From Povos Indígenas no Brasil
Photo: Leonardo Prado, 2009.


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

During their two centuries of contact with non-Indians, the Krahô have experienced numerous reversals and inversions in their situation. After some early conflicts, they were long allied with ranch owners, but in 1940, many were massacred when some ranchers attacked their villages.  In the 1950s, they followed a prophet who promised to transform them into “civilized Brazilians,” but in 1986, they set their sights on a goal that implied just the opposite, an assertion of their ethnic identity, by going to the São Paulo Museum to demand the return of an axehead, shaped like a half-moon, that was vital to their traditions. They often travel to large cities, where they know the streets and authorities better than do the rural Brazilians near their reservation. They often telephone negligent friends to ask for glass beads, cloth, and cattle to provide meat required for ritual feasts.


Aldeia Galheiro. Foto: Michel Pellanders, 1988
Aldeia Galheiro. Foto: Michel Pellanders, 1988

When Curt Nimuendajú asked some Krahô about their tribal name in 1930, they translated it as “paka (cra) + fur (hô)” (a paka is a kind of rodent). Three decades later, other members of the group disagreed with this translation, asserting that the name “Krahô” originated with non-Indians. The usual way of spelling the term “Krahô” came about from a misinterpretation of the accent marks used by Nimuendajú. But this spelling is now widespread in anthropology texts, in books published by the Krahô themselves, and in the personal names they use when interacting with members of the surrounding society. For these reasons, this overview uses the same spelling. Ironically, the spelling “Craô” would not only be closer to the way their name is pronounced, but would also be more in line with the official Brazilian alphabet (which lacks a “K”) and with the set of symbols currently used by the Krahô to write in their own language.

The Krahô call themselves Mehim, a term that, in the past, was probably extended to members of other groups who spoke the same language and followed the same cultural practices. Nowadays, this array of groups is known as the Timbira, while Mehim is applied to the members of any indigenous group. The expansion of these terms of reference has been correlated with a contraction in the meaning of the opposite term, Cupe(n), which used to refer to all non-Timbira but is now applied only to non-Indians. The southernmost Krahô also call themselves Mãkrare (from mã = emu, + kra = child, + re = diminutive, thus “emu offspring”), a term that may take the variant Mãcamekrâ (which was spelled “Macamecrans” in nineteenth-century texts). The name that Nimuendajú heard applied to the northern groups, Quenpokrare (quen = stone, + po = flat, + krare = little child, that is, “children of the flat stone”), was apparently not used for very long, since it did not appear in earlier texts and is no longer heard.


The Krahô language is the same one spoken by the rest of the Timbira who live east of the Tocantins River. The dialect that diverges the most from the others (and is perhaps another language) is Apinayé, the only Timbira group that lives to the west of the Tocantins. The Timbira language belongs to the Gê linguistic family, which, in turn, is part of the Macro-Gê trunk. Within the Gê family, the language closest to Timbira is Kayapó.

Timbira is the first language that Krahô children learn to speak. Boys soon become fluent in Portuguese, since male members travel more than female and interact the most with Brazilians in the surrounding countryside. Forty years ago, few adult women spoke any Portuguese, but, nowadays, a growing number of them are learning how.


Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983
Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983

The contemporary Krahô live in the northeastern part of the state of Tocantins, in the Kraolândia Indigenous Land (which received permanent legal status in 1990 through Decree no. 99,062). The reservation covers 302,533 hectares situated in the municipalities of Goiatins and Itacajá. It is located between the Manoel Alves Grande and Manoel Alves Pequeno Rivers, two tributaries on the eastern side of the Tocantins River. This area is predominantly scrubland, crosscut by narrow corridors of woods that follow river courses; a wider forest runs along the Vermelho River, which forms the northeastern border of the reservation.


Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983
Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Krahô were estimated to total about three or four thousand people. According to the census conducted by the missionary Rafael de Taggia in 1852, their numbers had fallen to 620 after the fatal epidemics of 1849-50. Their population may have hit its lowest point around 1930, when Nimuendajú estimated it to be 400. However, in 1948, Harald Schultz calculated that their numbers had increased to 500. Julio Cezar Melatti counted 564 people in 1962-63, and at least 632 in 1971, figures that included mestizos and Indians from other groups who had moved into Krahô villages. By 1989, their population reached a total of 1,198. In 1999, the Krahô themselves assured the researcher Hélder Ferreira de Sousa that they numbered almost 2,000 people. Thus, after a long decline, their population had begun to expand again in the middle of the twentieth century.

The number of their villages also increased. In the early twentieth century, only three of them existed. When Nimuendajú visited the Krahô in 1930, one of the villages had already divided in half: one was directed by a leader named Secundo, and the other, by Bernardino. Melatti counted six villages in 1962, most of which had houses arranged in a traditional circle. The one exception was the village of Morro do Boi (“Cattle Hill”), which was headed by the sons of Bernardino (who had passed away) and which included non-Indian spouses and neighbors. Currently, there are eighteen to twenty villages, according to Sousa’s information, who was unable to visit all of them. The divergence between the two figures is due to the fact that some leaders linked to the indigenous association Càpej (discussed later) had decided that a residential nucleus must have a minimum of seventy inhabitants in order to be considered a village; however, at least one nucleus that they deem to be a village does not have that many residents.

