From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Tiago Moreira dos Santos, 2010.


Where they are How many
AM, PA 17997 (Siasi/Sesai, 2020)
Linguistic family

Historically a people with a warrior tradition, the Munduruku culturally dominated the region of the Valley of the Tapajós River, which, in the early times of contact and during the 19th Century was known as Mundurukânia. Today, the wars they wage are to guarantee the integrity of their territory, threatened by pressures from the illegal activities of gold-panning, hydroelectric projects, and the construction of a great waterway on the Tapajós.

Read the Munduruku Letter to the Government which outlines the history, ancestral places and knowledge they consider threatened by the construction os São Luiz do Tapajós dam.

Name and language

Aldeia Munduruku no rio Canumã. Foto: Ezequias Heringer Filho, 1982.
Aldeia Munduruku no rio Canumã. Foto: Ezequias Heringer Filho, 1982.

This indigenous group belongs to the Munduruku language family, a branch of the Tupi trunk. Their self-designation is Wuy jugu and, according to the traditions transmitted orally among several elders, the name Munduruku, as they have been known since the end of the 18th Century, was how they were called by the Parintintins, an enemy people located in the region between the right bank of the Tapajós and the Madeira rivers. This name was supposed to have meant “red ants”, alluding to the way the Munduruku attacked rival territories en masse.

The socio-linguistic situation of the Munduruku is quite diversified, as the result of different moments in the history of contact with the colonization frontier, and the fact of their dispersal in different geographical spaces. Most of the population located in the small villages on the banks of the Tapajós is bilingual. In the village of Sai Cinza, villages of the Cururu, Kabitutu rivers and other tributaries of the Tapajós, the children, women and elderly speak only the maternal language most of the time. There are also cases which occur where the Munduruku language goes through a process of disuse, when Portuguese is used almost exclusively, with children and young people who do not speak Munduruku fluently, for example, the villages of Mangue and Indian Beach, located on the outskirts of the city of Itaituba, and in the communities of the Coatá-Laranjal Indigenous Land, in the state of Amazonas. 

Location and population

Aldeia Munduruku. Foto: Protassio Frikel, década de 1950.
Aldeia Munduruku. Foto: Protassio Frikel, década de 1950.

The Munduruku are located in different territories and regions in the states of Pará (southwest, channel and tributaries of the Tapajós River, in the municipalities of Santarém, Itaituba, Jacareacanga), Amazon River (east, Canumã River, municipality of Nova Olinda; and near the Trans-Amazon, municipality of Borba), Mato Grosso (North, region of the river of the Fish, municipality of Juara). They generally inhabit regions of forests, on the banks of navigable rivers, while the traditional villages of the region are located in the so-called “fields of the Tapajós”, classified as a region of savannahs in the midst of the Amazon forest.

The Munduruku population is mostly concentrated on the Indigenous Land of the same name, with most of the villages being located on the Cururu River, tributary of the Tapajós. The situation of the population and lands is as follows :

Munduruku Indigenous Land Population: 4, 887 Surface area: 2,340,360 hectares Situation: Demarcated in 2001 and awaiting Homologation Decree Municipality: Jacarecanga (PA)

Sai Cinza Indigenous Land Population: 773 (difficult to obtain precise data because this indigenous land borders on the Munduruku Indigenous Land) Surface area: 125,552 hectares Situation: Homologated and registered in the SPU Municipality: Jacareacanga (PA)

Indian Beach Indigenous Land Population: 81 Surface area: 28 hectares Situation: Demarcated Municipality: Itaituba (PA)

Mangue Indigenous Land Population: 80 Surface area: 30 hectares Situation: Demarcated Municipality: Itaituba (PA)

Coatá- Laranjal Indigenous Land Population: 1.719 Surface area: 1.121.300 hectares Situation: Demarcated in 2001 and awaiting Homologation Decree Municipality: Borba (AM)

Apiaká Indigenous Land Munduruku population (New Munduruku village): 64 Municipality: Juara (MT) Riverine Munduruku, with no recognized lands, on the upper Tapajós River Communities: São Luís, Mamaeanã, Pimental, Paraná-Mirim, São Martim, Ramal, Barra de São Manoel, Km 43, Laranjal Population: 2.145 Municipality: Itaituba and Jacareacanga

Kayabi Indigenous Land Munduruku population (Teles Pires village ): 244 Surface area: 1.053.000 hectares Situation: Declared to be of permanent indigenous possession Municipality: Jacareacanga (PA) and Alta Floresta (MT)

(Sources: Funai 2000 and Funasa 2002)

History of the contact

Forró na aldeia do Laranjal, no rio Mary-Mary. Foto: Acervo Museu do Índio, 1928.
Forró na aldeia do Laranjal, no rio Mary-Mary. Foto: Acervo Museu do Índio, 1928.

