past selves, as defenders of matrilineal filiation wish, or by seeking the model that supposedly existed among the Katukina among other Pano peoples, as those who defend patrilineal filiation claim.

Although an overall lack of definition to the rule of filiation predominates, it is possible to define the internal groupings making up Katukina society as clans, since there is an underlying idea among the Katukina which may be called ‘supposed’ or ‘presumed’ ancestrality: in other words, the contemporary Varinawa are taken to be descendants of the ancient Varinawa, the Kamanawa of the ancient Kamanawa and so on.

It may be more useful to think of a ‘clanification process’ to the Katukina self-designations. As we saw, when the Katukina became aware of Cashinahua patrilinearity, a certain sense of loss of traditional organization had already taken place (normally blamed on the influence of Western values). By resorting to either of these forms of tracing filiation (maternal or paternal), the Katukina simply reinforce the idea of ‘ancestrality,’ but without directly combining it with other levels of social organization (as occurs with the Marúbo, for example).

Personal names

The Katukina use two types of names: those in their own language and those in Portuguese. The attribution of a name of the latter kind follows no pre-established pattern and any person can suggest a name in Portuguese for a new-born child. The name will be welcomed primarily if it is new to the village. The first name is supplemented by the surnames of the mother and father.

While one of the main criteria in choosing a name in Portuguese is its novelty, the opposite occurs where names in Katukina are concerned. Names are repeated since all of them derive from a common stock which the Katukina strive to preserve. In practical terms, this means that the parents choose the names of their own kin when naming their children.

Children of both sexes are named by their parents, sometimes after consultation with older people. The attribution of a personal name is a simple matter and no ceremony or ritual is performed: once chosen, it suffices for the parents to start using it. The name received in infancy is definitive.

Katukina onomastic practice is fairly varied and the only prohibition concerns passing one’s own name to the child or the name of a dead child. Among the existing alternatives, the most common is for the parents to attribute the name of their own parents to their children; in other words, if it is a girl, the parents choose the name of the maternal or paternal grandmother, while if it is a boy they choose the name of the paternal or maternal grandfather. The transmission of names across alternate generations reveals the affective bond between paternal grandparents and grandchildren, which is very strong among the Katukina. A less practised alternative comprises attributing the names of the child’s maternal and paternal aunts and uncles. It should be noted, though, that in this case the aunts and uncles involved must have already died and the choice of the name is a form of placing it in circulation once more, thus allowing the stock of personal names to be preserved. In this case, restoration of the name acquires a certain sense of ‘homage,’ demonstrating affection or esteem for the person who previously bore the name. Although all names are indeterminately recycled, there is no idea of reincarnation or that one person must substitute another. The identity between namesakes ends with the name.

Men and women, domestic life

One of the most important social divisions among the Katukina is the contrast between genders. This pervades and encompasses all the actions of daily life. Infants are socialized into their appropriate sexual roles from a very early age. Although children are not expected to contribute to domestic production until puberty, they already perform the easier tasks identified with their gender. After puberty people are expected to involve themselves more with domestic activities and parents demand help from their children. In order to be able to marry, adolescent boys and girls must know how to carry out their specific tasks and the help they give their parents during this period is simultaneously a form of apprenticeship.

The two main activities performed by men are hunting and swidden clearance. The first is without doubt the activity most appreciated by everyone. Hunting demands much more than simple force and disposition. Boys around the ages of 12 to 14 begin to accompany their fathers in the forest, learning the skills required by a good hunter: recognizing animal tracks along with their cries and whistles, and their periods of activity and inactivity. The best time of the year for hunting is ‘winter,’ the rainy season, which begins in November and lasts until April. Most of the fruits serving as food for animals ripen and fall during this period, making the prey easier to locate. By moistening the forest floor, the rains make identification of animal tracks easier and soften the noise made by the hunter’s movements.

Despite the high value attributed to hunting, agriculture provides most of the items making up the people’s diet, as well as being the activity that absorbs most of men’s and women’s work time. Aipi manioc and banana are the main food crops. In addition, people plant sweet potato, yams, taro, papaya, pineapple and sugarcane. Recently the Katukina started reserving a large area of their swiddens for planting rice and maize for market sale.