Over the last two centuries, the Krahô absorbed members of various other ethnic groups. From other Timbira groups, they incorporated some of the Põrekamekrá, whom they had fought in 1814; the surviving Kenkateyê, whose village of Chinela in southern Maranhão had been destroyed by ranch owners in 1913; some Apinayé who migrated after 1923; and a few Apanyekrá, whose village had a long history of communication with the Krahô. As for non-Timbira groups, a few Xerente left their villages after internal dissension broke out and sought shelter among the Krahô in the early twentieth century. Besides taking in these peoples, some Krahô individuals have white or black ancestors.

Contact history

Cerimônia em que reitor da USP devolve aos Krahô a machadinha que se encontrava no Museu Paulista. Foto: Alfredo Rizzuti, 1986
Cerimônia em que reitor da USP devolve aos Krahô a machadinha que se encontrava no Museu Paulista. Foto: Alfredo Rizzuti, 1986

The Krahô began contacts with non-Indians at the beginning of the nineteenth century when they came into conflict with owners of cattle ranches that were expanding from the state of Piauí into southern Maranhão. At the time, the Krahô were living near the Balsas River, a tributary of the Parnaiba. After attacking a large ranch in 1809, they were assaulted in reprisal by an expedition led by Manuel José de Assunção, who took more than seventy prisoners and sent them to São Luis. After these events, the Krahô founds ways to develop peaceful contacts with non-Indians, although not with all the indigenous groups around them. As they moved closer to the Tocantins River, they began to help ranchers fight and capture neighboring Indian peoples (perhaps all Timbira groups) on behalf of the town father of São Pedro de Alcântara (now called Carolina) in Maranhão. The captured Indians were sold into slavery in regions to the north. Once the ranch owners were free of other native groups, they became upset with the Krahô’s theft of their cattle, which they had earlier blamed on the other groups. In 1848, the ranchers managed the persuade the Capuchin missionary, Brother Rafael de Taggia, to transfer the Krahô to Pedro Afonso, located where the Sono River met the Tocantins. There they settled down, near the Xerente, until around the end of the nineteenth century, when they started moving to the northeast, reaching the area where they live to this day.

In this locale, they initially had friendly relations with a ranch owner. They protected him against his rivals and guarded his cattle against jaguars. As the rural population grew and cattle herds suffered greater depredations from the Krahô, relations between Indians and non-Indians deteriorated. The situation culminated in an attack by three ranchers on two of the Krahô’s villages in 1940, in which about twenty-six residents died. When federal officials were informed of the episode, they pressured state authorities to bring the ranchers responsible for the crime to trial. Although they were allowed to fulfill their sentences on parole, this was one of the rare cases in which perpetrators of massacres against Indians were found guilty. In addition, the state government established an official reservation for the Krahô, which received permanent status from the federal government in 1990.

The Indian Protection Service (SPI) became active among the Krahô by setting up an Indian Post in their reservation in the 1940s. But the agency’s services were practically nonexistent, due to a succession of employees who lacked moral or material support from above, an absence of medical supplies, and a school without teachers most of the time. The two SPI ranches within the reservation were unable to provide a regular supply of meat to the Indians, given the meager number of cattle they had. The Post did not even assume responsibility for collecting rent from ranchers who were using Krahô lands to graze their cattle, with or without permission. Instead, SPI turned the task over to village chiefs, who received no more than a cow, a small manioc field, or an iron tool from ranchers in exchange for pasture rights.

This state of total abandonment may have been one of the conditions that stimulated a messianic movement among the Krahô around 1952. A shaman began to have visions in which a bearded whiteman appeared as a rain spirit and offered the shaman a lightning bolt to destroy the non-Indians. But the prophet was afraid to take this offering. Nevertheless, he was promised that, on a certain date, non-Indians would be transformed into Indians, while the Krahô would become non-Indians. To make this transformation come about, the Krahô had to adopt certain behaviors: abandon their log races and body paintings, hold dances like colonists did, and eat domesticated animals. They thought they would no longer have to cultivate their gardens because they would raise animals and run businesses, when their cattle would descend from the sky and merchandise would arrive on boats. However, none of these predictions came true, and the prophet ended up losing his credibility.

The Krahô devised another way to make up for SPI’s lack of assistance by reviving an old practice they used to follow in the nineteenth century: undertaking long-distance journeys to large cities, whose inhabitants showered the Krahô with gifts, fascinated by their exotic appearance and sympathetic for a minority that was so foreign to their everyday lives. Krahô men, with few or no women, would spend months traveling in groups, asking for contributions from town mayors along the way, sleeping in police or fire stations, and seeking help from churches, charity organizations, and state government offices. These strategies allowed them to see Belem, São Luis, Teresina, Natal, Recife, Salvador, Goiânia, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. The travelers would return home with tools, bolts of cloth, glass beads, and other items, most of which they had to turn over to their wives’ relatives. However, no one was able to enjoy these new possessions for very long. Since the travelers had missed the planting season, they had to rely on their in-laws’ gardens, which were unable to provide enough food for everyone through the end of the agricultural cycle. Villagers were thus obliged to trade the goods acquired from the journeys for manioc planted by regional farmers.