The traditional territory of the Munduruku is the inland fields of the upper Tapajós. In their myth of origin, Karosakaybo created the Munduruku in the village of Wakopadi, situated in the central fields, near the headwaters of the Krepori River, a place which is situated in the vicinity of the eastern border of the land demarcated in 2001.

The first information on contact between the colonizing frontier and the Munduruku dates from the second half of the 18th Century, the first written reference being made by the vicar José Monteiro de Noronha, in 1768, who called them “Maturucu”, when they were seen on the banks of the Maués River, tributary of the Madeira River, in the old Captaincy of the Rio Negro – present-day State of Amazonas –, where there still exist communities of this ethnic group whose history of contact and relations with the national society are marked by features which are distinct from the Munduruku communities located in the region of the upper Tapajós. Today, most of the Munduruku population of the Madeira basin dwells on the Coatá-Laranjal Indigenous Land, the physical demarcation of which was also concluded in 2001. There are also records of communities outside the demarcated territories, along the Trans-Amazon highway, near the municipality of Humaitá, in the state of Amazonas.

In the region of the lower Tapajós River, near Santarém, over the last few years several communities who are in the process of asserting their ethnic identity state they are Munduruku.

The territorial expansion of the Munduruku produced different histories of contact, and it is best understood in the approach taken by historians who portray the Munduruku as an audaciously warrior nation, which undertook major incursions from the Madeira to the Tocantins, for the purpose of, among other things, obtaining trophies of enemy heads which were mummified and attributed magical powers. Through war and the imposition of their culture, the Munduruku dominated the Tapajós Valley from the end of the 18th Century, a region which for centuries was known as Mundurukânia, where they live today, whether on officially recognized lands, or in small riverine communities such as Mamãeanã, São Luís and Pimental, the latter being located only an hour by motorboat from the municipality of Itaituba.

The Munduruku were only conquered by the colonizers after several expeditions and ransom troops, organized by the Portuguese, were sent to the region, in retaliation for the resistance that the indigenous peoples presented through their attacks on the settlements. These attacks ended with the adoption of a supposedly friendly relation which several scholars have characterized as “peace agreements” between Munduruku chiefs and colonial authorities of the interfluvial region of the lower Madeira/Tapajós, at the end of the 18th Century, which led, for example, to the appeasement of relations with the dwellers of the town of Santarém. From then on, they were put in missionary settlements, and set to work in the exploitation of the so-called “wilderness drugs” (cumaru, cacau etc.), although several groups continued making war against rival ethnic groups, thereby in a certain fashion favoring the action of the colonizers in the occupation of the region.

As a consequence of the vast areas of their occupation and over which they traveled, the contacts of the Munduruku with the frontiers of expansion varied in accordance with the nearness and ease of access to their territories. These factors resulted in the emergence of differentiated aspects of the cultures of the Indians located on the banks of the Tapajós River, the Madeira and Cururu rivers, and the area of low-forest known as the Fields of the Tapajós, the region where the more traditional villages were located, and which is the setting for a good part of the mythology of these people.

The rubber boom

Beginning in the second half of the 19th Century, the expansion of the extractivist economy became consolidated with the exploitation of caucho (castilloa elastica) and rubber (hevea brasiliensis), giving rise to the so-called rubber boom, which launched the Amazon region into the international capitalist market. This fact accelerated the process of non-indigenous occupation on the upper Tapajós and other areas of concentrations of the latex, especially from the end of the century, when thousands of workers from the Northeast region of Brazil migrated to the Amazon where they were forced to submit to compulsory labor in the exploitation of rubber, within the system known as the barracks, controlled by the owners of the rubber stands. This economic situation caused the invasion of indigenous territories, forcing the constant movement of native societies throughout the Amazon region.