Men are responsible for opening up swiddens for their wives and between the months of May and July clear the undergrowth and fell the larger trees. Once this phase is over, work in the swiddens is suspended until the vegetation dries out completely around the end of August and beginning of September. The cleared area is then burnt and the first manioc planted by men. Sweet potato, taro, yam, papaya, pineapple, sugarcane and cotton are all planted by women. Papaya and sugarcane are planted both in the swiddens and close to the houses. Rice and maize are planted by both men and women.

While male activities are performed outside the house, the majority of female activities are concentrated within its boundaries. The only exception is the harvesting of manioc and bananas from the plantations. Other activities – the preparation of food, caring for children, washing clothes and domestic utensils – are confined to the space of the house or its immediate surroundings.

Whenever she has time, a woman must also prepare caiçuma, a porridge that may be made from sweet manioc (atsa matxu) or banana (mane mutsa). Making banana caiçuma is easy: it simply requires cooking banana, mashing it (it is not chewed) and adding a little water. Preparing sweet manioc caiçuma demands more time and effort and the initiative for making it is always taken by adult women. The first step is to harvest manioc from the swidden; after being dehusked and washed, the manioc should be cut into small cubes which are then placed in a pan with water and covered with banana leaves; some sweet potatoes may also be added. After cooking, the women mash the manioc well with a wooden spoon and leave the pulp to cool. They then chew all the cooked manioc until it acquires a paste-like consistency. The next stage consists of sieving this paste. This done, the caiçuma is ready and consuming it simply requires adding some water. Women say that they in past times they also made caiçuma from peachpalm and maize.

Nowadays the caiçuma’s level of fermentation is fairly low, since it is consumed straight after its preparation and the amount usually made by women is only enough to last for two or three days. Katukina women say that in the past much sour caiçuma (katxa matxu) was made with a high degree of fermentation, but the men became drunk and fought. In order to curtail the brawls, women decided to stop preparing sour caiçuma and they currently only produce a weakly fermented sweet caiçuma which does not provoke drunkenness.

The caiçuma’s level of fermentation determines not just its alcoholic content but also its range of consumption. Sour caiçuma, when it was still produced, had a wide circle of consumption and was associated with periodic rituals. In contrast, sweet caiçuma is associated with a restricted circle of domestic consumption. The decision made by women to suspend production of sour caiçuma coincides with the cessation of certain Katukina rituals.

Most of the time men and women undertake different activities in different spaces. However, some activities escape this division and may be performed by men and women in the same space. The main examples are fishing and collecting wild fruits.

The Katukina plant lupine (asha) and uses its leaves to make a paste which they put in the rivers to suffocate the fish and make catching them easier. The only people not to take part during the large fishing expeditions are children under six years old and the women left to look after them (mother, older sister or grandmother). The period for undertaking the collective fishing trips runs from June to November, from ‘summer’ until the start of ‘winter,’ when the rivers and creeks are shallow and the fish take refuge in the backwaters. In the village on the Campinas river hunting is now becoming more infrequent and fish make up the main source of animal protein.

The harvesting of wild fruits is more usually done by women but also includes some participation from men. This is because the most abundant fruits (assai, burity, patauá, bacaba and cocão) are produced by very tall palm trees and at least one man is needed to accompany the woman and either cut down the tree or climb it.

The division of labour founds and maintains the reciprocity between the sexes in all Katukina activities. Circumscribed in domains, the different products and tasks of men and women and conceived as complementary to one another.

As part of the counselling which precedes the consummation of a marriage, parents tell the couple they must fulfil their specific tasks: the boy must hunt and prepare a swidden for his wife; in turn, she must harvest manioc from the swidden and prepare food and caiçuma on a daily basis, in addition to caring for their children and washing clothes. During such counselling, these obligations are repeatedly insistently and the young couple are made aware that their failure to fulfil their tasks may lead to separation.

