From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Cloude de Souza Correia, 2003


Where they are How many
AC 535 (Siasi/Sesai, 2020)
Linguistic family

Nawa is a self-designation or an indicator of otherness ("other people") in many Pano-speaking societies, and was recently claimed by this indigenous group, now living inside the Serra do Divisor National Park, as the name by which they should be officially recognized by the Brazilian state. This claim arose in response to the threatened resettlement of the population outside the perimeter of the Conservation Unit, which as an integral protection area outlaws habitation inside its borders. They are now fighting for official recognition of their land, a process initiated by Funai. Due to violent contact in the past with expanding colonialist frontiers, especially the rubber industry, the Nawa no longer speak their language, though their worldview and way of life reflects a series of aspects identifiable with the Pano cultural complex.

Location, population and environment

Most of the Nawa population currently resides in the municipality of Mâncio Lima, though some members of the group can be found in other municipalities of Acre state, such as Cruzeiro do Sul, Rodrigues Alves and Rio Branco. Nawa families also live in other states, in the cities of Porto Velho/RO and Manaus/AM, and in Peru.

In Mâncio Lima, the Nawa mostly live on the right shore of the Moa river and along the smaller rivers on the same shore, namely the Jordão, Pijuca, Novo Recreio, Jarina, Venâncio and Jesumira. This forms the area where they are currently demanding the identification and delimitation of their lands. The official process for recognizing this area has already been initiated by Funai.

The Nawa population resident in the Indigenous Territory under claim numbers approximately 306 people. A partial survey of the Nawa population living in the city of Mâncio Lima also registered 117 Nawa. As the urban survey was incomplete, the actual number of Nawa residents may be much higher.

<col width="110"/> <col width="70"/>

Igarapé/Rio Population
Novo Recreio 141
Jesumira 24
Moa 72
Jarina 13
Venâncio 07
Jordão 04
Pijuca 45
Total 306


The Nawa Indigenous Territory is located in Acre state, itself situated in the far southwest of Brazilian Amazonia. The state possesses international borders with Peru and Bolivia, and national borders with the states of Amazonas and Rondônia. The state’s highest point is in the far west where the low-lying relief gives way to the Divisor Range, a branch of the Contamana Peruvian Mountain Range, with a maximum altitude of 600m.

Acre's soils are home to a natural vegetation mainly composed of dense tropical and open tropical forests with a rich variety of economically valuable species, nurtured by a hot and wet equatorial climate.

Acre’s hydrography is fairly complex and its drainage evenly distributed, formed by the hydrographic basins of the Juruá and Purus, right-bank affluents of the Solimões (Amazon) river.

The Nawa Indigenous Territory is located in the Juruá river basin, which occupies a broad area of 25,000km². The total length of the Juruá is 3,280km, with an overall drop of 410m. The river rises in Peru at 453m above sea level as the Paxiúba river, later converging with the Salambô where it becomes known as the Juruá. The river crosses the north-western part of Acre state from north to south before entering the state of Amazonas and finally flowing into the Solimões.

The Upper Juruá basin drains a vast area of Acre state, spread across five municipalities: Marechal Thaumaturgo, Cruzeiro do Sul, Rodrigues Alves, Mâncio Lima and Porto Valter. The Juruá river itself passes through just three of these municipalities: Marechal Thaumaturgo, Cruzeiro do Sul and Porto Valter.

The Juruá river has nine main affluents on its right bank: the Breu, Caipora, São João, Acuriá, Tejo, Grajaú, Natal, Humaitá and Valparaíso. There are another nine important affluents on the left bank: the Amônea, Aparição, São Luiz, Paratati, Rio das Minas, Ouro Preto, Juruá-Mirim, Paraná dos Mouras and Moa. The Nawa Indigenous Territory is located on the right shore of the upper Moa river, in the municipality of Mâncio Lima.

The Nawa Indigenous Territory forms part of a ‘mosaic’ of 25 federal lands in the Upper Juruá region: a National Park, three Extractivist Reserves and 21 Indigenous Territories.


As the literature on the region’s history indicates, the term Nawa (also written in various sources as Naua, Náua or Nahua) derives from the Pano language and can be translated as ‘people’ and ‘other.’ Generally speaking, Nawa is used by Pano peoples to refer to other populations. In most cases the term is used to distinguish ethnic boundaries between indigenous peoples, frequently used as a suffix to the names given to ethnic groups such as the Kaxinawa (‘bat people’), Yaminawa (‘axe people’), Shawãnawa (‘macaw people’) and so on.

Examining the historiographic texts, we can surmise that the term Nawa was used at various times to refer to a range of peoples from the Pano linguistic family. Irrespective of the difficulty in telling the precise identity of the people named Nawa by the explorers and settlers of the Upper Juruá, the term is undoubtedly used to refer to the indigenous population located on the left shore of the Juruá, or more precisely on one of its affluents, the Moa river.

In this region, an area now in the process of being identified as an Indigenous Territory, many people call themselves Nawa, including individuals from the Nawa, Poyanawa, Shawãnawa (Arara), Nukini and Amoaca groups.

Among those now calling themselves Nawa, various individuals possess an extensive Pano vocabulary, though nobody speaks the maternal language fluently. The fact that the population was once ridiculed and discriminated for speaking the indigenous language may have dissuaded them from passing it on to their descendents, producing a young population taught only in Portuguese and speaking none of the Pano languages. More recently children, adults and elderly people are attempting to revive their indigenous language by transmitting the known vocabulary among themselves and incorporating other Pano terms obtained through interethnic contact.

Contact between the different Pano peoples has occurred over centuries in a vast region that includes parts of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. In the latter country, the indigenous Pano societies are situated in the south and west of Acre state, where their lands extend eastwards as far as the western portion of Rondônia and northwards into Amazonas state between the Juruá and Javari rivers (Rodrigues 1994).


The Upper Juruá was occupied by the Pano and Arawak groups since the pre-Colombian period. From the start of the 19th century, though, it began to be invaded by explorers and merchants coming from Belém, Manaus and urban centres located along the Solimões river (AM), who journeyed up the Juruá river to sell commodities to the native population. They exchanged industrialized goods for various ‘forest products’ in heavy demand in the regional market, such as sarsaparilla, copaiba (diesel tree), pirarucu fish, game, wild animal skins, turtle eggs and fat, Brazil nuts and vanilla. During the expeditions in search of these products, many Indians were enslaved and used in forestry work. Others were sold to rich families in the urban centres (Aquino & Iglesias 1994:6).

In Castelo Branco’s account, there were three ‘species’ of explorer who occupied what is now Acre and thus the Upper Juruá. Those who explored the rivers searching for a route to Bolivia; those who journeyed along the main river with the intention of claiming land, marking some beaches for themselves or to be sold; and those who came in the wake of the latter and temporarily camped in ‘tapiris’ to begin clearing the ‘roads’ that would form the future seringal or rubber extraction area (Castelo Branco 1961:174). The first two forms of occupying the region cited by the author involved a relatively small contingent of invaders compared to the latter.