For the Munduruku, these events, together with the first missionary settlement to be established in the upper part of the rapids of the Tapajós, mark a cycle in their history representing the continuous presence of non-Indians in a region which was previously under their control. The first settlement in this region, known as Bacabal Mission, was established in 1872, below the mouth of the Crepuri River, under the control of the Franciscan friars. Even so, the traditional villages located in difficult-to-reach places, that is, in the fields, remained autonomous for a long time, there being records left by travelers and chroniclers who passed through the region about warrior incursions of the Munduruku which continued until the beginning of the 20th Century.

Historical and anthropological studies attribute a predominant influence on the dislocation of the Munduruku from the traditional villages of the fields to the banks of the navigable rivers of the region, particularly the Tapajós and the Cururu, to the commerce of the river merchants who traveled the rivers selling their wares (sugar, cloth, salt, rum etc.) from the end of the 19th Century. According to this analysis, the Munduruku of the villages in the fields began to move in the dry season to the banks of the Tapajós for the purpose of exchanging rubber and forest products for industrialized goods, and thus they began settling on the banks of the rivers.

However, in the oral traditions of these people, the explanation is different. While narrating the seasonal dislocations to the Tapajós and later, to the Cururu River, other factors were decisive in their permanent settlement on the banks of the rivers, for example, a great measles epidemic which occurred at the beginning of the 1940s, when a significant part of the population was decimated, including the deaths of chiefs of large traditional villages of the fields.

This tendency to dislocation, even in the first decades after the establishment of the São Francisco Mission on the Cururu river, in 1911, retained its seasonal character, that is, the journeys of the Munduruku to the banks of the Tapajós and Cururu occurred in the dry season. Later, the Indian Protection Service (SPI) came to the region, establishing the Kayabi Attraction Post, on the São Manoel River, in 1940, and in 1942 the Munduruku Indigenous Attraction Post, on the Cururu River, contributing, along with the Franciscan Mission, to the acceleration and consolidation of the process of dislocation of the Munduruku, as well as the Kayabi and Apiaká. Both institutions exercised important roles in the consolidation of extractive labor in caucho and rubber among the Indians, opening the way for the dislocation of a large part of the population of the fields to the Cururu River.

It is also a fact that both the Franciscan Mission and the SPI contributed to the maintenance of the territorial space of the Munduruku against the assault of the extractivist frontier expansion, which was marked by two periods of major intensity: the first from about 1880 to 1920, when the rubber economy and culture flourished throughout Amazonia, but which went into decline as a result of the competition from British rubber stands cultivated in Malaysia; and the second cycle in the period from the Second World War to the post-war decade, due to the suspending of economic relations with the Far East, when, with the support of the American government, Brazil adopted an explicit policy of encouraging rubber production, establishing credit lines for these activities and stimulating the dislocation of Northeasterners to work as rubber-gatherers, and who were officially called "soldiers of rubber".

Missionary presence

Besides having exercised an influence in the concentration of the population on the banks of the Cururu River, the Catholic mission spread the foundations of Catholicism, such as the baptizing of newborn, which became obligatory, and marriage in the church. Nevertheless, in relation to the world of indigenous religion, even considering that the practices of conversion do not differ in essence from those promulgated in the colonial period, with the condemning of the rituals of shamanism, the advances made in terms of conversion to Catholicism can be considered modest taking into account that the Munduruku are extremely connected to the world of their traditional religion.

The Mission still exercises today important functions in the fields of education and health. Lately, even disagreeing with indigenous beliefs, the Church has sought to contribute to the process of organizing and preparing the Munduruku by helping to implement the demarcation and protection of land and supporting their claims to their rights.

It is worth remembering also that in the village of Sai Cinza, on the Tapajós River, for more than 30 years there has been a Baptist Congregation Mission, which among its objectives, exercises religious activity with considerable efficiency, parallel to the resistance of the Munduruku cultural tradition. The Baptist Mission, like the Catholics, have an important role in school education, contributing to the teaching of writing in the Munduruku language among the young people. Today, despite not abdicating their role as evangelizers, the Mission seeks to integrate its work to contemporary questions and problems that the population faces, thus supporting the struggle of the Munduruku.