Their situation began to improve in 1967, coincidentally around the same time that the Indian Protection Service was replaced by a new government agency, the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI). The real cause of the Krahô’s change of fortune was a ranching project, which began when the researcher Vilma Chiara acquired almost 250 heads of cattle from an institution for the Krahô to raise. A few years later, Chiara arranged for a French agricultural specialist to teach them techniques that would allow the Krahô to increase their crop productivity without much extra labor. Soon afterwards, she also contracted a medical attendant for them. With the exception of this last initiative, these activities did not work out well, mainly because of the sorts of problems that innovations like these often trigger. Nevertheless, they served as a means of provoking the new Indian agency to live up to its obligation to serve the Krahô more effectively. Funai established new Indian posts within the reservation and started an agricultural assistance project, closely followed by a team of extension agents. Later on, a non-governmental organization, the Center for Indigenist Action (CTI), expanded such activities.

During its early years, Funai also created the Indigenous Rural Sentry, recruiting twenty-eight Krahô men. Since they had to work at the Indian Post, the guards could not spend time in agricultural tasks. In compensation, their salaries allowed them to buy groceries from the Post canteen; their relatives would also show up to buy things, which soon put the guards into debt. The Krahô’s ritual life began to change, as they rescheduled short rites and opening or closing ceremonies to Sundays, when the guards had the day off and could take part in log races. Moreover, since the guards had little to do at the Post, they became the first Krahô to attend school regularly. Because they knew how to speak Portuguese, they were able to understand non-Indian teachers, which allowed them to learn how to read and write. When the Indigenous Rural Sentry was abolished, the guards suddenly found themselves without salaries, but some of them were able to use their new skills in literacy by becoming teachers and Post employees.

The Krahô’s situation continued to change: whereas they mounted a messianic movement in 1952 to stop being Indians, they set their sights on a goal in 1986 that led in the opposite direction of ethnic affirmation. They went to the São Paulo Museum to demand the return of an axe with a blade shaped like a half-moon, which they had ceded to the museum many years before. After much discussion with administration officials of the University of São Paulo (which ran the Paulista Museum), many debates in the newspapers, and the resolution of legal impasses, the axe was returned to the Krahô. An intriguing aspect of the entire episode was that, according to the Krahô individuals who showed the axe to Julio Cezar Melatti when they stopped by in Brasília on their way back home, this axe was nothing like the ordinary archaeological ones that villagers found so easily in the ground, which they repaired by replacing the handles, ornaments, and designs. Rather, this was their supreme axe, the one that used to sing in the distant past, the axe that, according to another narrative, their ancestors used to kill the chief of a mythical people known as the Cokãmkiere.

The Krahô have also had a long history of intertribal relations. Since they had helped colonists to enslave other native groups in southern Maranhão during the nineteenth century, they were recruited to advance against a little-known people just to the south. This group was sometimes called Xavante, but by that time they constituted a separate branch, the Xerente. In 1948, the Krahô were transferred to Pedro Afonso, as mentioned earlier, in part to set them against the Xerente. However, the Xerente had been missionized by this time and were no longer hostile, so they maintained friendly relations with the Krahô. By the beginning of the twentieth century, some Xerente individuals had married into Krahô villages, and vice versa. Around 1926, internal disputes among the Xerente, which involved sorcery accusations, induced some of them to migrate to the Krahô. This conflict had repercussions that led to the deaths of two Xerente immigrants a few years later. Since some Krahô were also involved in events leading up to their deaths, relations between two of their northern villages, Pedra Branca and Pedra Furada, became strained, even though most of the Xerente were concentrated among the southern Krahô.

Nimuendajú reported that a Krahô expedition attacked an Apinayé village in 1923, although it caused only material damages, since the inhabitants fled in time. The motive behind this incursion was sorcery accusations against a Krahô who lived among the Apinayé. This conflict did not involve all the Krahô against all the Apinayé, but only the former’s village of Pedra Furada against the latter’s village of Gato Preto. Five years later, the individual who had been the pivot of the conflict was killed in the Krahô village of Pedra Branca, where he had tried to reactivate the friendly exchanges that used to take place with the Apinayé village of Bacaba. Just as before the conflict, Apinayé individuals continued to settle among the Krahô after these events.

As mentioned earlier, the Krahô incorporated some of the Põrekamekrá in the 1920s, as well as the survivors of the colonist destruction of the Kenkateyê village. A few Apanyekrá are also living in the midst of the Krahô. However, the children of all these immigrants are considered to be true Krahô.

