From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Raimundo Silva, 1978

Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe

Where they are How many
BA, MG 3285 (Siasi/Sesai, Cedefes, 2020)
Linguistic family

The indigenous peoples today known generically by the ethnonym Pataxó Hãhãhãe are made up of the Baenã, Pataxó Hãhãhãe, Kamakã, Tupinambá, Kariri-Sapuyá and Gueren ethnic groups. Inhabitants of the south of Bahia state, the contact history of these groups with non-indigenous populations has been shaped by land expropriations, forced relocations, the transmission of diseases and killings. The land reserved for them by the State in 1926 was invaded and largely converted into private farms. The slow and tortuous process of regaining these lands began in the 1980s only: a successful conclusion still appears to be some way off, with the reserve remaining under judicial consideration.

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Location and population

Pataxó Hãhãhãe group at the former São Lucas Farm. Photo: Hermano Penna, 1980s
Pataxó Hãhãhãe group at the former São Lucas Farm. Photo: Hermano Penna, 1980s

The population inhabits the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Indigenous Reserve, 54,099 ha in size, in the south of Bahia, in the municipalities of Itajú do Colônia, Camacã and Pau-Brasil. This area is currently being kept under judicial consideration. Some also live in the Fazenda Baiana Reserve, 304 ha in size, in Camamu municipality in the far south of Bahia.

In May 2005 the population living in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve comprised 2,147 individuals, representing 1,139 men and 1,008 women. The inhabitants of the Fazenda Baiana Reserve number 72 people, 33 men and 39 women. Combined the two populations therefore total 2,219 people.

The Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve comprises a strip of land extending from the Cachoeira or Colônia river in the north to the Pardo in the south. The Caramuru Post was set up in 1927 on the right shore of the Colônia river, to the north of the reserve, in an area formed by extensive artificial pastures. The only river traversing the reserve is a stream of brackish water, suggestively called Salgado. The water for human consumption comes from rainwater storage or occasionally water trucks or barrels brought by paid freight.  


The languages spoken by the various ethnic groups encompassed by the Pataxó Hãhãhãe ethnonym are no longer in active use, apart from isolated words from their lexicons. Until 1911 the Pataxó and Kamakã languages were undoubtedly in full use, which means that the violent contact to which the Indians were subjected through the actions of the SPI (Indian Protection Service) had a terrible impact on them, affecting the native languages too. The Pataxó language survived until at least 1938 when Curt Nimuendaju encountered speakers living in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve. M. de Wied-Neuwied, F. Martius, B. Douveille, C. Nimuendaju, Maria Aracy Lopes da Silva and Greg Urban collated word lists among the northern Pataxó or Hãhãhãe at different periods, but only Wied-Neuwied undertook the same among the so-called southern Pataxó. On this topic, Nimuendaju observed that although his vocabulary diverged considerably from that compiled by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied among a Pataxó group in Vila do Prado in 1816, he believed that the lexicons belonged to the same nation.

A vague kinship between the Pataxó language and the Maxakali linguistic family had already been suspected since C. Loukotka. Martius grouped the Macuni, Copoxô, Cumanaxô, Panhame, Monoxô, Pataxô and Malali languages, along with a few others, in the ‘Goytacás’ linguistic family, noting an affiliation with the Ge group. Steinen reduced the Goytacá group to the Maxakali, Macuni, Capaxô, Cumanaxô and Panhame, and, with question marks, the Pataxó, identifying it as a subdivision of the Ge group. Ehrenreich, Rivet and P. Schmidt retained this classification. It was only in 1931 that C. Loukotka, re-examining in detail the sparse existing vocabularies, came to the conclusion that these languages, including Malalí but excluding Pataxó, formed a linguistic family completely separate from the Ge family. Nimuendaju agreed with this assessment, adding that the culture of these tribes “both material and spiritual” distanced them greatly from the Ge (Nimuendaju 1954:61).