Social organization

Mulher munduruku com orifício labial. Foto: Protassio Frikel, década de 1950.
Mulher munduruku com orifício labial. Foto: Protassio Frikel, década de 1950.

The social organization of the Munduruku is based on the existence of two exogamic moieties, which are identified as the red moiety and the white moiety. Presently, there are about 38 known clans, which are divided between the two moieties, whence not only kinship relations are derived, but also various meanings in relation to the daily life of the village, the world of nature and the sacred.

Descent is patrilineal, that is, the children inherit the clan identity from the father, although the residence rule is matrilocal, meaning that the recently-married young man goes to live in the house of his wife’s father, to whom he must provide his collaboration in such tasks as making gardens, hunting and all other activities related to the maintenance of the house, including going along with the family in the labor of extraction and harvesting in the rubber and nut-stands. Generally, this period of living with the wife’s father corresponds to the first years of marriage, up until the birth of the second child; after this phase is over, the husband takes care of building a house for his family.

Over the last few years, in several families and villages, among the productive activities, there is work on the gold-prospecting sites, generally in the region of the Kaburuá and Tropas rivers, where they exploit small grottoes. But this need has decreased somewhat as a result of the inclusion of the indigenous elders in the social benefits program of the INSS (government social security). This has produced several changes in the role of provider and source of income among the families. The benefits received generally are shared, with special attention for the grandchildren; most of the time these resources are used to acquire products that otherwise would only be possible to get through labor in rubber extraction and other activities of natural resource exploitation.

Since the clans are exogamous, a person belonging to one moiety can only marry a person belonging to the opposite moiety. Thus, a person of the Boro clan, one of the many clans of the white moiety, can only marry someone from the red moiety, such as Karo. There are a variety of possibilities; among the white moiety, there are the Kirixi, Akai, Saw and others; in the red moiety: Kabá, Tawé, Wako and others. The names of the clans correspond to different elements of nature, such as trees, birds and mammals, which are part of the rich cosmology of the Munduruku, and are often found in the traditional songs and narratives that explain the world and the relations of humans within it.

Marriage is preferably made among cross-cousins, which means that the young man or girl tends to marry the mother’s brother’s daughter or the father’s sister’s son, respectively. From the information that I obtained, marriage among the Munduruku was never the occasion for great rituals, despite there being clear and precise rules on courtship, requesting a spouse, approaching marriage and consolidation of the relation. Separation is permitted. Marriage is a sphere of social relations which is very important to the harmony of society, essential for the good relationship among families, for relations of trade and solidarity and for the political organization of the community.

Cultural aspects

Aldeia Coatá, no rio Canumã. Foto: Ezequias Heringer Filho, 1982.
Aldeia Coatá, no rio Canumã. Foto: Ezequias Heringer Filho, 1982.

After Munduruku contact with the frontiers of economic expansion and non-indigenous institutions (the mission and the SPI), various aspects of their culture suffered changes. Since they were a warrior people, various significant cultural expressions were related to war activities, which had an important symbolic role in the formation of the man and Munduruku society. The dislocations of the traditional villages to the banks of the rivers, forming small population nuclei, certainly also contributed to the disappearance of the men’s house, an important unit in the traditional village and in the fixed character of certain collective rituals related to food-producing activities, divided between the dry season (April to September) and the rainy season (October to March). Among these rituals was the “mother of the woods”, held in the beginning of the rains, the purpose of which was to obtain permission for hunting activities, incursions into the forest and good results in the hunt. Several elements of this activity are still present, or have been reshaped with new meanings, especially in relation to respect for the hunted animals, daily practices of the hunter in order to obtain game animals and dietary rules.

The Munduruku maintain several cultural practices related to fishing, an activity which is done with greater intensity in the summer, among which are the games that precede fishing with timbó, a root that, after being beaten to a pulp, is dowsed in the rivers to facilitate the capturing of the fish. Generally, on the day before the fishing expedition, or “tingüejada”, the timbó root is beaten on trunks, in a rhythmic fashion with clubs by the men. The women, especially the young women, gather urucu [red dye] or the sap - in the form of a white gum - called sorva, and start persecuting the men in order to smear these products on their faces and hair; the men flee and so begins a game that involves the whole village. For the Munduruku this is a way of pleasing the fish and obtaining abundance in fishing on the following day.