This history of involvements with neighboring groups enabled the Krahô to begin to organize politically to defend their rights. Recently, for example, when the Apinayé’s lands were threatened by colonist intrusions, Krahô and Xerente Indians showed up to help them safeguard their reservation boundaries.

Social and political organization

Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983
Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983

Krahô villages follow the timbira ideal of an arrangement of houses along a large circular path surrounding a central plaza, which is linked to the houses by a radiating pattern of trails. Each house typically shelters women who were born into it and men who married them, having left their own mothers’ residence. Obviously, the number of people who live in a house cannot increase indefinitely. Generally, after the senior man dies, one of the sons-in-law continues to live in the house, while the rest build new ones next door, where they move along with their wives and children. This pattern allows us to distinguish three levels of residential groups. The smallest is the nuclear family, consisting of the husband, wife, and children. This group is visible during meals, when each family withdraws from other residents of the house to eat; often, the family members share food from the same plate or bowl. This is also the group that owns a garden plot. All the nuclear families sheltered under the same roof constitute a domestic group, which is coordinated by the men’s father-in-law. Any foodstuffs that enter the house are prepared and distributed to all the inhabitants, no matter which woman cooked them. Finally, a group of houses that include an older one and those originating from it constitutes a residential segment. If, on the one hand, this group does not have a well-defined leader, on the other, it has two features that make it stand out: the segment maintains its position relative to the cardinal points, even after the village moves to a new site; and the people who are born within the segment do not marry among themselves.

Other types of groups become visible during ritual activities held outside the houses in the plaza. This is true of the various pairs of moieties (created when a group is divided into halves) to which Krahô individuals may belong. One of these pairs can be called seasonal moieties, since one half is associated with the dry season (also daytime, the east, and the central plaza), and the other, with the rainy season (also nighttime, the west, and the outer village). The daily gatherings of village men that take place in the central plaza are coordinated by two “mayors” who belong to the moiety representing the season in progress. The Krahô say that only this moiety makes decisions during this season. Each of these seasonal moieties holds a set of personal names; men and women belong to one or the other moiety according to the personal names they receive.

Soon after leaving their childhood behind, boys who were born in the village at around the same time are organized into an age set, which is given a collective name and included in either the eastern or western half of another pair of moieties. Even though this institution is somewhat disorganized, age sets are allocated to opposite moieties in alternation. When rituals are performed, each new set is situated in the north of the plaza, from where it will be gradually pushed toward the south as new sets are created. This pair, which we can call age moieties, participate in various rituals, which, in earlier times, included an initiation rite called Pembjê or Ikrere, no longer performed. One of the “mayors” who coordinate the gatherings in each season should belong to the eastern age moiety, and the other, to the western one.

A third pair of moieties becomes active during an initiation rite called Ketwayê. Each one is made up of four groups of men, who are arranged in the plaza in the following manner, from north to south: in the eastern half are the Owls, Armadillos, Vultures, and Star Parakeets; in the western half are the Foxes, Hawks, Parakeets, and Cupe (non-Timbira or non-Indians). The group that each individual belongs to depends on his personal name.

Certain other pairs of moieties do not have permanent members. They become active in various phases of a ritual called Pembcahàk and in other rites that comprise the initiation cycle. Members are chosen before each performance of the rite with which the pair of moieties is associated. There are six pairs of such moieties: in each pair, one takes the name of a fish or winged animal, and the other, the name of a mammal or terrestrial bird.

Women are included as members of the seasonal moieties according to the same criterion as the men. In other pairs of moieties, single women stay in their fathers’ moiety, while married women stay in their husbands’. Although men are the main participants in the major rituals, each moiety or set of boys going through initiation usually has one or two girls associated with it.

Each personal name consists of a series of words, but the links among their meanings are not necessarily obvious. Male names are passed on by maternal uncles, maternal and paternal grandfathers, or other men called by the same kinship term. Female names are received from paternal aunts, maternal or paternal grandmothers, or other women using the same kinship term. For example, a man named Hàká (boa constrictor) Ihocpey (ihoc = design, + pej = pretty, hence, “boa constrictor design”) Harecaprec (hare = marsh, + caprec = red) should belong to the rainy season moiety and the Vulture plaza group. A woman named Xopê (xo = fox, + = fat) Catxêkwôi (catxê = star, + kwôi = female name suffix) Krôkari (sand) Tetikwôi (tetí = jatobá tree) should belong to the dry season moiety. The personal name not only affiliates an individual with one of the seasonal moieties and a Ketwayê ritual group, but it also gives him or her the right to incarnate certain ritual characters and provides him or her with highly formalized friendships with other individuals who carry certain names.

Unlike the relationships discussed so far, each Krahô individual is linked by corporeal bonds to his or her father, mother, siblings and half-siblings, and children. The nature of these bonds is such that particular activities (having sex, killing a snake, smoking, or speaking loudly, or eating certain foods) can affect these close kin if they are going through a crisis (such as the post-partum period, an illness, or a snakebite).