In 1971, Colonel Antônio Medeiros de Azevedo provided Agostinho with a list of 71 words from the same Indians, obtained by him when he commanded the troop that subdued the Paraguaçu Post in 1936. Agostinho, for his part, obtained a  vocabulary with a total of 120 terms collected among the southern Pataxó (Porto Seguro and neighbouring areas). Copies of Azevedo’s list and of the standard questionnaires used by Agostinho, along with the magnetic tape recorded at the time, were sent to the Linguistics Section of the Museu Nacional for comparative analysis. Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues, who undertook the analysis, concluded that the material belonged to the Maxakali language (personal information from Pedro Agostinho). In fact, Rodrigues classifies the Pataxó language as a member of the Maxakali linguistic family and the Kamakã, Mongoiá and Menien languages as members of the Kamakã family (Rodrigues 1986). In 1983, with the data collated by Maria A. Lopes da Silva and Greg Urban directly from the last speaker of the Pataxó language, an old woman called Bahetá, CPI-SP produced the textbook ‘Bahetá’s Lessons.’



Pataxó Hãhãhãe in the former São Lucas Farm. Photo: Franz Fluch, n/d
Pataxó Hãhãhãe in the former São Lucas Farm. Photo: Franz Fluch, n/d

The lands now forming the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve, created by the then Indian Protection Service (SPI) in 1926 on lands ceded by the State of Bahia for the “usufruct of Pataxó and Tupinambá Indians” (State Law No. 1916/26. Official Gazette. Salvador, 11/08/1926. Pp. 9935.) were traditionally home to the Pataxó Hãhãhãe and Baenã, as oral tradition confirms. Kamuru-Iguaxó Igueligecis, for example, referred to the Hãhãhãe as “the native Indians of the post, conquered in the Serra do Couro Dantas” (interview given in 1977 in Barra Velha Village, Porto Seguro, BA, to Maria Rosário G. de Carvalho).

The non-Indian Otaviano, born in Itajú do Colônia close to the Caramuru IP at a farm called Belo Horizonte, referred to them as Indians “caught in the Serra das Três Pontas, later renamed Itarantim.” Otaviano’s father had ‘tamed’ Indians at the Acampamento Farm, established two kilometres from the Caramuru Indigenous Post: “it was where he housed the Indians coming from Itarantim. My father went to help look after them, help teach them, help teach them to speak, teach them to work.” According to Otaviano, the Indians ‘caught’ in the forests of the Caramuru IP were relocated in the dry season, when there was no game, to Rancho Queimado and Mundo Novo, at the Paraguaçu IP to the south of the reserve.

During the rainy season when game and fish were abundant, the Indians returned to Itajú, in particular to ‘Toucinho’ and ‘Entra com Jeito.’ Otaviano mentioned Honrak: “he was already capitão do mato, the chief of the community, who commanded the entire group,” whose wife was called Titiaca; Bahetá, “that one came from the forest!” Mucai, Bute, Milú, Arquelau, Tamanin and Ketão, the latter being “the oldest Indian woman in the village.” Owner of a vivid memory, he even provided details in some cases, such as that of Dedé: “nobody knows if he is alive or dead because he was moved to the Maxacali Post [Crenak prison] and disappeared.” This  transfer occurred in 1952 or 1953 during the period of Inspector Moreira of the SPI, when the cattle and cattle herders from the reserve were relocated to Minas Gerais. This was the most intense period of the land lease policy, which divided the reserve into plots distributed among various private owners. Finally he also referred to the “descendents of Indians of Catolé Grande” such as Davi, Maura Titiá’s husband, Arsênio and José Caboclo (interview with Jurema M.A. Souza, in Itabuna, 2004).

Due to the extinction of other villages following the promulgation of Law No. 198, of 21/08/1897 by the Bahia State Government, different indigenous groups were at different times relocated to the Caramuru-Paraguaçu reserve. From Olivença came groups of Tupiniquim and Botocudo (Aimoré and Gueren); from Santa Rosa, the Kariri-Sapuyá, who had already been expelled from Pedra Branca, located in the southern part of Bahia’s Recôncavo; and from the former village of Ferradas (São Pedro d’Alcântara), Kamakã and Guerén groups. Otaviano emphasized that these were not wild Indians. “These Indians started to appear here... Ah! this here is Indian land! They arrived and settled here, they weren’t captured, they came here of their own accord.”