Presently, in several villages the parasuy flutes are still periodically played; these are important instruments in Munduruku mythology. But the players are old men, which compromises the continuity of the tradition. Nevertheless, the young men, especially the teachers and young leadership, have taken initiatives seeking to preserve the traditional music and songs.

The richness of Munduruku culture is extraordinary, and includes a repertoire of traditional songs with a level of poetry and musicality which is rare among Amazonian groups, and which has to do with daily relations, fruits, animals, etc. The cosmology includes narratives that demonstrate knowledge of the stars, constellations of the Milky Way, called kabikodepu, in which the stars that comprise it are identified.


In religious practices, the shamans exercise a primordial role of curing through the manipulation of herbs, smoke-curing and contact with the world of the spirits. Traditional religiosity is very present among the Munduruku, even with the changes they have suffered from colonization. Religiosity is present in all aspects of daily life, governing their relations with nature, practices in the world of labor and social relations.  

Foto: Luis Fernando Sadek, 1982
Foto: Luis Fernando Sadek, 1982

There are two religious missions present. The Mission of São Francisco, located in the Mission village, on the Cururu River, which was established in 1911; and the Baptist Mission, which began its activities at the end of the 1960s, located in the village of Sai Cinza, on the Tapajós River, at a distance of about 40 minutes by boat from the small city of Jacareacanga. As I have said before, interferences in the cultural and religious life of the Munduruku have taken place due to the presence of the two religious institutions; however, most of the Munduruku, despite participating in Catholic and Protestant rituals, can hardly be considered fully converted. Presently, there is no longer any open objection on the part of the Mission to the practice of shamanism. And it seems that the Munduruku do not give much importance to the condemnations made by the Christian religions of their traditional religiosity. The presence of missions from different religions has not caused rivalries or religious disputes among the Munduruku, a fact which can be taken to mean they have found their own solutions and interpretations with regard to religion.

Material culture

In their material culture, the Munduruku are distinguished in their basketry and weaving, which are male activities, and it is up to the men to make the Iço – a basket the women use to carry fruits and garden products –, the sieves and other utensils for domestic use made from natural fibers and strips.

Munduruku baskets are decorated with designs made with urucu that identify the husband’s clan. Thus, for example, the straps for carrying children which are made by the women with a fiber extracted from a tree, identify, through their natural red or white color, the exogamous moiety to which the child belongs.

Several men and especially the women are outstanding in the making of collars with zoomorphic figures (fish, turtles, wildcats, alligators, etc.) sculpted from inajá and tucumã seeds.

Ceramics, a female activity par excellence, has nearly disappeared, although there are several women in the villages of Kaburuá and Katõ who still have a command of the traditional techniques. There is information that, among the Munduruku of the Coatá indigenous land, in the state of Amazonas, this practice has a greater presence.

Weaving, mainly cotton hammocks, has also fallen into disuse, despite there being a considerable number of adult and elderly women who know the technique and sometimes weave articles for sale as artwork.

Productive system

Crianças Munduruku voltam da pesca. Foto: Protassio Frikel, década de 1950.
Crianças Munduruku voltam da pesca. Foto: Protassio Frikel, década de 1950.

The lifeways related to the production and obtaining of foods among the Munduruku are what predominantly make up the field of traditional economy, despite the inclusion of several non-indigenous products in their eating habits, products which have to be bought on a regular basis, of which the most important are salt, coffee and sugar.

Agriculture is practiced according to an age-old system of knowledge, on terra firme, where the Munduruku make full use of the spaces available and the diversified planting of cultigens. The cultivated plants most often found are different types of manioc, bananas, potatoes, sugarcane and yams. Fruit-trees are most often planted on the trails to the gardens.

In their social division of labor, it is up to the men to do the cutting of the underbrush and felling of the trees where the stump garden will be cleared. The coivara, cleaning after the burning, is normally done by the whole family. The planting of manioc is done by both the man and his wife; other plants such as potatoes, yams, pineapple and peppers are planted only by the women. Normally weeding the gardens and harvesting are done by the women.

Activities such as fishing, hunting, and gathering are important to food production and are organized according to the seasons of the year. Fishing certainly constitutes the main form of obtaining animal protein, being done on a daily basis in the dry season with good results, and less practiced in the rainy season, when the rivers are high forming flooded areas (igapós) which makes fishing difficult.