The Krahô kinship terms are distributed through the genealogical network according to a particular pattern in such a way that some of the terms may appear in more than one generation. By following this pattern, a Krahô individual can apply the same kinship term to various people, from the closest relatives to the limits of their society, which does not mean that all of them are considered kinspeople. Marriage with distant relatives is permitted; if it takes place, the terms that were applied to kin will be replaced by terms for affines (in-laws). Other institutions and practices also disturb the terminological pattern: examples include calling distant relatives who have the same names as close relatives by the latter’s kinship terms; applying a special term to formal friends; or altering the behaviors used toward certain relatives and adopting the corresponding kinship terms

Art and artisanry

Aldeia Galheiro. Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983
Aldeia Galheiro. Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983

Plant fibers are omnipresent in Krahô daily life. Their houses have peaked roofs, like colonists’ dwellings (although the Krahos’ lack windows and have few or no inner walls), which are thatched with palm leaves. If the outer walls are not made of wattle-and-daub, they are also enclosed with thatching. Inside the house hang a large number of baskets, quickly woven out of burity leaves and used to carry or store food and objects. To hold odds and ends, another type of basket is made using shiny strips of burity bark, which are woven into various sizes of rectangular containers with rounded edges and lashed with a knotted string. The Krahô also make mats woven of burity fiber, which have a fringe that line the platforms serving as beds, made of the trunks of wild assai trees. When boys sleep in the central plaza, they use a simpler kind of mat.

Other raw materials that are commonly used include various sizes of calabashes, which, like squash, come from a creeping plant with fruits resting on the ground. These serve as water vessels, containers to serve or store prepared foods, and cups for ritual use. They are also utilized for making musical instruments, such as a small calabash flute with four holes; a horn covered with resin; and strings of tiny gourds shaped like small bells without clappers, which tap each other if shaken together when the strings are fastened to cotton belts worn by racers, tied below the knees of dancers, or beaten against the ground by singers.

Foto: Michel Pellanders, 1988
Foto: Michel Pellanders, 1988

Surprisingly, the main musical instrument, the rattle, is not made from a calabash but from a cuité, a kind of tree fruit (Latin Crescentia cujete). A song leader uses the rattle to direct women’s singing. Vocal music is, in fact, one of the most elaborated aspects of the ritual and artistic life of the Krahô.

The Krahô paint their bodies with annatto paste, genipa juice, and charcoal mixed with latex sap, forming designs that are associated with particular moieties. Boys in the final phase of their initiation ritual and people coming out of seclusion are decorated with feathers that are pasted to their bodies with resin; the feathers used are either parakeet or hawk, depending on the individual’s moiety.

The logs used in races are carefully fashioned, usually from burity trunks, each time the competition begins outside the village. Their size, shape, and ornamentation vary according to the rites with which the races are associated. Log races take place after collective participation in hunting or fishing expeditions and opening gardens. Each log is carried by one racer at a time, who relays it to a partner of the same moiety.

Cosmology, myths, rites, and shamans

Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983
Foto: Vincent Carelli, 1983

The Krahô have many rituals. Some are short, linked to individual life crises (such as the end of seclusion after the birth of a first child, the end of a convalescence, and the last meal of a deceased person) or to occasional collective initiatives (such as exchanges of foods and services). Others are associated with the annual agricultural cycle, for instance, those that mark the dry and wet seasons, the planting and harvesting of corn, and the harvesting of sweet potatoes. Yet other rites form part of a longer cycle, associated with male initiation, which must take place in a certain order; nowadays, this cycle is difficult to reconstitute, in part because one of the rites has been abandoned.

Various rites related to the annual and initiation cycles have myths that explain their origins. However, there is not a strict correspondence between the sequence of myths and that of rites, although they overlap in some ways.

Some myths recount the transformations triggered by the acts of the creator heroes Sun and Moon when the world was incomplete (including the appearance of human beings, menstruation, death, work, biting insects, and snakes). Others tell how Star-Woman obtained agricultural plants; how fire was stolen from the jaguar; how certain rites were acquired by men who visited the sky, the land under the waters, and a burgeoning garden. Indeed, the myths seem to suggest that everything in Krahô culture came from the outside. Even shamanism came from outside: the first man who acquired magical powers was carried up to the heavens by vultures, where he was cured and received powers from the hawk. An outside observer will have difficulty finding signs of trance among Krahô healers, which might suggest that these men are not true shamans. But each healer will explain how, like the man who went up to the sky in a myth, he was initiated through a sort of spontaneous rite of passage: how he got sick and was abandoned, then rescued by an animal (or other being) that cured him and gave him magical powers, which he tested, and was then sent home with his new powers.

Based on the myths and opinions of the Krahô—which are not always unanimous—one can get an idea of how they imagine the universe: the earth is surrounded by water and covered by the sky, which rests on supports in the east, where there is a hole that leads to the underground world.

Note on sources

The most general work on this group is “O sistema social krahó” (“The Krahô social system”), a doctoral dissertation defended by Julio Cezar Melatti in 1970 at the University of São Paulo, of which fifty mimeograph copies were distributed.