The Tupinambá, generally referred to under the name of ‘Índios de Olivença,’ reached the Reserve in 1936, led by the Indian Marcelino, in search of refuge from the persecutions suffered in the region of their former village settlement. The Kariri-sapuyá were led to the Reserve in 1939 by the ethnologist Curt Nimuendaju, who was visiting the region; and finally those from São Pedro d’Alcântâra were gathered together and sheltered by the SPI from 1926 onwards.

The Guerén, Kamakã/Mongoió and Kamakã-Menien

Around 1756 the village of Almada had been established on the Itaípe or Pardo river for the Guéren – the name given to the Aimorés or Botocudos in this region – though the project failed for reasons unknown (Wied-Neuwied 1958:339). Whatever the case, when Wied-Neuwied visited the region it was presumed that all the Guéren, except for an old man called Captain Manuel and two or three old women, had died. Likewise, some of the Indians from the coast who had been relocated to the village were presumed to have returned to the forest while others had been moved to the village of São Pedro d’Alcântara, which already showed signs of being on the way to disappearing (ibid:344). Two years later, in 1818, Manuel had died and only “a few tame Indians, probably from the Tupiniquin tribe, who no longer knew how to speak their parents’ language, remained to work as hunters for the new colonists” (Spix & Martius 1976:162).

Bahetá, Pataxó Hãhãhãe woman. Photo: CPI-SP archive, 1982
Bahetá, Pataxó Hãhãhãe woman. Photo: CPI-SP archive, 1982

The Kamakã originally came from the Ilhéus or Catolé river, where they were also called Mongoiós (ibid:348). The village of São Pedro d’Alcântara or Ferradas had been founded in 1814 on the shores of the Cachoeira river, when the Minas highway was completed, where the group had been assembled, forming the main nucleus of the population. When Spix and Martius visited in 1818, there were about 60 or 70 ‘souls’ (1976: 167), along with Spaniards and “coloured men.” The Minas (or Pardo River) highway was constructed with the aim of enabling the coastal region of Ilhéus, which lacked any kind of cattle ranching, to share some of the profits made from the inland areas east of the settlement on the Pardo river, and of opening a route to transport products from the interior to the coast. Traversing forests inhabited by the Kamakã (“wrapped head”), the highway was a failure due to, among other factors, the lack of fodder for the cattle, which sometimes reached the coast exhausted, the contraction of fevers by the cattle drivers and the presence of wild Indians. Consequently, the cattle and horse drivers preferred to journey via Conquista or along the Gavião river, though the route was longer and subject to frequent droughts (Spix & Martius 1976:165-166).

According to Prince Wied-Neuwied, the Kamakã territory ranged from the Cachoeira in the south where the river began on the shores of the Piabinha stream – also considered the furthest point reached by the incursions of the coastal Pataxó when journeying inland (Wied-Neuwied 1958:368) – to the Pardo river, while to the north they settled beyond the Contas river, where they had already renounced “the wild life.” However, he also classified them as more civilized than the Pataxó and Botocudos, their neighbours, who no longer lived exclusively from hunting and already planted subsistence crops (ibid:356). A large number of the Kamakã Indians apparently died of a contagious disease and the remaining population fled to the forests. At the moment when Wied-Neuwied visited, São Pedro d’Alcântara was inhabited only by a parish priest and half a dozen families, who anticipated protective measures from the government. “This settlement is located in a completely wild zone, surrounded on all sides by forests full of ferocious animals and traversed by bands of Patachós,” Wied-Neuwied writes. These Indians had not caused any harm to the inhabitants, but as no treaty had been obtained with them, they were regarded with distrust (Wied-Neuwied 1958:357).

On the other hand, in 1816 the Belmonte forests comprised the main ‘refuge’ for the Botocudos due to the perceived dangers in navigating the river posed by the presence of these notorious Indians. Also established there were the Menien, the name given to the Kamakã living in this area, who Wied-Neuwied referred to as a “peculiar race of civilized Indians converted to Christianity” but who called themselves Kamakã. Terms surviving from their ancient language, which Wied-Neuwied considered “extremely corrupted,” understood only by a minority of older people, testified to their origin on the Catolé, where they remained until the arrival of the São Paulo colonists, who killed many Indians and drove out of the region those who resisted the invasion, such as the Kamakã themselves, forced to move to Vila de Belmonte, where Wied-Neuwied encountered them “completely tamed and partly crossed with the black race, some employed as soldiers, others as fishermen and farm workers” (Wied-Neuwied 1958:235). Skilled in manual tasks, they manufactured mats, straw hats, baskets, fishing nets and crab nets. They were also good hunters, but had already swapped their bows and arrows for guns (ibid).