The gathering of fruits is done in different periods of the year according to the ripening times of each fruit-tree (açaí, patauá, bacaba, uxi, jubá, pupunha, murici, ingá, castanha etc.). The thick juices, which are regionally known as wines, have an important role in the diet, especially in the rainy period, when the fish becomes scarce, and, along with manioc flour and game meat, form the basis of the diet in the winter.

As far as the means for obtaining income which makes it possible to purchase certain products (salt, sugar, soap, clothes, sandals, fuel etc.), the Munduruku presently are engaged in producing manioc flour in several communities of the Tapajós River, the gathering of nuts in many communities of different rivers and rubber production – the latter, it should be said, is less and less important due to the low prices offered. As discussed in the item “History of Contact”, the Munduruku served as manual labor in the golden periods of the rubber boom, such that this activity became incorporated into their cultural universe.

Gold on the Tapajós

After the fall in the price of rubber, the region of the Tapajós was discovered at the end of the 1950s as a major source of gold. The movement to exploit this mineral intensified after the construction of the Trans-Amazon highway in 1972, and reached a peak in the period from 1975 to 1990. The Munduruku came to participate in the exploitation of gold from the 1980s on, either through doing what was called “reco” (panning in the places which had already been exploited by dragging equipment, in an effort to find flakes of gold) in the period of intensive exploitation of the gold sites by barges on the Tapajós and São Manoel rivers, or by visiting the sites exploited by non-Indians in the so-called “garimpos de baixão” (a name given to the prospecting site, formed by rectangular excavations on the banks of the rivers, made with the use of tools and machines). By that time, on their own initiative, they opened up the prospecting sites on the eastern side of the indigenous land, between the Cabitutu, Kaburuá and Tropas rivers. Many exploited places were abandoned because they produced very little; however, the gold production in small quantities still guarantees income for many young fathers.

Over the last few years, with the decline in the exploitation of gold throughout the region and the growing consciousness of the socio-cultural and health damages caused by these activities on the population, several indigenous communities have gone back to becoming interested once again in renewable forestry activities, seeking to find alternatives for improvement to increase the worth of products such as rubber, castanha nuts and copaiba oil. This process is still in its embryonic phase, requiring the elaboration of specific projects which seek to obtain resources that finance the activities. In any case, the question is connected to the discussions that the Munduruku have been engaged in over the last few years, on the defense of their territory and the preservation of natural resources and culture.

Indigenous organizations

The Munduruku participated in the second Assembly of Indigenous Chiefs held in Brazil, in May, 1975, in the village of the Cururu Mission, in which leaders from various ethnic groups were present (the first Assembly took place at the center of the Anchieta Mission, in April, 1974, and Munduruku representatives were not present). The first Assemblies organized on the initiative of the leaders in which chiefs and representatives of most of the Munduruku villages participated, took place in 1985/86, and was focused on the question of land demarcation, besides discussing problems related to education, health, environment and economic projects for the communities. But the meetings only began to be recorded after the holding of the 1st General Assembly of the Munduruku People, in 1989. With the passing of the years, the organization has matured, participation has been growing and the discussions have widened in scope.

As a means of formal organization, in 1991, the Munduruku of the upper Tapajós River created the Pusuru Indigenous Association, which was an initiative of several of the leaders and which had the objective of organizing claims around the issue of the demarcation of lands, as well as developing actions in defense of the environment, education, health, and other problems faced by the population. In the same year, the leaders understood that some kind of organization was necessary that could exercise a more direct political role, guiding the discussions, and that would make it possible to have a broad participation of various Munduruku communities. Thus the Munduruku Indigenous Council of the upper Tapajós (CIMAT) came into being.

In 2002 the 14th General Assembly was held, the first after the work of demarcating the land was finished, for which many leaders had struggled together with their communities.

However, there are many challenges. The difficulty of the location, among other factors, discourages more continuous exchange relations with other indigenous organizations, as well as knowledge of other experiences and the search for allies to confront their present problems. The organization of the Munduruku, as is the case of many indigenous peoples in Brazil, is experiencing a situation of near isolation that makes it difficult to achieve greater political maturity, and oftentimes falls into the hands of unfavorable mediation by local agents who have no commitment to indigenous rights.