The ‘Indian grabbers’ and the ‘drug gatherers’ had invaded the Purus and Juruá river areas since the mid 18th century, particularly along the former river (Castelo Branco 1958:18). However, the explorers of the Juruá river only reached the regions forming modern-day Acre state during the 19th century, prior to exploring areas belonging to the region formed today by the state of Amazonas. According to Castelo Branco, the non-indigenous occupation of the Juruá took place from the 1850s to 1870s, albeit in ‘hesitant’ form (1947:176). The first explorer of the Juruá to reach the lands forming the current state of Acre was the Director of Indians João da Cunha Correia, appointed to this post in 1854. He probably reached the Upper Juruá in 1858 when he travelled upriver as far as the mouth of the Juruá Mirim, encountering only peaceful Indians on the way (Castelo Branco 1958:60-65 and 73).

Though João Correia was the first to reach Acre, the first historiographic references to Nawa Indians living on the Upper Juruá comes from Castelnau, who in 1847, based on information from ‘drug gatherers,’ recorded the presence of ‘Nawa,’ ‘Catuquina’ and ‘Tuchinaua’ villages close to the mouth of the Tarauacá river (Castelo Branco 1950:07).

The hostile response of the Nawa to attempts to contact them lasted throughout the 19th century. The voyage of explorer William Chandless to the Upper Juruá was interrupted in 1867 by an attack launched by the Nawa Indians 346 miles upriver from the confluence with the Tarauacá, at the site of the future Ouro Preto seringal, a short distance above the mouth of the Riozinho da Liberdade.

According to the historian Castelo Branco, at the start of 1884 the Pernambucan Antônio Marques de Meneses, better known by the nickname ‘Pernambuco,’ along with several companions, landed at the ‘Stretch of the Nauas,’ close to the mouth of the Moa, named ‘Centro Brasileiro’ by Pernambuco some years later in 1894 (1930:593). As the account makes clear, his arrival was not greeted peacefully. The explorer was expelled by the Indians living along the ‘Stretch of the Nauas.’ Also in 1884, the Italians Henrique Cani, Antônio Brozzo and Domingos Stulzer, along with the Brazilians Ismael Galdino da Paixão and Domingos Pereira de Souza, explored the Juruá with the intention of settling there. The encounter between these settlers of the Juruá and the Nawa was less violent than the encounter with Pernambuco. The expedition formed by Italians and Brazilians was able to visit two Nawa villages, located on the stretch of river of the same name, and distribute gifts to the population.

From 1888 onwards various expeditions began to penetrate the Moa river. In 1893 they reached the last sections of the river, including the Azul or Breguesso river, where they found rubber trees (Castelo Branco 1961:209). Castelo Branco claims that by the latter date the Nawa were no longer inhabiting the regions traditionally occupied by themselves. Prior to 1893, twelve Brazilians travelled along the Breu river as far as the mouth of the Vacapistéa, going beyond the territory later identified as Brazilian by the Treaty of Petrópolis. Many of these explorers set up rubber extraction sites along the Juruá river and its affluents, provoking the migration of various of the region’s indigenous peoples.

According to information from the former court judge of Cruzeiro do Sul and regional historian José Brandão Castelo Branco Sobrinho, the seringals (rubber sites) on the Upper Juruá were established in a regular pattern: as the discoverers moved upriver, they reserved some beaches for each future proprietor, marking the boundaries of the seringals with a small clearing and leaving a ‘tablet’ with the names of the proprietors (Castelo Branco 1930:595). This form of occupying the Upper Juruá led to the creation of various seringals.

Peruvian caucheiros and Brazilian seringalistas

As indicated, the exploration and effective occupation of the Upper Juruá region took place in the last two decades of the 19th century after various clashes with indigenous peoples. During this period the region was populated mainly by migrants arriving from the Brazilian Northeast, who, fleeing the drought of 1877, established various rubber tapper settlements (colocações) and roads. At the end of the final decade of the 19th century, the Upper Juruá was already populated by Brazilian seringalistas when Peruvian caucheiros arrived in search of caucho rubber (Castilloa ellastica) and other forest products, such as wild animal skins and hardwoods, and soon occupied the region. These Peruvians founded a number of establishments at the mouth of the Moa river, on the Breu river and facing the mouth of the Amahuacas (Riozinho Cruzeiro do Vale). This occupation was shallow-rooted and short-lasting, coming to an end at the beginning of the 20th century, while the occupation by the north-eastern migrants was massive and long-lasting (Castelo Branco 1930:640).

These two ‘extraction fronts,’ the Peruvian caucho extractors and the Brazilian rubber tappers, came into violent contact with the region’s indigenous groups, provoking the correrias (exterminations) that led to the decimation and enslavement of these peoples, or their acceptance of the relations of production imposed upon them, as well as the dispersion of many of the groups (Castelo Branco 1961:178). In these correrias, the non-Indians occupying the Upper Jurá very often used ‘pacified’ Indians to enslave or decimate the more isolated groups.

In the case of the Nawa, the group still possesses strong collective memories of the massacre provoked by the expansion of extractivist operations on the Upper Juruá. Seu Nilton, 66 years old, recalls:

The ancestors? They were killed because when they came to found Cruzeiro do Sul there, the maloca was nearby. The elders told me, it was there. Their tribe lived there. That was where the Stretch of the Nawa was located, they lived right there on the Stretch of the Nawa, upriver on the Juruá. They lived there too, they inhabited that area. That’s where they set fire to them and killed them off. This seed escaped. Like when you discard it, the seed remained, and from that seed the Nawa multiplied again. Our tribes today. (Nilton 2003, Pé da Serra).

The reduction of the indigenous population on the Upper Juruá was observed around the time that the Territory of Acre was created, during the first years of the 20th century when the Brazilian federal government began to act more consistently in the Upper Juruá region. In response to the 1902-03 Acrean revolution, the negotiations between Brazil and Bolivia led to the establishment of the Treaty of Petrópolis, on 17th of November 1903, defining the limits of Brazilian possessions in relation to the Bolivian government.

As a consequence of this Treaty, the following year the National Congress issued Law No. 1.181, of February 25th 1904, authorizing the President of the Republic, Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves, to administrate the recently recognized Federal Territory of Acre on a provisional basis. The same year, the Territory of Acre was divided by Decree No. 5.188, of April 7th 1904, into three administrative departments, denominated Upper Acre, Upper Purus and Upper Juruá. The Department of the Upper Juruá comprised the lands drained by the Tarauacá river and its affluents, as well as the lands of the Upper Juruá and its tributaries from the Moa to the Breu (Castelo Branco 1930:666).

The region occupied by the Nawa therefore became part of the Department of the Upper Juruá, whose first mayor, from a total of 29, was the army colonel Gregório Thaumaturgo de Azevedo. Immediately in his first year as a mayor, in 1904, the colonel looked to regulate rubber extraction activities. Decree No. 15, of December 15th 1904, created the Labour Law and Decree No. 16, of December 24th 1904, looked to regulate free transit and the regatões river trading (Azevedo 1905:06-09). Issued during a period when rubber production was increasing, these decrees were designed to limit the authoritarianism of the bosses.

The concern of the first mayor of the Department of the Upper Juruá for the region’s indigenous peoples led him to adopt a number of measures to avoid massacres. Interested in incorporating the Indians into national society, Azevedo asked the Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro to send European priests to convert the Indians, a request only met years later.

Castelo Branco also records that the actions of the federal government in the region began with the establishment of the provisional headquarters of the mayorship in a place called Invencível, on September 12th 1904. This was subsequently transferred by Decree No. 28 of September 1904 issued by the mayor of the Department of the Upper Juruá to its definitive site on the lands of the former Centro Brasileiro seringal and renamed Cruzeiro do Sul. On May 31st 1906, Cruzeiro do Sul was made a town (Castelo Branco 1930:668).