On the Catolé and Verruga rivers, both affluents of the Pardo, there were Kamakã/Mongoiós who worked on a day-to-day basis. They spent most of their time naked, painted with annatto and genipap and decorated with large seed necklaces. They were led by the Portuguese mulato João Gonçalves Costa, who lived there and had various villages or ‘ranches’ under his command (Wied-Neuwied 1958:385-86). Costa had acquired notoriety as an adventurer and conqueror who, accompanied by a band of armed men, had declared war on the territories “primitive inhabitants,” the Kamakã, taken control of their territory and founded the settlement of Conquista (ibid: 428). There were also Kamakã families in Barra da Vareda, on the Riacho da Ressaca, open savannah that extended as far as the São Francisco river and bordered the sertão (backlands) of Bahia where cattle ranching was the main activity (Wied-Neuwied 1958:405). They worked there too as wage employees, especially in felling trees or hunting in the forest. Most of them had been baptized and some carried a red cross painted with annatto on their forehead (ibid:393). The trade between Minas and Bahia took place in this area via various different routes. “Large troops of sixty to eighty donkeys come and go constantly, transporting merchandise, principally salt, which is in short supply in Minas” (Wied-Neuwied ibid:407).

In 1894 J. B. de Sá Oliveira recorded the presence of Kamakã on the shore of the Catolé Grande, having highlighted their expertise in manufacturing fabrics, more specifically cotton thread fibres of exceptional quality, dyed in a variety of vivid colours, which contrasted with the more rudimentary pottery, which was fabricated from pulverized stones, the resulting powder mixed with clay and water. After being moulded, the pots were fired (RIGHB 1894:209).

The Kamakã therefore inhabited the large tracts of forest extending from the Pardo river, via the Catolé, to the  Contas river bordering the area occupied by the Kariri-Sapuyá. They never approached the coast due to the fear of isolated groups of Pataxó Indians who wandered through this area almost as far as the last of these rivers (Wied-Neuwied ibid:428-9). Prince Wied-Neuwied visited a Kamakã village that he classified as “completely wild but already bending to the will of their oppressors, adopting their uses and customs” and observed that some of the population still walked around completely naked, except, in the case of men, for wearing the tacanhoba (penis sheath) borrowed from the Botocudos, which they called hiranaika; they sometimes pierced the ears, painted the body and allowed their hair to grow long over their backs. All of them already grew maize, banana, manioc, a small amount of cotton and a lot of potatoes. Flour, however, came from outside. Rather than hammocks, they used beds formed from a platform of sticks resting on four posts covered with cotton padding. They made pots from grey clay, wove cotton string and women weaved their aprons in artistic forms, dyed red and white. For Wied-Neuwied, their weapons provided ‘proof’ that their men possessed “more innate industriousness than the other branches of Tapuias: bows taller than a man, flexible and strong (Wied-Neuwied 1958:429-433) and arrows poisoned with the extract from a creeper only when used in warfare (Spix & Martius 1976:168). They also fashioned ornamental arrows so fine that Wied-Neuwied expressed his surprise that they were able to be produced by “such coarse hands, equipped with such poor tools” and smooth batons formerly seen in the hands of chiefs. On solemn occasions, especially dances, the chiefs used caps – charó – beautifully made from parrot feathers (Wied-Neuwied ibid:433) and sometimes a sharp, highly polished cane made from red wood, used in warfare like a swagger stick (Spix & Martius ibid:168).

In 1938 Curt Nimuendaju met eleven Kamakã living in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve at Riacho do Mundo Novo. They had been forced to migrate – after their non-indigenous neighbours had taken their lands – from their last village on the Catolé, about 60 km in a straight line north of the reserve, where they settled at the invitation of the SPI officer Alberto Jacobina. Only two speakers of the language remained, both old women, the youngest of which died precisely on the day of Nimuendaju’s arrival. Jacinta Grayirá, the survivor, seemed to be well over 70 years old and was blind in one eye and deaf. It was through her that Nimuendaju over a month of intense work collated a table of kinship terms, as well as twenty-four myths and a lexicon, the latter considered by him to be of the same level as the lexica collected by Wied-Neuwied and Martius but inferior to the one documented by Douville (Nimuendaju 1938).