Even with this situation, the two organizations act together and have been responsible for several important actions to strengthen the Munduruku people. In 1998, they presented a project which was approved by the PPTAL, for the setting up of a radiophone network coordinated by the Pusuru and the CIMAT, establishing communication among 10 villages located at points which are important for the protection of the territory, and for the coordination of activities, a fact which has contributed to improving communication and exchange, consolidating the organization.

In 2001, the organizations, with the support of the PPTAL, accomplished the Project for Accompanying the Demarcation of the Munduruku Indigenous Land, and in 2002, the recently renewed Project for Protection of the same indigenous land was accomplished. The Pusuru and the CIMAT coordinate the activities for mobilizing the Munduruku, sending on indigenous rights claims and are the intermediaries in the relations with public institutions. To meet these objectives, headquarters were established in the city of Jacareacanga.

Nevertheless, the interference of local political powers in questions that have to do with the lives of the Munduruku has increased. This fact, along with the negligence and disinterest of the regional Funai in questions that have to do with their duties, has represented a serious threat to the process of consolidation of the Munduruku organization as an autonomous and independent entity.


Another aspect that is worth recording in the process of organization of the Munduruku is the interest they have always had in the improvement of school education. Many of the existing schools arose as a result of the initiative of the communities, and several indigenous teachers have worked for years as volunteers, contributing to literacy and the sentiment of commitment from many young people who today are participating in actions in the community interest. The work of training the first teachers was initiated in the mid-1970s, with support from the SIL (International Linguistics society) and the Mission of São Francisco.

After a long interval, at the end of the 1980s, school activities were renewed with a new format and new principles, some on the initiative of the CIMI (Indigenist Missionary Council) and others by the Funai. Presently, there exists a Project for the Training of Munduruku Indigenous Teachers, coordinated by the Funai in partnership with the Indigenous Education Sector of the SEDUC-PA (Secretary of Education of the state of Pará), which also has the support of the Munduruku organizations and the Baptist Mission and Cururu Mission. The course, in modules and begun in 1998, is in the process of being officially recognized by the State Council of Education of the state of Pará.


Among the current problems faced by the Munduruku, especially those located in communities of the region of the Tapajós River, is the precariousness of health assistance. Medical attention to indigenous health in the region is coordinated by the FUNASA through an agreement with the Prefecture of Jacareacanga.

The health problems increase with the passing of time, despite the fact that several aspects were the object of studies done several years ago, such as mercury poisoning as mentioned above, and the high rate of hepatitis B, which has been demonstrated by studies of the Evandro Chagas Institute since the beginning of the 1990s. Parallel to these ailments, the numbers referring to cases of tuberculosis, malaria and respiratory infections, resulting in many deaths, continues to be worrisome. The participation in and social control of the health policy are still very weak, there not being sufficient coordination to inspect and demand rights, which are thus ignored by those responsible who do not provide in an even minimally satisfactory manner for the health needs of the Munduruku people.

Another problem which has interfered in the health of the Munduruku has to do with the relations established with ever greater frequency with the city of Jacareacanga, a municipality founded in 1993, including cases of the exodus of whole families. The cases of sexually transmitted diseases have been ever more frequent, as well as the social harm caused by the eagerness with which the young men go to the city.

In the other locations

The Munduruku who are in other areas have also gone over similar trails in the struggle for their rights and in the consolidation of their organizations. In Indian Beach and in Mangue, small areas of land in the city of Itaituba, there is the Pari’rip Association and a project for the revitalization of language and culture initiated by the Indigenous School which the community maintains with the support of a non-governmental organization and the Funai.

On the Coatá-Laranjal Indigenous Land, in the state of Amazonas, the demarcation was also accompanied by the existing Indigenous Association through the project financed by the PPTAL (Integrated Project for Protection of the Lands and Indigenous Populations of the Brazilian Amazon Region). Presently, there is a project in the community to produce sugarcane molasses and blocks of raw brown sugar supported financially by the Funai through the Regional Administration of Manaus.

Over the last few years, the Munduruku of these different areas have sought ways of getting closer and keeping regular contacts amongst each other for the purpose of exchanging experiences and sharing aspects of their culture. This is a desire that, despite the difficulties, if it works, it could produce new knowledge and alternatives for meeting head-on the new challenges.

Sources of information

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