For those involved in the rubber extraction industry, the foundation of Cruzeiro do Sul marked the early consolidation of the region’s occupation. However, for the Nawa the town’s foundation came to represent a period of extreme violence against them.

On June 1st 1910, Acre’s autonomy was proclaimed in Cruzeiro do Sul. In 1912, the municipalities of the Territory of Acre were created by Decree No. 9.831 of October 23rd 1912, with the area corresponding to the  Department of the Upper Juruá being named the municipality of Cruzeiro do Sul (Castelo Branco 1930:684).

During the first years of the 20th century, the Nawa retreated from the locale known as the ‘Stretch of the Naua,’ migrating to a number of other locations. This migration was provoked by a disease (catarrão, an acute form of bronchitis), which decimated much of the Nawa population. As mentioned previously, the growing non-indigenous occupation of the Upper Juruá caused a demographic collapse due to the violence persecutions and the transmission of new diseases.

In 1911, another engineer, Máximo Linhares, working as an assistant for the Indian Protection and National Worker Localization Service (SPILTN), travelled through the Juruá valley. He hypothesized that the Poyanawa could be survivors from the Nawa, inhabiting

the strip of lands formed by the Paraná dos Mouras and the Môa river, and who on good grounds are presumed to be remnants of the former Naua Indians. Some twenty years ago they fled from the left bank of the Juruá, where they lived, ravaged by smallpox, which had spread through the area with great intensity, and by the greed of the adventurers who warred against them. They migrated upriver along the Valley of the Paraná dos Mouras and today live in this strip of land. They are very valiant and wild (Máximo Linhares 1912:04).

The doctor working for the Commission for the Border between Brazil and Peru, who visited the Juruá between 1920 and 1927, claimed that the Embira Valley from the Riosinho as far as the watershed between the latter and the Purus was inhabited by the populous family of the ‘Nahuas,’ having seen the Poianauas on the upper Moa river, located on the ‘Barão do Rio Branco farm with 125 people (Castelo Branco 1950:27). After the 1920s, Castelo Branco observes that Colonel Lima Figueiredo in a publication from 1939 referred to the Poyanauas occupying the terra firme of the Moa and to Nauas on the Juruá, its affluents and its sub-affluents (Castelo Branco 1950:27-28).

The Nawa retain a vivid memory of a ‘fire,’ an attack launched against them when they inhabited regions close to the modern-day city of Cruzeiro do Sul. This ‘fire’ was inflicted by those involved in rubber extraction and became a landmark of Nawa oral history. Maria do Carmo’s account also tells us that her grandparents escaped the ‘fire’ and fled to the region of the Moa river, settling on the shores of the Novo Recreio. Based on the historiographic accounts, we can infer that this confrontation took place at the end of the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th when the first seringals were established on the shores of the Upper Juruá under the administration of the ‘bosses.’

The few Nawa who survived the ‘fire’ were later incorporated into the rubber production system. The region occupied by them at the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th became completely divided up into seringals. According to Castelo Branco, in the 1920s the shores of the Moa river where the Indigenous Territory is today located were divided into the following seringals: Gibraltar, Monte Alegre, São João, República, Novo Recreio and Aquidabam (Castelo Branco 1930). The Nawa elder Eufrázio, who today lives on the Jesumira and worked on the seringals along the Moa river, stated that by the end of the period of rubber extraction in the region there were three other seringals in addition to those mentioned by Castelo Branco: Sete de Setembro, Unidade and Rio Azul.

Many Nawa worked in these seringals. Their entire production was delivered to the ‘boss,’ who bought the rubber from the Indians and the other rubber tappers with food and basic items such as salt, soap, cloth, kerosene, gunpowder, lead and fuses, and the like. However, the price of these commodities was set extremely high and the bosses falsified the debts, exploiting the illiteracy of the rubber tappers and Indians, ensuring that they were continually in debt. The rubber was transported to the barracão where the trade items and the boss’s residence were located. The seringal was divided into rubber tapper settlements delimited by the ‘rubber roads’ and containing a number of rubber trees where one or two families were usually responsible for extracting the latex.

The seringals went through a phase of intense rubber production that lasted until 1912. Thereafter the production system entered a long period of crisis due to the collapse in the price of rubber. This lasted until the Second World War when rubber production received a fresh boost. In the 1940s the federal government sought to monopolize latex extraction and encouraged a new wave of migration from the Northeast to the Amazonian region, setting up the Amazon Credit Bank with the objective of financing the increase in production (Gonçalves 1991:29-30).

The Novo Recreio seringal

According to Castelo Branco, the Novo Recreio seringal was initially explored by an individual called ‘papa,’ later being transferred to José Vieira de Alencar and subsequently to Francisco de Mello, Cassiano de Tal, Hidalgo Roiz, Zeferino da Silva Ramos, Lima & Loureiro, Velhote Silva & Comp., José Vicente da Costa, Mamede Serejo and Manuel Florêncio de Lima. In the 1920s the area contained 13 rubber roads, which produced around 1,500kg of latex (Castelo Branco 1930:625).

After the period researched by Castelo Branco, the Novo Recreio seringal was acquired by the Oliveira family and later transferred to Nilton Costa de Oliveira, a Nawa man. Part of the seringal located on the right shore of the Moa river was inherited by the Nawa because the father of Seu Nilton, a man called Francisco de Assis Costa (Chico Peba), the son of the Nawa woman Mariana, married one of the women from the Oliveira family, Adélia de Oliveira. The couple had just the one son, Seu Nilton, his mother dying while he was still a child. His father married again, this time to a Nukini Indian woman, Maria Peba, and had another seven children who now live in the Nukini Indigenous Territory.

Seu Nilton had little contact with his father, who died around the age of forty. He was raised by his mother’s sister, Dondon de Oliveira, who at the time owned a portion of the Novo Recreio seringal. After the death of his parents and his aunt Dondon, he inherited part of the Novo Recreio seringal where a number of Nawa resided. As rubber extraction waned, the Nawa began to dedicate themselves more to hunting, fishing, extractivism, agriculture and livestock breeding.

Seu Nilton, who ended up inheriting the seringal from Dondon, and the other Nawa resident in the Indigenous Territory under claim, descend from the ‘last Nawa woman,’ known as Mariana both in the historiography of the Upper Juruá and the group’s oral memory. Seu Nilton’s father, Chico Peba, is considered a Nawa Indian as the son of Mariana with the non-Indian José Costa (Peba). After Mariana’s death, her descendents relocated to various seringals located in the Moa river region.

Despite the dispersion of the Nawa after Mariana’s death, their current descendents recall various items of information on the past, especially those related to kinship. As we can observe in Seu Nilton’s comments:

My aunt told me the history of the Nawa. She said, my son, you are Nawa because I knew your grandmother. She was painted, she was caught in the forest. She was painted. Precisely because these ancient Indians covered themselves in painted designs (...) A comb-like design on their faces. The Nukini also had some [on their faces] but their paint design was different (...) She went and she told me that her painting was like that, like a fine comb (...) And she was my father's mother (Nilton 2003, Pé da Serra).