The section of this thesis concerning kinship was condensed into a chapter published in Dialectical Societies, edited by David Maybury-Lewis. Maria Elisa Ladeira, in her master’s thesis, “A troca de nomes e a troca de cônjuges” (“The exchange of names and the exchange of spouses”), defended at the University of São Paulo, takes up the same theme and, based on her field experiences with several Timbira groups (the Krahô, Apinayé, and Apanyekrá) reveals a dynamic conjunction among kinship relations, the transmission of personal names, and marriage alliances. Their dynamics can be modified according to changes in the demographic situation.

Another section of Melatti’s dissertation was expanded into the book, Ritos de uma tribo timbira (“Rites of a Timbira tribe”). One of these rites, the log races held during sweet potato harvests, was the theme of a film entitled “Rito kraho,” which was produced by Heinz Forthmann and, after his death, completed by his student Marcos de Souza Mendes. Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, in her doctoral dissertation defended at the University of Campinas and published under the title, Os Mortos e os outros (“The dead and the others”), analyzed funerary rites as a point of departure for reflecting on the notion of the person among the Krahô. Melatti also investigated this theme from a different perspective in his article, “Nominadores e genitores” (“Name-givers and genitors”). One of the rites associated with the dead, called Pàrecahàc, is shown in the video, “Kraho: os filhos da terra” (“The Krahô: children of the earth”), by Luis Eduardo Jorge. This is the same rite that Kilza Setti explored in an article that launched studies of Krahô music.

“Lendas dos índios krahó” (Legends of the Krahô Indians”), an unedited transcription of myths that they recounted in Portuguese to Harald Schultz, has become an indispensable source to consult. In “O mito e o xamã” (“The myth and the shaman”), Melatti explains how a particular individual revived a myth when he became a curer. In O messianismo krahó (“Krahô messianism”), Melatti discusses how an entire people attempted to transform their relations with white people in a religious-political movement inspired in the myth of the origin of non-Indians. In his article, “Mito and autoridade doméstica” (“Myth and domestic authority”), Roberto DaMatta compared Krahô and Canela versions of this myth by contrasting the roles of the maternal grandfather and maternal uncle.

Índios e criadores (“Indians and ranchers”), by Melatti, and “A forma 'timbira'” (“The 'Timbira' form”), a master’s thesis by Gilberto Azanha of the University of São Paulo, explore the contacts between the Krahô and non-Indians. Intertribal contacts in the past are treated more extensively in “Reflexões sobre algumas narrativas krahó” (“Reflections on some Krahô narratives”), based on accounts told to Melatti in Portuguese. An exchange of visits between the Krahô and the Parkateyê make up the theme of Vincent Carelli’s interesting video, “Eu já fui seu irmão”(“I was already your brother”).

In his article, Olive Shell utilized data on the Krahô language collected in the 1930s by the American ethnologist Buell Quain, who died before finishing his research. A linguist at the Summer Institute of Linguistics who conducted fieldwork in the early 1960s did not manage to complete his research either. Currently, Lydia Poleck, of the Federal University of Goiás, has concentrated on the study of the Krahô language, apparently with the aim of developing materials for their schools. In “O uso da escrita entre os Timbira” (“The use of writing among the Timbira”), Maria Elisa Ladeira discusses the results of literacy programs, using Krahô examples.

Ana Carolina Cambeses Pareschi, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Brasília, has been conducting research on the project for harvesting scrubland fruits, discussed earlier. Hélder Ferreira de Sousa, a master’s student in the same program, has begun research on recent changes in Krahô political organization. Both students contributed information on the Krahô’s current situation for this overview.

Sources of information

  • ALMEIDA, Graziela Rodrigues de. Agricultura Krahô : implicações socioculturais de interação homem;meio ambiente. Brasília : UnB/DAN, 2003. (Monografia de Graduação)


  • AZANHA, Gilberto. A forma “Timbira” : estrutura e resistência. São Paulo : USP, 1984. 148 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • BATISTA, Roselis M. A língua como veículo de resistência cultural : o caso krahó e a influência do português. Terra Indígena, Araraquara : Centro de Estudos Indígenas, v. 9, n. 63, p. 30-43, abr./jun. 1992.


  • CASTRO, Esther de. O cesto kaiapó dos Krahó : uma abordagem visual. São Paulo : USP, 1994. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • CORREA, Jussania Borges; ANDRADE, Valéria Medeiros (Coords.). Abelhas nativas brasileiras : conservação ambiental. Brasília : Funai/Dedoc, 2002. 32 p.


  • CRUZ, Hevila Peres da. Os caminhos da cura : uma etnografia de itinerários terapêuticos e da prestação de serviços de saúde entre os índios Krahô no estado de Tocantins. Florianópolis : UFSC, 2002. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • CUNHA, Manuela Carneiro da. Os mortos e os outros : uma análise do sistema funerário e da noção de pessoa entre os índios Krahó. São Paulo : Hucitec, 1978. 162 p. (Apresentado originalmente como Tese de Doutorado. 1975, IFCH/Unicamp)


  • CHIARA, Vilma. Folclore Kraho. Rev. do Museu Paulista, São Paulo : Museu Paulista, v. 13, n.s., p. 333-75, 1961/1962.