The expectation of mutual cooperation between men and women is also expressed in the parts of the body on which both of them must apply the venom of a toad (Phyllomedusa bicolor) called kampo: men on their arms and chest, women on their legs. The kampo venom is associated with a variety of beneficial properties that dispel laziness and ‘panema’ (bad luck in hunting), as well as curing sickness. The application of kampo provokes vomiting and diarrhoea and thereby eliminates bad elements from the body which prevent the full development of its physical capacities. The Katukina say men need strength in their arms and chest to hunt and open up swiddens, while women require strength in their legs to carry the baskets filled with manioc tubers, as well as their children.

Sugarcane games

Brincadeira da cana-de-açúcar. Foto: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998
Brincadeira da cana-de-açúcar. Foto: Edilene Coffaci de Lima, 1998

These games or ‘jests,’ as the Katukina call them, oppose men and women of all ages, who fight over sugarcane and papaya or attack each other with clay and fire. The word vete refers to all these games, but is always preceded by the fruit which is being disputed or the substance being used to attack the other sex. Thus tavata vete is translated as ‘sugarcane game’ and ti'i vete as ‘fire game.’

The decision to hold the games requires little preparation. All that is needed is a large quantity of sugarcane or papaya and the desire of people to take part. There is no fixed date for realizing the games, but they usually take place with higher frequency during the ‘summer’ period when moving about the village becomes easier.

The game begins when a man takes a length of sugarcane and passes it in front of a woman, dragging it along the ground close to her feet. However, he does not approach just any woman, but those who may be classified as his pano (cross-cousins, potential wives). The woman then responds to the provocation by starting to fight with him for the sugarcane. Little by little other women approach to help her and seeing their friend in difficulty, other men also join him in the dispute. Very often there is more than one group fighting over the lengths of sugarcane: these groups are formed according to generational criteria. Children form one group, including girls who have not yet entered puberty. Young bachelors and married youths play together, forming one or two groups depending on the number of people taking part.

People frequently hurt themselves during the games, especially the men. Women can strike them (and do so) with all their force in order to wrest the sugarcane or papaya from the men’s clutches. At the end of the games men retire with their clothes in shreds and their backs and chests covered in bruises from the slaps and punches thrown by the women. The men are never allowed to take revenge. The only way they can injure women is verbally.

Aggression – verbal and physical – is central to the games, but it seems to exist merely as a dissimulation to the seduction actually taking place, since the punches and verbal abuse are accompanied by erotic body contacts. As they wrestle over the sugarcane, the bodies of men and women are practically glued to each other the whole time.

Men never leave the games victorious. When the women gain control over the sugarcane (or papaya) they run to the older women who remain watching and hand it over to them (preferably to their mothers). The dispute then starts all over again with another length of sugarcane. However, men never win a contest by handing the sugarcane to older men. When the men gain control or a temporary advantage in the game, they hurl more verbal abuse, saying they are strong and pull the sugarcane violently, sometimes dragging women with them as the latter try to keep hold of the other end. If they are fighting over a papaya, the men throw it from side to side between themselves. The games end only when the women succeed in capturing all the fruits held at the outset by the men.

The fact that men never win the game may be comprehended by analyzing the Katukina economy. The distribution of all foods, not only meat, is controlled by women. Men never offer meat or any other food to other men.

In this sense, the games can be interpreted as a representation of the pattern of cooperation that organizes the exchange relations between men and women in the village. As in production, men cooperate with each other during the games. Women also make up a united group, but the cooperation between them is centred on distribution. A correction is therefore necessary here: rather than winning, women succeed in forcing a draw, re-establishing the equilibrium between the sexes and consequently the community as a whole.

In addition to the symbolism of the economic exchanges expressed in the games, it is possible to note a strong sexual appeal in the explicit flirtation and the furtive escape of couples to the forest during or after the games. However, this does not mean that these economic and sexual exchanges are equivalent. There is rather a certain correlation between them. Just as men and women should exchange produce and services in order to live, so they should do the same in order to procreate. In addition, the games subvert the pattern of everyday behaviour among the Katukina. The restraint in inter-personal relations gives way during the games to an almost absolute licentiousness and it seems as though the community is experiencing a collective ecstasy, briefly revealing the dense network of mutual economic and sexual relations between men and women. The Katukina games highlight exchange, but not just an immediate exchange between men and women, which underlies the subsistence economy, but also a larger long-term exchange which ensures the continuance of society itself.