According to Nawa oral memory, Mariana was “dragged away by the teeth of the dogs” in the maloca while still a child. In other words, non-Indians abducted her from her Nawa kin, who lived in the malocas, and took her to another locality. The Nawa claim that she lived in Cruzeiro do Sul before later relocating to the Novo Recreio seringal. The group memory also records that during the rubber boom Mariana’s children and grandchildren, who were born at Novo Recreio, migrated as they had nowhere to live or work. Some moved to Bom Jardim, a location close to the Poyanawa Indigenous Territory, while others went to the Iracema district of Mâncio Lima.

Just two of Mariana’s grandchildren remain in the Indigenous Territory claimed by the Nawa: Nilton Costa de Oliveira (Seu Nilton, 67 years old) and Francisca Nazaré da Costa (Chica do Celso, also 67 years old). The latter granddaughter of Mariana is the daughter of the Nawa woman Maria Nazaré da Costa with the non-Indian Francisco Marques da Silva, who had six children in all. Of these, only Chica do Celso, Zé Grosso and Dal are still alive, the latter two residing in the Nukini Indigenous Territory.

Since they were born almost 70 years ago, Seu Nilton and Chica do Celso, along with their descendents, have lived on the left bank of the Moa river in areas formed by old seringals, not just the Novo Recreio seringal inherited by Seu Nilton. After inheriting the seringal, the Nawa migrations were limited to the Moa region.

While Seu Nilton was able to relocate constantly to various areas of the seringal he had inherited, other Nawa ended up joining the region’s other seringals. As the group’s population increased, the part of the Novo Recreio seringal inherited by the Nawa became less and less sufficient in terms of ensuring the way of life of Mariana’s descendents. During the period when they lived on the seringals, the Nawa cease to be mentioned in the historiographical sources. However, they remained united in the period in which they were linked to the seringals, enabling them later to claim their territory.

The process of official recognition

Funai’s increased activities in the Juruá region during the 1970s and 80s led to the first records of the presence of Indians on the Novo Recreio river. In 1977, after a lacuna in the historical record, mentions were made of an indigenous population inhabiting the Moa river region. That year the anthropologist Delvair Montagner Mellati, working for Funai, produced a report after travelling to the region to conduct a survey of indigenous peoples on the Upper Juruá. In this report she mentions the existence of an indigenous population located on the Novo Recreio river, an affluent of the Moa. In 1984, another anthropologist working for Funai, José Carlos Levinho, also reported the presence of an indigenous population in the Moa river region (Process/Funai/BSB No. 2058/2000 fl. 01).

Nonetheless, neither anthropologist referred to a Nawa ethnic group residing at this locality. In the 1977 report the population was considered to be made up of ‘Nukini,’ ‘Nukini married to whites,’ ‘Poyanawa mestiços’ and ‘mixtures of Poyanawa and Nukini.’ In the 1984 report they were considered to be either ‘Nukini,’ ‘Nukini married to whites’ or ‘Poyanawa married to Nukini’ (Montagner 2002:75-76). In the 1970s and 80s, the Nawa still remained in anonymity and there was little interest among themselves for their indigenous identity to be recognized. It may be that they were not interested in being recognized as indigenous due to the heavy discrimination against these peoples and the absence of conflicts over the land they were occupying.

It was only when they came under threat of losing their lands, when these were set to be transferred to an Incra settlement as part of the plans for the formation of the Serra do Divisor National Park in 1989, that a new political setting ended up provoking their feeling of Indianness. As the Nawa leader remarked:

We lived in a very tranquil region, therefore, we worked and had our means of survival. And that’s when the visitors began to appear, the authorities passing by. And they began to mess with us. They said, look, this isn’t what you thought it was. Something else is going on now. This here is the Serra do Divisor National Park. So I thought, now we’re going to walk on our own two feet. If we’re no longer being ordered about, we going to follow our own path. So we talked about the situation, our Nukini kin here also attend the meetings in Mâncio Lima, Cruzeiro do Sul, and as we talked they revealed that here inside the Serra do Divisor National Park there was a group of people different from them. Then Dona Rose came here, along with Seu Lindomar, they came just to see us, to see who we were. She came directly to the house of Dona Francisca do Celso, she didn’t even stop by our house. She arrived: “Dona Francisca, we’ve heard that you are indigenous peoples. We're missionaries from CIMI who work with indigenous peoples, and it’s our task to determine whether you are Indians or not.” She said: “We are Indians, Nawa Indians.” She was really surprised by this. She walked through the cemetery, took photos of Dona Francisca and came back. During this interval she passed by and we sent a letter directly to CIMI asking for their support and for them to forward the letter to Funai, or deliver it to Ibama to obtain recognition of our status (Railson 2003, Novo Recreio).

In 1999, after representatives of CIMI visited the Moa river, Funai was informed of the existence of a people calling themselves Nawa living in the region of the Jordão, Pijuca, Novo Recreio, Jarina, Venâncio and Jesumira rivers, as well as along the right shore of the Moa river. According to the document “Naua: another indigenous people in Acre,” dated 2000 and produced by the then administrator of Funai (Acre), coordinator of UNI-AC (the Union of Indigenous Nations of Acre) and regional coordinator of CIMI, the last information on the Nawa had appeared in the 1994 album entitled “The town of Cruzeiro do Sul – Revisiting the Juruá,” edited and published by the Cruzeiro do Sul Municipal Council. This document states that:

the last survivor of the Naua people was a woman called Francisca Borges de Paiva. According to the album in question, where a photo of Dona Francisca is printed, the couple left behind several children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The marriage supposedly took place in 1906, soon after the inauguration of the town of Cruzeiro do Sul (Process/Funai/BSB No. 2058/2000 fl. 08).

However, the Nawa who inhabit the Moa river descend not from Francisca Borges de Paiva but from Mariana. The historian Castelo Branco had already cited Mariana as the ‘last survivor' of the Nawa, but made no reference to Francisca Borges de Paiva. In the ‘album’ published in 1994 there are two photos of Nawa women, one of Francisca Borges de Paiva and the other of Mariana (Mariruni). The text below Mariana’s photo claims that she is “the last survivor” and the caption below Francisca Borges de Paiva’s photo states that she is the “last descendent of the Náua.” Hence we can observe that two Nawa women were identified as the “last Nawa woman.”

The descendents of Mariana and Francisca Borges de Paiva were interviewed during the studies of the technical group for the identification and delimitation of the Nawa Indigenous Territory. It was discovered that Mariana’s descendents mostly resided in the Indigenous Territory under claim, while those of Francisca Borges de Paiva lived for the most part in Cruzeiro do Sul. The latter do not claim ethnic or territorial recognition, but recall a great deal of information on Francisca Borges de Paiva and the Nawa. As no claim was made by Francisca Borges de Paiva’s descendents, the anthropological studies concentrated on Mariana’s descendents.

Given that the two Nawa women were both captured “by the teeth of the dogs” when they were children and living in the malocas, it might be supposed that they are related. However, the women’s descendents were unable to trace any degree of kinship between the two groups.

Way of life

After many years of contact between the Nawa and the surrounding society, the group’s residence pattern has altered considerably. At the time of the first encounters between the Nawa and the explorers of the Juruá, they lived in large malocas, which contained extended families. As the Nawa woman Chica do Celso mentions:

They made those malocas like that, when it was finished it was well enclosed. There was a small door. If there were a lot of Indians, there would be separate malocas. If there were few, there would be just one large maloca" (Chica do Celso 2003, Moa).