The Kariri-Sapuyá

Traditionally two groups were referred to under the generic name of the Indians of Pedra Branca: the Kamuru, of Pedra Branca Village, later named Kariri, and the Sapuyá or Sabuja, of Caranguejo Village, a quarter of an hour further south, both members of the Kariri linguistic family, the Kipeá and Sabujá branches respectively. The history of the former group involved a close relationship with the military during the colonial government in the form of soldiers used to capture runaway slaves and to suppress quilombos; the latter group, on the other hand, had a reputation of ignoring the church and secular authorities. During a visit to the region in 1818 ,the German naturalists Spix and Martius estimated the combined population of the two groups at ‘600 souls’ (Spix & Martius 1976:121).

By the time Prince Wied-Neuwied visited the region, they were supposedly “all civilized; what remains of their population is known by the name of ‘Cariris of Pedra Branca.’ As soldiers, whenever they were ordered on an expedition, they took their wives and children with them” (Wied-Neuwied ibid:466).

Between the 1840s and 1860s, the Kariri-Sapuyá were involved in a series of confrontations, mutinies and uprisings. Caranguejo Village disappeared after 1865, meaning that the two groups came together in Pedra Branca. New clashes took place, which culminated in their expulsion from their home region, probably in 1884. Some resisted for a while, some were annihilated, and many others fled and scattered. Some years later they came together again, this time on the Santa Rosa river, an affluent of the left bank of the Contas river, slightly to the north of the modern-day town of Jequié where they Indians coming from Tracoso Village in Porto Seguro had settled or settled during the same period. The latter had also been expelled from their lands, joined by Tobajara Indians from the ‘Batateira Village’ near to Areias, now the town of Ubaira. There the refugees lived in peace for a time until their non-indigenous neighbours turned their eyes to the village’s land. “The Indians were squeezed off their sites, persecuting and terrorizing them with all ‘legal’ means until they once again abandoned the village” (Nimuendaju 1971:278). They then retreated to the Gongogi and, driven from there too, assembled at a place called São Bento on the headwaters of the Catolé. The region was uninhabited but some time later, when the Indians had built houses and cleared swiddens, the “legitimate owners of the lands” appeared, demarcated the lands and once again expelled the Indians. Some of them subsequently took refuge, in 1938, in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve at the advice of the ethnologist and SPI (Indian Protection Service) officer Curt Nimuendaju, who had undertaken an “official surveillance trip” to the region extending from the south of Bahia to the valley of the Doce river, following the eastern side of the Serra do Mar mountain range (Nimuendaju 1971).

Nimuendaju stayed in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve from September 22nd to November 28th 1938, sufficient time to observe the state of abandon in which it was found and that the first intrusions by the regional population had taken place (Nimuendaju 1938). Describing the Kariri-Sapuyá who had recently settled there, who he also called “Indians of São Bento,” he recorded that they had retained none of their original language or indeed any “tribal particularity.” In counterpart, despite or because of the miscegenation, they had developed a deep sense of ethnic division with humanity split between ‘us,’ Indians as a whole, irrespective of their linguistic and ethnic affiliation, and the ‘others,’ the ‘adversaries’ (ibid:8). Their relocation to the south of Bahia had not altered the sense of distrust generated over the course of the successive migrations. Consequently, a degree of trust in relation to the ethnologist only became clear when their perceived his stance opposing the intruders and allying himself with the Indians. They told him endlessly about the persecutions they had suffered, one of the recurring themes being the “history of armed resistance” and the tragic ending of their “last warriors,” Rodrigues and João Baetinga, in the scrublands of Pedra Branca. One of the Kariri-Sapuyá who worked as an informant for Nimuendaju, convinced that the monarchy and viceroy still ruled in Bahia, claimed that the Indians’ situation would only improve with the return of D. Sebastião, an Indian like themselves, described as wearing a tanga and carrying arrows (Nimuendaju 1938).