Note on the sources

Ethnography of the Katukina first began to be produced by Edilene Coffaci de Lima, who has undertaken several field research trips since the start of the 1990s. Katukina social organization and interethnic relations were studied in her M.Phil. dissertation, completed at the University of São Paulo, and also in articles published in specialized journals. Lima is currently researching the Katukina notion of the person and shamanism as a doctoral student at the University of São Paulo.

The Katukina language has been the object of various studies. The vocalic nasalization and phonology of the Katukina language were the topics of a M.Phil. dissertation by Luizete Guimarães Barros, completed at Campinas State University. Maria Sueli de Aguiar researched Katukina syntax for her M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees, both completed at Campinas State University. These also resulted in articles published in specialized journals. Aguiar is continuing with her research among the Katukina and her work currently includes the production of a video on general aspects of Katukina culture and the future publication of a Katukina-Portuguese dictionary.

A new research project on the Katukina language is under way: Élder José Lanes, an M.Phil. student at UFRJ (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro), is developing a comparative study of the Katukina, Shanenawa, Yawanawá and Poyanawa languages, among other Pano languages.

Beyond the strictly academic context, the New Tribes of Brazil Mission (MNTB) publishes school literacy books in the Katukina language. Two Indians, Benjamim André Katukina (Shere) and Francisco Chagas Katukina (Teka), have edited a collection of Katukina myths and several school literacy books, all published by the CPI-AC.

The Espiritano priest Constantin Tastevin is the author of the best historical – and also ethnographic – records available on the groups known as Katukina during the first two decades of the 20th century.