Many of the malocas built by the Nawa were located on the headwaters of the Boca Tapada, Novo Recreio and Jesumira rivers. In the remains of these malocas we can find pottery shards, regrowing forest and old swiddens. There are constant references to the existence of former malocas among the Nawa, but contact forced them to alter their residence pattern. They ceased living in large malocas occupied by an extended family, and began to live in small houses occupied by one nuclear family. Incorporated into the rubber industry as a workforce for extracting latex, they began to work and live in the colocações (rubber tapper dwellings). The rubber production services were generally performed by one family responsible for the settlement’s rubber roads. Hence it was the nuclear families rather than the extended family that began to work for the bosses.

Currently there are no large malocas. Instead we find houses scattered along the river courses, many of them located in former ‘shore’ settlements rather than areas ‘in the middle.’ During the peak of rubber production, when the Nawa were involved in rubber extraction activities, the residences were not necessarily located close to the waterways, often being found in the inland areas. Since the Nawa rarely extract latex today, these central areas have become uninhabited and the population concentrated in the 'shore' areas. The residence pattern, therefore, is similar to that found on the former seringals with a few families living in a settlement. Following this pattern, the Nawa settled on the right shore of the Moa and its affluents on the right side of the river: the Jordão, Pijuca, Novo Recreio, Venâncio, Jarina and Jesumira.

With the process of claiming the Indigenous Territory, the Nawa began to organize the residences in villages. This means that the occupation of villages in their current locations is very recent, dating from the end of the 1990s. On the other hand, the residences that currently make up the villages have been located along the right shore of the Moa river and the Jordão, Pijuca, Novo Recreio, Venâncio, Jarina and Jesumira rivers for a number of decades, ever since the period of rubber production on the seringals. Obtaining a precise date for the occupation of these settlements at their current sites is impossible, but they were established in these locations sometime in the first half of the 20th century.

The incipient organization of the villages provides a better insight into the permanent habitation of the Nawa based on these new residences. The latter are built relatively far from each other, on the shores of the rivers, which makes it easier for the Nawa to transport basic foods and to travel to the towns.

The Nawa also use forest resources to build their homes. Anyone intending to construct a house can rely on the assistance of relatives to fetch timber and thatch from the forest. Some houses are built with walls and floors of paxiubão and a roof covered with palm thatch, in particular caranaí, but also chila, jarina and uricuri. There are also aluminium-roofed houses, which are used primarily for the schools and health posts. Other dwellings are constructed with walls and floors made from sawn planks, generally with high-quality woods such as amarelinho, bacuri, copaiba, cedro-vermelho, louro and angelim. The posts and beams are built using maçaranduba, muirapiranga, louro-abacate and pau d’arco.

A variety of residences were built during the period when the Nawa occupied the Moa river region. At the end of 2003, the Indigenous Territory under claim had 52 houses, more easily identified geographically if we take the rubber tapper settlements and smaller rivers as reference points.

Since the dwellings and paths between them are located on the lower and middle courses of the smaller rivers, the headwater regions are less frequented by the Nawa. However, the Nawa claim that the upper courses of these rivers form a region traversed by isolated indigenous groups.

Productive activities

Prior to occupation of the Upper Juruá region by the rubber industry, like other Pano-speaking indigenous societies the ancestors of the contemporary Nawa practiced hunting, fishing, extractivism and agriculture.


From the age when a boy can stand the recoil of a shotgun, he is introduced to the vast universe of information concerning hunting as an activity. Acquiring a knowledge of the contours of the land, the river system, the plants and the habits of the particular animals (places where they eat, drink water, sleep, mate and so on) is essential to the hunter’s success. It is also important to glean detailed information about the game from their tracks, such as the last actions performed by the animal, along with its size, species and distance from the hunter.

In winter, the best time of year for hunting, one of the men from the family will leave to hunt virtually every other day. The hunting areas are located deep in the forest, accessed by the hunt paths that radiate out from the rear of the dwellings and demand several hours walk into the forest. The size of the hunting grounds is fairly large, occupying the entire region of the right shore of the Moa river and the micro-basins of the Jordão, da Velha, Pijuca, Novo Recreio, Venâncio, Jarina, Jesumira, do Velho, Paxiubal and Buraco-Fundo rivers.

Hunt camps are undertaken fairly often and may also be set up near the headwaters of the Novo Recreio and Jesumira rivers. The Nawa stay around two or three days at these hunt camps. They usually move to these areas when they need to kill a large quantity of game to feed their families for a number of days.

When they leave to hunt during the winter close to the houses, they need just a few hours to acquire enough game. This abundance of game animals in the winter is associated with the fairly well preserved forest found in the Indigenous Territory, which offers many sources of food for the animals during this period. In summer hunting activities are more difficult as food sources are fewer and the tracks of game are difficult to discern when the soil is dampened by the heavier rainfall.

Traps are also used for hunting in winter and summer. Another technique used by the Nawa during both winter and summer, though much less frequently, is hunting with dogs. However, because the dogs scare the game away to more distant areas, the Nawa are abandoning and prohibiting hunting with these domestic animals within the boundaries of the Indigenous Territory.


As an economic activity, fishing is entirely aimed towards domestic consumption. There is no commercial fishing among the Nawa. In general fishing is practiced throughout the year, though it becomes easier to catch fish during the Amazonian summer due to the fish spawning and the clearer water. This time of the year coincides with a decline in hunting activities. During the winter rains, the rivers and creeks become muddy and deep, making fishing more difficult. Irrespective of the time of year, the fish most frequently consumed are: silver arowana, catfish, bode-amarela, bode-sapateiro, suckermouth catfish, braço-de-moça, glass headstander, cachimbo, freshwater barracuda, cará, cará-açú, caruaçú, casa-velha, cascudo, curimatã, cayman, jau, mandim, mapará, matrinchã, mocinha, pacu, piau, piramutaba, piranha, small purple piranha, red-tailed catfish, arapaima, sardine, surubim, tambaqui, wolf fish and peacock bass.

Fishing trips may be undertaken individually or collectively and involve the participation of men, women and children. In winter when men are focused on hunting activities, women and children usually fish with line and hook on the shores of streams and rivers.

Animal domestication

The Nawa domesticate numerous kinds of wild animals after capturing them at a young age. These animals can become pets, including various species of mammals and birds, such as macaws, parrots, parakeets, marmosets, capuchin monkeys, dusky titi monkeys, curassow, trumpeter bird, guan, paca, agoutis, tapirs, peccaries and deer.

Other domestic animals are intended for consumption and trade rather than pets. These include chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep, goats and cattle. All these animals are bred free-range, remaining close to the houses during certain periods of the day and in the forest and pastures during others. Pigs are largest in number, followed by chickens and ducks. There are a small number of cattle and sheep.

The cattle bred by the Nawa are seldom used for food, usually being reserved for festive occasions. Although the number of cattle being bred has increased over recent years, the practice is still incipient. Each Nawa family has two or three cattle on average, though in some pastures around thirty animals can be counted, owned by a single family. Though cattle are taken as the biggest source of financial revenue, the animals most frequently traded are pigs, sold mainly in Mâncio Lima. Chickens and goats are almost never sold but kept for family consumption. During festivals, a domestic animal may be killed and served to friends and kin instead of hunted game.