  • DICKIE, Maria Amelia Schmidt. Indagações sobre a mensagem do messianismo Krahó. Anuário Antropológico, Rio de Janeiro : Tempo Brasileiro, n. 88, p. 45-58, 1991.


  • DOMINGUES, Sérgio Augusto. Sendas Krahô : introdução a cosmogonia política de um índio Timbira. São Paulo : PUC-SP, 1993. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • --------. Tati, uma história Krahô : messianismo ou xamanismo numa tribo Timbira. São Paulo : PUC, 1998. 118 p. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • FREITAS, Edinaldo Bezerra de. Ser ou não ser Mehin : a etno-história Krahô. Projeto História, São Paulo : PUC-SP, n. 23, p. 263-84, nov. 2001.


  • GALLOIS, Dominique Tilkin; CARELLI, Vincent. Diálogo entre povos indígenas : a experiência de dois encontros mediados pelo vídeo. Rev. de Antropologia, São Paulo : USP, v. 38, n. 1, p. 205-59, 1995.


  • GUEDES, Marymarcia. Siwiá Mekaperera-Suyá : a língua da gente - um estudo fonológico e gramatical. Campinas : Unicamp, 1993. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • JORGE, Luiz Eduardo. Mekaron : a imagem permitida. São Paulo : USP, 1991. 130 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • LADEIRA, Maria Elisa. Uma aldeia Timbira. In: NOVAES, Sylvia Caiuby (Org.). Habitações indígenas. São Paulo : Nobel ; Edusp, 1983. p. 11-32.


  • --------. A troca de nomes e a troca do cônjuges : uma contribuição ao estudo do parentesco timbira. São Paulo : USP, 1982. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • --------. O uso da escrita entre os Timbira. Rua, Campinas : Unicamp, n. 3, p. 119-35, 1982.


  • LAZARIN, Marco Antônio; SILVA, Telma Camargo da. Os Krahó do rio Vermelho : relatório de trabalho. Goiânia : Cegraf, 1989. 116 p. (Textos para Discussão, 10)


  • MELATTI, Júlio César. Corrida de toras. Rev. de Atualidade Indígena, Brasília : Funai, n. 1, p. 38-45, 1976.


  • --------. Craho. In: WILBERT, Johannes (Ed.). Encyclopedia of World Cultures. v. 7. Boston : G.K.Hall & Co., 1994. p. 135-9.


  • --------. Índios e criadores : a situação dos Krahó na área pastoril do Tocantins. Rio de Janeiro : UFRJ, 1967.


  • --------. Indivíduo e grupo : à procura de uma classificação dos personagens mítico-rituais Timbiras. Anuário Antropológico, v. 79, p. 99-130, 1981. Originalmente publicado como : À procura de uma classificação dos personagens mítico-rituais Timbiras. Brasília : UnB, 1979. (Série Antropologia)


  • --------. O julgamento dos mitos. Ciência Hoje, Rio de Janeiro : SBPC, v. 14, n. 84, p. 36-43, set. 1992.


  • --------. O messianismo Krahó. São Paulo : Herder/Edusp, 1972.


  • --------. O mito e o xamã. Rev. do Museu Paulista, São Paulo : Museu Paulista, v. 14, n.s., p. 60-70, 1963. Republicado em: MITO e linguagem social. Rio de Janeiro : Tempo Brasileiro, 1970. p. 65-76. Traduzido para o inglês em: LYON, Patricia (Org.). Native South Americans : ethnology of the least known continent. Boston : Little, Brown and Company, 1974. p. 266-75.


  • --------. Nominadores e genitores : um aspecto do dualismo Krahó. In: SCHADEN, Egon. Leituras de etnologia brasileira. São Paulo : Companhia Editôra Nacional, 1976. p. 139-48.


  • --------. Nota sobre música Krahó. Rev. Goiana de Artes, Goiânia : UFGO, v. 3, n. 1, p. 29-40, 1982.


  • --------. Por que a aldeia Krahó é redonda? Informativo Funai, Brasília : Funai, n. 11/12, p. 34-41, 1974.


  • --------. Questões sobre a identidade Krahô. Anuário Antropológico, Rio de Janeiro : Tempo Brasileiro, v. 82, p. 189-94, 1984.


  • --------. Reflexões sobre algumas narrrativas Krahó. Brasília : UnB, 1974. (Série Antropologia, 8)


  • --------. The relationship system of the Krahó. In: MAYBURY-LEWIS, David (Org.). Dialectical societies. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1979. p. 46-79.


  • --------. Ritos de uma tribo Timbira. São Paulo : Ática, 1978.


  • --------. Sistema de classificação de animais e plantas pelos índios. Informativo Funai, Brasília : Funai, n. 14, p. 13-20, 1975. Republicado na Rev. de Atualidade Indígena, Brasília : Funai, n. 9, p. 30-9, 1978.