Sources of information

  • Aguiar, M. Sueli de (1988). Elementos de descrição sintática para uma gramática do Katukina. Dissertação de mestrado, UNICAMP. ----------(1993). “Os grupos nativos ‘katukina’”, Amazonía Peruana, 23 : 141-152. ----------(1994a). Análise descritiva e teórica do Katukina-Pano, Morfossintaxe da língua Arara. Tese de doutorado, UNICAMP. --------- (1994b). Fontes de pesquisa e estudo da família Pano. Campinas, Editora da Unicamp.
  • Barros, Luizete G. (1987). A nasalização vocálica e fonologia introdutória à língua Katukina pano. Dissertação de mestrado, UNICAMP.
  • Bambirra, Vera. 2012. Tamãkãyã: aproximações entre epistemologias e culturas. Tese de doutorado (Educação), UFF.
  • Comissão Pró-Índio - Acre (1998). Noke shoviti – mitos katukina. Rio Branco, Editora Poronga/Comissão Pró-Índio – Acre.
  • Góes, Paulo R. H. 2009. Infinito povoado: domínios, chefes e lideranças em um grupo indígena do alto Juruá, Dissertação de mestrado (Antropologia Social), UFPR.
  • Lanes, Elder José (2000). Mudança fonológica na família Pano – AC. Dissertação de Mestrado, UFRJ. ---------(2005). Aspectos da mudança lingüística em um conjunto de línguas amazônicas: as línguas Pano. Tese de Doutorado, UFRJ. ---------(1994a). Katukina: história e organização social de um grupo pano do Alto Juruá. Dissertação de Mestrado, USP. ---------(1994b). “Katukina, Yawanawa e Marubo: desencontros míticos e encontros históricos”, Cadernos de Campo, 4 :1-19. -------- (1997). “A onomástica katukina é Pano?”, Revista de Antropologia, 40 (2). pp. 7-30. ---------(2000). Com a pedra da serpente. Tese de Doutorado, USP. ---------(2002a). Habitantes: Katukina. In: Manuela Carneiro da Cunha; Mauro B. de Almeida. (Org.). Enciclopédia da Floresta. O alto Juruá: práticas e conhecimentos das populações. São Paulo: Cia das Letras. pp. 169-176. ---------(2002b). Classificação dos animais do alto Juruá pelos Katukina. In: Manuela Carneiro da Cunha; Mauro B. de Almeida. (Org.). Enciclopédia da Floresta. O alto Juruá: práticas e conhecimentos das populações. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras. pp. 437-443. ----------(2005). "Kampu, kampo, kambô: o uso do sapo-verde entre os Katukina". Revista do IPHAN, 32. ----------(2006). BR-364 e os Katukina: a história se repete. In: Beto Ricardo; Fany Ricardo. (Org.). Povos Indígenas no Brasil 2001-2005. 1 ed. São Paulo: Instituto Socioambiental. pp. 586-587. ----------(2008a). “As novas formas do kampô: elementos de uma sociologia da disseminação urbana dos saberes nativos”. In. LENAERTS, Marc e SPADAFORA, Ana María (eds.). Pueblos indígenas, plantas y mercados. Amazonía y Gran Chaco. Bucharest, Zetabooks. pp. 169-197. ----------(2008b). “Cobras, xamãs e caçadores entre os Katukina (pano), Tellus, 15. Lima, E. C. ; Almeida, M. B.; Aquino, T. V.; Mendes, M. K.; Iglesias, M. P. (2002) “Caçar”. In: Manuela Carneiro da Cunha; Mauro B. de Almeida. (Org.). Enciclopédia da Floresta. O alto Juruá: práticas e conhecimentos das populações. São Paulo: Cia das Letras. pp. 311-335.  
  • Lima, Edilene C & Labate, Beatriz C. (2008). "A expansão urbana do kampô: notas etnográficas", in LABATE, B.; GOULART, S.; FIORE, M. (orgs.). Drogas: perspectivas em ciências humanas. Salvador, Editora da UFBA.
  • Lima, Edilene C. de. (2009). “Entre o mercado esotérico e os direitos de propriedade intelectual: o caso kampô”, en Kleba, John & Kishi, Sandra (orgs.). Dilemas do acesso à biodiversidade e aos conhecimentos tradicionais – direito, política e sociedade. Belo Horizonte, Editora Fórum. ----------- (2011). “Katukina/BR-364: sobre mortes e omissões”. RICARDO, Fany. Povos indígenas no Brasil 2006-2010. São Paulo: Instituto Socioambiental. ----------- (2012). “A gente é que sabe ou sobre as coisas katukina (pano)”, Revista de Antropologia, 55 (1): 139-169.  
  • Lima, Edilene; Almeida, Mauro & Piedrafita, Marcelo. 2011. “Petróleo, gás, estradas e populações tradicionais”. In: Fany Ricardo; Beto Ricardo. (Org.). Povos Indígenas no Brasil 2006-2010. São Paulo: Instituto Socioambiental, 2011: 522-525.
  • Lopes, Leandro A. (2001). “Herança da Floresta”, Outras Palavras, Rio Branco, n 13.
  • Martins, Homero Moro. (2006) Os Katukina e o Kampô: aspectos etnográficos da construção de um projeto de acesso a conhecimentos tradicionais. Dissertação de Mestrado: UnB.
  • Melo, Everton. M. 2013. Katsiti: um estudo sobre a matemática Noke Koi. Dissertação de Mestrado (Educação), UFF.
  • Pessoa, Marina. 2010. O “Etnozoneamento em Terras Indígenas” do Acre como ferramenta de Gestão Territorial: o caso da Terra Indígena Katukina/Campinas. Dissertação de mestrado, UnB: Programa de Pós-Graduação em Desenvolvimento Sustentável.
  • Rivet, Paul (1920). "Les Katukina, étude linguistique". Journal de la Société des Américanistes, XVIII:55-63.
  • Tastevin, C. (1926). "Le Haut-Tarauaca". La Géographie, XLV:34-54 & 158-175. -----------(1928). "Le Riozinho da Liberdade". La Géographie, XLIX:205-215.