During what would be the final period of the armed conflict, six Indians died and fifteen were made prisoner, transported to Salvador and treated as military criminals. They were tried in 1854 with 12 of those who survived the prison conditions being freed, while Baetinga and another Indian were condemned to forced labour (Carvalho 1994).

The Pataxó

The Pataxó, Aires de Casal would write, were more numerous than all the other nations combined, and their different tribes spread from one end of the province to the other (Casal 1976:216). Like João Gonçalves da Costa, who uses the ethnonym Cutachós as an alternative to Patachó, Casal employs the term Cotochós, and claims that the sertão was known to harbour “for a long time two pagan nations: Patachós or Cotochós, and Mongoiós” (Casal 1976:222).

Douville contradicts Casal when he claims that he had encountered the Pataxó a number of times and that they comprised a fairly small population, mostly inhabiting the Contas river. The low demographic size was partly due to the smallpox that had been ‘maliciously’ introduced among them by Colonel José de Sá Bitanco, who following the death of João Gonsalves da Costa, became responsible for conquering them. Bitanco lived on the shores of the Contas river, close to the place where the Pataxó had their main villages, and left hanging in the trees all kinds of objects that he thought would be attractive. The Pataxó, in exchange, responded with beautiful arrows, which the colonel understood as a declaration of war. He therefore infected a cap with pus from smallpox blisters and left it suspended on a tree branch, contaminating the Pataxó who “died like flies” (Douville apud Métraux 1930:285). They wore long hair, painted their naked bodies (Douville ibid:286) and pierced the lower lip and ear lobe, inserting a piece of bamboo in the hole (Wied-Neuwied 1958:286).

During the period when the Paraguaçu Post was founded (1927), the main area occupied by the Pataxó where the headwaters of the Salgado river, an affluent of the northern shore of the Cachoeira, from where they sometimes attacked the travellers using the Ilhéos-Conquista highway (Nimuendaju 1938). In 1938 the ethnologist found them reduced to 23 individuals, 16 of whom inhabited the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve. This contingent represented the people left from the hundred or so Pataxó who over the last ten years had been captured by the Post administrators. At the time they were divided into two groups. The first comprised three men, three women and three children who lived in a shed open on one side and surrounded by a wall, located next to the Post kitchen. They spoke no Portuguese, or at least were unable to communicate in the language, and lived in idle fashion, producing rough bows and arrows, their only weapons at the time, which he imputed to their fraternization with non-Brazilian people” (Nimuendaju 1938). The second group was formed by a young woman who had abandoned her Indian husband to live with the Post’s cool, her mixed-ethnicity daughter, two boys and three youths who, unlike the other group, spoke Portuguese regularly and spoke very little of the indigenous language (Nimuendaju 1938). The environment prevailing at the PI was, according to Nimuendaju, incompatible with the pursuit of scientific work, which discouraged him considerably, since he supposed the Pataxó constituted the most ‘primitive layer’ of the indigenous population of the south-eastern part of the Bahian state, between the Mucuri and Contas rivers: they did not grow a single plant, did not weave and knew nothing of canoes or pottery. Their containers for water and honey were bags made from monkey hides. They carried items in embira string bags. The first expedition that left the post to encounter the group came across an encampment with 15 roofed shelters covered with tree bark, surrounding an open clearing in the forest with a tree in the centre around which they seemed to dance (Nimuendaju 1938).

Outside the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve, Nimuendaju presumed the existence of another small Pataxó band of seven individuals living in a “wild state” on the Guabira river, which flowed into the Jequitinhonha river three leagues below Salto Grande on the northern side, though no news had been heard of them for four years. Prior to 1927 another band had inhabited the area on the lower Gongogi river and had been gradually exterminated by local farmers. In 1938, a single man remained of the group, who had been captured four times by the Paraguaçu Post staff and had fled three times before dying (Nimuendaju 1938).