  • --------. O sistema de parentesco dos índios Krahó. Brasília : UnB, 1973. (Série Antropologia, 3)


  • --------. O sistema social Krahô. São Paulo : USP, 1970. 530 p. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • NINUENDAJÚ, Curt. A habitação dos Timbíra. In: SCHADEN, Egon. Leituras de etnologia brasileira. São Paulo : Companhia Editôra Nacional, 1976. p. 44-62.


  • OLIVEIRA, Luis Roberto Cardoso de. O velho cego : uma reflexão Krahô sobre o contato interétnico. Brasília : UnB, 1991. 40 p. (Série Antropologia, 112)


  • POLECK, Lydia (Org.). Objetos do dia-a-dia Krahô. Goiânia : UFGO, 1998. 37 p. (Textos Indígenas, Série Cultura)


  • -------- (Org.). Receitas Krahô e Apinajé. Goiânia : UFGO ; Brasília : Funai, 1994. 32 p. (Textos Indígenas, Série Receituário)


  • RIBEIRO, Rodrigo Barbosa. Krahô, cupen, turkren : o uso de bebidas alcoólicas e as maquinas sociais primitivas. São Paulo : PUC, 2001. 147 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • RODRIGUES, Eliana. Usos rituais de plantas que indicam ações sobre o sistema nervoso central pelos índios Krahô. São Paulo : Unifesp/EPM, 2001. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • SETTI, Kilza. Os sons do Perekahek no rio Vermelho : um ensaio etnográfico dos fatos musicais Krahô. In: OVERATH, Johannes (Org.). Musices aptatio (Die Musikkulturen der Indianer Brasiliens I). Roma : Consociatio Internationalis Músicae Sacrae, 1995. p. 183-239.


  • SANTOS, Hamilton Mentzingen dos. Estudos ecológicos preliminares de uma reserva indígena. Brasília : UnB, 1981. (Dissertação de graduação em Engenharia Agronômica).


  • SCHULTZ, Harald. Children of the sun and moon. The National Geographic Magazine, v. 115, n. 3, p. 340-63, 1959.


  • --------. Condenação e execução de médico-feiticeiro entre os índios Krahó. In: SCHADEN, Egon. Leituras de etnologia brasileira. São Paulo : Companhia Editôra Nacional, 1976. p. 212-24. Publicado originalmente na Rev. do Museu Paulista, São Paulo : Museu Paulista, v. 4, n.s., p. 185-97, 1960.


  • --------. Lendas dos índios Krahó. Rev. do Museu Paulista, São Paulo : Museu Paulista, v. 4, n.s., p. 49-164, 1950.


  • --------. Notas sobre magia Krahó. In: SCHADEN, Egon. Leituras de etnologia brasileira. São Paulo : Companhia Editôra Nacional, 1976. p. 199-211.


  • SETTI, Kilza. Os sons do Përekahëk no rio Vermelho : um ensaio etnográfico dos fatos musicais Krahó. In: OVERATH, Johannes (Org.). Musices aptatio (Die Musikkulturen der Indianer Brasiliens I). Roma : Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae, 1994/1995. p. 183-239.


  • SHELL, Olive. Gramatical outline of Kraho, Gê family. International Journal of American Linguistics, Bloomington : s.ed., v. 18, n. 3, 1952.


  • SOUSA, Helder Ferreira de. Os líderes Craôs no limiar do século XXI. Brasília : UnB, 2000. 103 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • SOUZA, Luiz Fernando Machado de. Etnobotânica Krahó : a importância dos vegetais na simbologia Krahó. Brasília : UnB, 1995. (Dissertação de Graduação).


  • SOUZA, Sueli Maria de. A sintaxe de uma língua de verbo no final : Krahô. São Paulo : USP, 1997. (Tese de Doutorado)


  • TAGGIA, Rafael (frei). Mappas dos indios Cherentes e Chavantes na nova povoação de Thereza Christina no Rio Tocantins e indios Charaós da aldêa de Pedro Affonso na margens do mesmo rio, ao norte da provincia de Goyaz. Rev. do Instituto Histórico e Geográphico do Brazil, Rio de Janeiro : IHGB, v. 19, p. 119-24, 1898.


  • Eu já fui seu irmão. Dir.: Vincent Carelli. Vídeo Cor, NTSC e Betacam SP, 32 min., 1993. Prod.: CTI-SP


  • Ketoaye : an initiation festival among Kraho indians. Dir.: Vincent Carelli. Vídeo cor, NTSC, 106 min., 1991. Prod.: CTI-SP


  • Kraho : os filhos da terra. Dir.: Luís Eduardo Jorge. Vídeo Cor, 53 min., 1992. Prod.: Sérgio Martinelli


  • Rito Kraho. Dir.: Heinz Forthmann. Filme Cor, 16 mm, 30 min., 1993.


  • Mekarõn : amazone indianen. Amsterdam : Awí Productions, 1992. (CD)