Although breeding these animals is an important activity for the Nawa today, some of the problems caused should be pointed out. Cattle have contributed to the formation of small pastures in regrowing areas or on the shore of small rivers. Potentially the increase in cattle breeding could lead to heavier deforestation. As for the pigs, the biggest harm caused by them is to Nawa health since they remain close to the dwellings and drink water from the rivers. Depending on the settlement in question, the cattle and pigs spend the night next to or underneath the houses, generating an accumulation of excreta that can cause health problems.


Extractivist activities are pursued among the Nawa without any commercial aim. Instead they comprise an important source of supplementary foods, building materials, medicinal products, food condiments, plant oils and so on. Hence this is an extremely important activity in terms of everyday Nawa life.

Much of the group's traditional knowledge in relation to the extraction of forest products is still transmitted from generation to generation. However, contact with the more recent occupants of the Upper Juruá has introduced other extractivist activities, including the tapping of rubber tree latex (Hevea brasilienses). Inheritance of the Novo Recreio seringal meant that a number of the Nawa were able to free themselves from the yoke of the bosses and begin to produce and sell rubber independently. However, after the 1980s, the crisis in the price of rubber led the Nawa to abandon latex extraction since it was no longer commercially profitable. The main extractivist activities have now shifted to products for family use and consumption. Plants extracted from the forest include edible fruits, timber, straw and medicinal plants.

Some natural resources are used in body adornments and craftwork in general. Annatto seeds are chewed with water until they make a paste, the resulting paint being used for body painting and as a food dye. Genipap is cut in half and placed in hot water to release its bluish dye. Titica vine is used to make baskets and various adornments. These are subsequently painted with annatto and genipap. Ash from the bark of the caripé is utilized in the manufacture of pottery to bind the clay from which various objects are made.

Among the products extracted from the forest we can highlight those used for food: abiu, bacaba, wild cashew, embaúba, ingá, jarina, kutinake, muratinga, pãmã, pãma (small), pé-de-jabuti, piquiá, peach-palm, ramuchucú, uchí, assai, apuruí, bacuri, moriche, buritirana, patoá (large), cumarú, jatobá and maçaranduba. Among those used for other purposes, such as making houses, canoes, paddles and mortars, repairing boats and so on, we can list: jatobá, maçaranduba, walking palm, cumaru, itauba, itauba-abacate, guariuba, andiroba, angelim, cajuí, cedrinho, cedroarana, cupiuba, jacareuba, lacre, louro-preto, marupa, ucuuba and purpleheart.

These forest products are extracted and used in various ways, each possessing a specific time of the year to be harvested. They are located throughout practically all the Indigenous Territory.

Extractivist activities may be pursued by men, women and children, though some products, such as assai, are gathered by men and prepared by them in conjunction with women. Forest products may be extracted collectively or individually, and are generally intended for the nuclear family’s consumption.


The Nawa practice slash-burn agriculture and cultivate a wide variety of crops, including: avocado, pineapple, acerola, rice, banana, sweet potato, cashew, cajuí, sugar-cane, yam, coconut, cupuaçu, beans, guava, soursop, ingá, yam, jackfruit, orange, lemon, sweet manioc, papaya, mango, watermelon, maize, pepper, peachpalm and tobacco.

Agricultural produce is harvested from the ‘yard,’ the ‘manioc swidden’ or the ‘swidden.’ The first refers to the area surrounding the houses; the second is basically a manioc plantation and the third is a plantation containing the other agricultural produce. The swiddens may contain manioc plantations in the middle or the latter may be planted separately. Clearing a swidden or manioc swidden requires using a variety of techniques.

Firstly an appropriate site is chosen and the area then ‘slashed.’ This activity requires the clearing of thinner trees, vines and undergrowth. The next stage in ‘placing’ a swidden involves felling the larger trees and burning the cleared and felled vegetation. Hence it is important to clear and fell the trees before the start of the dry season so that the vegetation can be burned when the latter is at its peak. A surrounding area is cleared to prevent the fire from spreading, though the possibility of the forest catching fire is slight given its general humidity. Any remaining vegetation not turned to ash is rounded up and burnt again.

The latter procedure ensures that the terrain is cleared of trunks that hinder planting, while the quantity of ash to fertilize the soil is also increased. But sometimes not all the trunks are completely burnt, making them a source of firewood. After burning, planting begins, coinciding with the start of the rains. When the new crops begin to sprout, another activity, weed clearing, is required.

When practicing slash-burn agriculture, the Nawa also aim to allow the soil to rest by employing crop rotation. After a swidden has been used for a few years, the soil loses many of its nutrients and production begins to drop off. The swidden is then left to regenerate through the regrowth of ‘capoeira’ vegetation. After this regrowth has developed sufficiently, the area can be used for swiddens once again. Clearing a swidden of low forest regrowth is much easier than clearing an area of ‘primary forest,’ since the size of the vegetation in the latter is considerably larger.

The main swidden product is manioc (or sweet manioc), which forms the staple diet of the Nawa along with meat or fish. Manioc can be eaten cooked, fried or as flour. The Nawa use manioc to make the drink ‘caiçuma,’ though it may also be made with maize. Caiçuma may be consumed mildly fermented or non-fermented without any alcoholic content.

Of the various foods made with manioc, the most widely produced by the Nawa is flour, manufactured for both family consumption and sale in Mâncio Lima. After the decline of the rubber trade from the 1980s onwards, flour became one of the main products sold by the Nawa, along with rice, beans and maize. However the Nawa production for sale, or even their own consumption, is not very large. Their swiddens range in size from one to three hectares.

A Nawa family may possess more than one swidden, some close to the houses, located to their rear, and others further away, deeper into the forest. Some swidden areas possess a ‘flour house’ where the manioc is processed.

Among the products of the house yard (fruits, condiments and so on) the Nawa also grow medicinal plants: andiroba, spikesedge, copaiba, lemon balm, macela and swinecress. These plants may be used to treat injuries, coughs, intestinal problems, haemorrhoids, cholic, fevers and stomach aches. The house yard crops are harvested individually and cultivated by women, who prepare the soil, plant, weed and gather.


Before the impact caused to the Nawa with the occupation of the Upper Juruá by the rubber economy, like other peoples from the Pano linguistic family the group produced many kinds of artefacts, including domestic utensils, hunting and fishing weapons, adornments and so on. They produced headdresses and ear decorations made from bird feathers, seed necklaces and cotton clothing (‘tangas’ for men and ‘skirts’ for women). These clothes were dyed with tinctures made from forest trees whose names are currently unknown.

Following contact with the surrounding society this activity became considerably reduced. However, the production of artefacts, albeit at a smaller scale, still continues today. The main items manufactured are domestic utensils such as graters, brooms, baskets and clay pots. The graters are made from wood with a plate taken from cans and pierced with nails. Brooms are made from various kinds of straw found in the region. Pots are produced from clay taken from the shores of the smaller rivers, while baskets are fashioned from the titica vine. However, these objects are not intended for sale.

The objects sold – on a small scale – are generally body adornments such as necklaces and bracelets. These craftwork items are manufactured from seeds or bamboo. The latter is used to make the tip of arrows and an aerophone, nicknamed a ‘horn.’ The seeds can be found in various parts of the forest, but the bamboo is found only in the region of the headwaters of the Novo Recreio river. The production of bows and arrows – the latter with the bamboo tip – is a male activity. However most craftwork is produced by women.

Interethnic relations

The relations between the Nawa and other indigenous peoples are mainly political in nature, with the exception of the Nukini with whom they possess a closer relationship. In Mâncio Lima municipality, the Nawa buy and sell items, visit hospital, study, cash their pensions and wages, and visit their relatives. They only travel to the cities of Cruzeiro do Sul and Rio Branco when they need more specialized medical treatment. Hence the most frequent contact between the Nawa and the surrounding society takes place in Mâncio Lima.

The Nawa take their surplus agricultural produce for sale in the latter town, including rice, beans, maize and flour. With the money obtained from the sale of these products, they buy industrialized items: salt, sugar, coffee, cooking oil, clothing, footwear, powder, lead, hooks, nets, motor oil, petrol, axes, machetes, scythes, outboard motors, school material, medicines, etc. These products are now essential to the Nawa way of life. However, industrialized goods are purchased little by little, as and when they are needed, due to their low level of income. Their income is derived solely from the sale of produce, rural pensions and the wages received by indigenous school teachers and healthcare agents. Since the funds obtained from the pensions and wages is fairly small, and used by various members of a family, the main source of income is trade.

Nawa trade with the surrounding society also involves the ‘regatões,’ traders who ply the river buying domestic livestock and selling industrialized goods. Pigs, chickens, cattle and other animals are frequently sold to these traders. As they do not take these animals to sell in the city, this trading is very often conducted among the Nawa themselves or with the Nukini.

The Nawa also use Mâncio Lima to use healthcare services and buy medicines for diseases that cannot be cured with phytotherapy. Some of the healthcare is provided by the regional indigenous health service, which runs a centre in the town. However, they only travel to the Indigenous Territory if the illness cannot be treated by the shaman or by healthcare agents.

The Nawa population relies on one shaman and two health agents, one hired by the municipality and the other by the earlier UNI/Funasa agreement. A health post also exists, built through a partnership betweeb UNI, Funasa and the municipal council. The post has been equipped but nearly always lacks medicines and surgical materials. Moreover, they are not supplied with the boats and motors needed to transport more seriously ill patients to the town.

The Nawa also travel to Mâncio Lima to visit their relatives. A number of Nawa people no longer reside in the Indigenous Territory, preferring to live in the town. The kinsperson’s house is fundamental to the Nawa from the Indigenous Territory as a safe place to stay. When they go to the town to trade, obtain healthcare, receive their wages and pensions, or for any other reason, they stay at the house of relatives. In this way, the social and affective ties between those living in the town and those in the Indigenous Territory are continually reinforced.

Relatives in the town sometimes provide lodging for those of the Nawa wanting to undertake primary or secondary schooling. In the Indigenous Territory, school education only covers part of primary level. Today there are six schools in the Indigenous territory: three on the Novo Recreio, one on the Pijuca, one on the Jesumira and one on the Sete de Setembro. All these schools offer primary education but only up to the 4th grade. If students wish to continue their studies, they have to reside in the town or attend the schools located in the Nukini Indigenous Territory.

Relations between the Nawa and the Nukini are not confined to school education. Due to the closeness of the Nukini villages, separated merely by the river Moa, the Nawa maintain an intense level of contact with them, including trade. When they need an industrialized product and do not intend to undertake the long journey to the town, the Nawa turn to the Nukini to try to obtain what the item in question.

Nawa relations with other indigenous peoples are less intense. Many people are unfamiliar with other peoples apart from the Nukini. Even though the Poyanawa Indigenous Territory is located in the municipality of Mâncio Lima, there is little contact between the Nawa and the Poyanawa people. The Nawa who most frequently have contacts with other indigenous peoples are the leaders, when they travel to the cities of Cruzeiro do Sul and Rio Branco to take part in meetings with the representatives of other peoples from Acre state, principally those of the Upper Juruá.

As well as increased contact with the leaders of other indigenous peoples, the Nawa also began to work closely with Cimi (Missionary Indigenist Council, an organ of the Catholic Church) and Funai (the National Indian Foundation, the official indigenist organization of the Brazilian state). These entities provide support and guidance towards their demands and needs.  

Cosmological aspects

A range of cultural aspects can be highlighted, including taboos, beliefs, craftwork, dances, music, kinship relations, and social, economic and political organization, as well as various forms of traditional knowledge associated with the use of natural resources. Taboos are generally linked to the dietary habits of children, pregnant women and hunters. Beliefs relate to the forms in which the Nawa interact with the forest, animals and plants. Craftwork, meanwhile, includes a wide range of objects such as clay pottery, necklaces, bracelets, brooms and basketry.

Today the Nawa dance the Mariri ritual – like various other Pano peoples – and sing a repertoire of indigenous music, some songs composed by themselves and others learnt from older people. The Nawa have about ten musical pieces that are sung during rituals they call Shãnãdãiã, in which they sing, dance in a circle or line, use indigenous clothing and decorations, paint their bodies and consume ‘caiçuma,’ a drink made from maize or manioc. This ritual is extremely important in terms of strengthening social and cultural bonds and the identity of the Nawa. These events are not held on specific, pre-established dates since they are performed whenever people feel the need to meet. The Shãnãdãiã ritual, transmitted by older people to the younger generations, is now also taught in the indigenous school where the children learn the dances and songs.

Reinforcing the cosmology acquired after contact, the Nawa frequently hold the ritual of Catholic mass. These masses are performed in the houses since no church has been built in the Indigenous Territory. When a priest sporadically visits the region, the masses are celebrated in a church located in the Nukini Indigenous territory, with the participation of the Nawa.

Other rituals performed by the Nawa, equally associated with the culture of Pano peoples, concern shamanic practices. One shaman lives among the Nawa, known as Langa. In his curing rituals, conducted in his home or the house of his patient, he used various medicines obtained in the forest and performs a kind of fumigation of the sick person with a cigar while simultaneously chanting in the indigenous language. According to Langa himself:

I cure with a pipe, the person is sick with fever and I cure him, his head. I smoke tobacco, or when there’s no tobacco, forest leaves, I rub them on the patient’s head. I chant the words of the forest, of my father. He cured people. I cure in the same way. I learned this from him (Shaman Langa, 2003, Novo Recreio).

As part of the Nawa cosmology we can also highlight practices and beliefs related to hunting activities. Women cannot touch hunting weapons or sweep the house when the hunter leaves to hunt lest he catches panema (an unwillingness and inability to hunt). If he has panema, they place the sap from a leaf called churrô on his eyes for him to see and hit the game. The churrô vine can also be used to fumigate. For this they also use the tipi plant and the fur of peccaries, deer, tapirs and other game. They mix all these ingredients, add pepper and make a bonfire. The hunter, his weapons and the hunting dog remain in the smoke for a long time. As well as fumigating, they use physic nut (Jatropha curcas) to remove panema. The woman hits the man with it, providing him with more hunting luck. To obtain more luck in fishing, they drink a ‘forest medicine.’

A number of dietary taboos exist, most of which apply to women. The Nawa say that a pregnant woman who eats the mandim fish may bleed. Other animals, such as tortoises, catfish and pacas are also prohibited to pregnant women.

Some animals are observed by the Nawa as signallers of rain. Hence there is a species of thrush that “divines rain.” If vultures sing at dawn, it is a sign that rain is due. When the uru bird sings it is also set to rain. But if it is already raining and the bird sings, it means sunshine is to be expected the next day. When the toad sings like a chicken laying, rain is on its way. The tree frog sings when clear sunshine is coming. And when the ingazeira blossoms out of season, it means that strong rains will fall within three or four days.

A belief exists that some riverbanks, located on the headwaters of the Novo Recreio and Jesumira rivers, are sacred. Other sacred places in the Indigenous Territory comprise the cemeteries and ancient malocas. The biggest cemeteries are located on the Novo Recreio, Pijuca and Jerusmira river. There are graves scattered across various sites within the Indigenous Territory, though, since the Nawa had the habit of burying their dead close to the houses, especially children. However, the Nawa do not identify the graves of ancestors, probably because Pano peoples traditionally cremated the dead. According to the Nawa woman Chica do Celso:

when the caboclos, the Indians, died, they didn’t bury them. They say that they placed the dead person in a corner and left him or her there, they would place a bundle of wood over the body and cry. They cried a lot, a real din. When they had finished, the set fire to the bundle. After it had burnt down, only the bones of the deceased were left. They gathered up the bones and ashes. They then placed these in a vase and made the drink. After this drink had been made, they got drunk, they got drunk on this drink. Just like the whites drink cane rum, those kind of things, their drink did the same. They didn’t bury the dead (Chica do Celso, 2003, Moa).

Other places taken to be sacred by the Nawa are the former malocas, which indeed form archaeological sites still in need of specialized study. The sacredness associated with the ancestors makes the areas where they once lived highly respected, peopled by the spirits of the ‘ancient ones.’ Various accounts from Nawa hunters mention their encounter with the supernatural beings of this region. The existence of old malocas within the area of the Indigenous Territory, especially the region formed by the headwaters of the Novo Recreio, Boca Tapada and Jesumira rivers, is known by all the Nawa and essential to maintaining the group’s memory of the way of life of their ancestors.

Sources of information

  • AQUINO, Terri Valle de & IGLESIAS, Marcelo Piedrafita. Kaxinawá do Rio Jordão. História, território, economia e desenvolvimento sustentado. Rio Branco : CPI-Acre, 1994.


  • AZEVEDO, Gregório Thaumaturgo de. Primeiro Relatório Semestral. Apresentado ao Exm. Sr. Dr. José Joaquim Seabra, Ministro da Justiça e Negócios Exteriores, pelo Coronel do Corpo de Engenheiros Gregório Thaumaturgo de Azevedo, Prefeito do Departamento do Alto Juruá. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, 1905.


  • -------. Relatório do Primeiro Semestre. Apresentado ao Exm. Sr. Dr. Gaspar de Barros e Almeida, Ministro da Justiça e Negócios Exteriores, pelo Coronel do Corpo de Engenheiros Gregório Thaumaturgo de Azevedo, Prefeito do Departamento do Alto Juruá. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, 1906.


  • CASTELLO BRANCO, José Moreira Brandão. “O Juruá Federal: Território do Acre”. In: Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro. Tomo Especial. Congresso Internacional de História da América. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, Vol IX, 1930 [1922]. pp. 591-722.


  • -------. “Caminhos do Acre”. In: Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, Vol 196, Julho/Setembro, 1947. pp. 74-225.


  • -------. “O Gentio Acreano”. In: Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Nacional, Vol. 207, Abril-Junho. 1950. pp. 3-77.


  • -------. “Acreânea”. In: Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, Vol 240, Julho/Setembro, 1958. pp. 03-83.


  • -------. “Povoamento da Acreânia”. In: Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, Vol. 250, Janeiro- Março, 1961. pp. 118-256.
  • CORREIA, Cloude de Souza. Relatório de levantamento prévio: Terras Indígenas Nawa e Nukini. Mimeo, 2004


  • COUTINHO JR., Walter. Relatório de viagem: áreas de ocupação indígena ainda não regularizadas no Acre e Sul do Amazonas. Brasília : Funai, mimeo, 2001.


  • ERIKSON, Philippe. “Uma singular pluralidade: a etno-história Pano”. In: CUNHA, Manuela Carneiro da (org.). História dos índios no Brasil. São Paulo : Companhia das Letras, FAPESP, SMC, 1992. pp. 239-266.


  • GONÇALVES, Marco Antônio (org.). Acre: história e etnologia. Rio de Janeiro : Núcleo de Etnologia Indígena, LPS/IFCS/UFRJ, 1991.


  • KLEFASZ, Alberto. Relatório da viagem de acompanhamento do trabalho de levantamento da utilização de recursos naturais pelos moradores dos Igarapés: Ipijuca, Novo Recreio, Timbaúba e Jesumira – Vale do Rio Moa. Brasília : ESREG/CSC-Ibama, mimeo, 2003.


  • LIMA, Edilene Coffaci de Lima. Relatório antropológico sobre o Parque Nacional da Serra do Divisor (rios Moa e Azul) - Acre. São Paulo, mimeo, 1993.


  • LINHARES, Máximo. “Os Índios do Território do Acre. Impressões de um auxiliar da Inspetoria do Serviço de Proteção aos Índios e Localização dos Trabalhadores Nacionaes”. In: Jornal do Commércio, 12 de janeiro de 1913.


  • MELATTI, Júlio Cezar. “Juruá-Ucayali”. In: Índios da América do Sul – Áreas Etnográficas. Brasília : Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Departamento de Antropologia. Vol. II, 1997. pgs. 147-160.


  • MELO, Vicente Simões de Paula. Relatório ambiental de identificação e delimitação da Terra Indígena Nawa. Brasília : mimeo, 2005.


  • MONTAGNER, Delvair. Construção da etnia Nawa. Brasília : mimeo, 2002.


  • PEREIRA NETO, Antônio. Relatório preliminar a respeito de população que se afirma pertencer a etnia Naua do Parque Nacional da Serra do Divisor, Município de Mâncio Lima-AC. Rio Branco : mimeo, 2000.


  • PLANO DE MANEJO. Plano de Manejo do Parque Nacional da Serra do Divisor. Acre. Rio Branco : mimeo, 1998.


  • RODRIGUES, Aryon Dall’Igna. Línguas Brasileiras, para o conhecimento das línguas indígenas. São Paulo : Edições Loyola, 1994.


  • TASTEVIN, Constant. “Em Amazonie. Sur lê Moa, aux limites extremes du Brésil et du Perón”. In: Missions catholiques, Tomo XLVI, 1914. pp. 502-504; 514-516; 526-528; 537-539; 550-552 e 559-561.


  • -------. “Quelques considérations sur les indiens du Jurua”. In: Bulletin et Memoires de la Société d’Anthropologia de Paris. Vol. 8, 6ª série. Paris, 1919. pp. 144-154


  • -------. “Le fleuve Juruá”. In: La Géographie, Tomo XXXIII, 1920. pp. 131-148.


  • -------. “Les tribus indiennes des bassins du Purús, du Juruá et des régions limitrophes”. In: La Géographie, Tomo XXXV, 1921. pp. 449-482.


  • -------. “Le fleuve Muro”. In: La Géographie, Tomo XLIII & XLIV, 1925. pp. 14-35 e 403-422.


  • -------. “Chez les indiens du Haut-Jurua”. In: Missions catholiques, Tomo LVI, 1924. pp. 65-67; 78-80; 90-93 e 101-104


  • -------. “Le Haut Tarauacá”. In: La Géographie, Tomo XLV, 1926. pp. 34-54 e 158-175.


  • -------. “Le Riozinho da Liberdade”. In: La Géographie, Tomo XLIX, 1928. pp. 205-215.