In 1927, when the Paraguaçu Post was founded, the area formed by the Pardo river above the Reserve and to the south of the watershed was inhabited by a small tribe called Baenã by the Pataxó, and who Jacobina referred to as Nocnoács (Jacobina 1932). Until then they had been completely overlooked by the ethnological literature and Nimuendaju claimed to have no idea of their origin. The Baenã has also been captured and taken by force to the post, where almost all of them soon died, with the only survivor in 1938 being a six-year old boy ‘caught’ while an infant before learning a single word of the tribe’s language. Apart from him there still existed a small group of about ten individuals living on the headwaters of the Ribeirão Vermelho, an affluent of the right shore of the upper Cachoeira river, therefore located outside the Reserve. In January of the same year they killed a man with two arrows and during Nimuendaju’s stay killed a number of animals.

According to the ethnologist, their culture was very similar to that of the Pataxó, but the two tribes were distinguished both by their language and by their physique. The only Baenã material object registered by Nimuendaju was an arrow, which he considered to be perhaps the longest he had ever seen: 1.30m in length, a shaft made entirely from wood with a bamboo tip, bound with guembé (Philodendron sp.) bark and lateral feather work in the form of a bridge (1938).

The indigenist agency and the expropriation of indigenous territories

In 1911, the SPI (Indian Protection Service, Brazil’s official indigenist agency until 1967) founded an ‘attraction post’ at the confluence of the Gongogi with the Contas river, twelve leagues from the town of Gongogi (SPI 1913:22). At this time, the agency’s officers complained about the lack of interpreters for the Pataxó and Kamakã languages, which hindered their work in Bahia and Minas of protecting the Indians from the raids organized against them and for which they infallibly took revenge.

In the 1930s, the Bahian Inspectorate for the Protection of Indians was absorbed by the Regional Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labour, Industry and Trade and until January 1932 was headed by Alberto Jacobina. The same month he wrote a report in which he claims that the origin of various Tupinambá groups on the verge of extinction in the cacao-growing zone of the south of Bahia had finally been cleared up: the Han-han-hãe were Gueren; the Baenan were the Noc-Noács of the Pardo river; the Baenan-mintãe, the Kamakan of the Gongogi river; while the Pataxó had been reduced to the small group on the Jequitinhonha (Jacobina 1934:253).

Jacobina recounts the efforts made in 1931 to remove “at great cost and expenditure” the indigenous groups occupying the forest that ranged from the Cachoeira, traversing the Pardo and Jequitinhonha as far as the ranching zone of Minas Gerais state, due to the “misery caused to them” and the fact it was no longer possible to protect the forest or the Indians. Malaria struck the group of Indians who had been drawn to the Paraguaçu IP and the staff working at the post. The bout of malaria was followed by leishmaniasis which also caused victims among the Pataxó, attacking them via the airways.

This highly unfavourable context was exploited by the passarinheiros (sertão hunters) and grileiros (land grabbers), meaning that the forest was invaded on all sides and the Indians residing there driven away (Jacobina 1934:255). The author stresses that he had supported the latter at the attraction posts “where the complete lack of foods, medicines and financial resources gave them the impression that they had been called from the forest in order to die” until the start of 1932. Jacobina only arrived in April with the resources, discovering that they had already abandoned the Paraguaçu Post on the Cachoeira river, taken over by invaders and sertão hunters (Jacobina 1934:256).

Jacobina had no hesitation in supporting the Indians he classified as ‘sedentary,’ that is, the Tupinambá of Aricobé, Olivença, Catolé and Barcelos, when they complained of being ‘driven’ off their lands after refusing to sell them and identified the land officers in Bahia State as the “instrument behind this kind of invasion,” since their earnings were related to the surveying measurements they undertook. Finally he believed that the difficulties hindering the SPI's action could be resolved if the proposal that he had sent to the Intervenor Juracy Magalhães was taken up: this would involve the state and the federal government sharing the forests explored and valued by the SPI; if the public prosecutors in the judicial districts of Itabuna and Canavieiras completed the processes of summoning and evicting the rich invaders who had installed themselves in the region, “feigning long-term ownership;” and if the federal government’s will was enforced in the essential case of the Gongogi Post, “invaded by the audacity of the grilo [land ownership established through false deeds] or the caxixe [swindles involving cacao plantation lands]” (Jacobina 1934:265).

In the 1930s the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve was also the target of severe police repression due to the resistance of the then head of the IP, Telésforo Fontes, to the attempt by invading engineers and farm owners to carry out land surveys in the Pardo river region in order to claim land deeds from the state. The preferred targets for this repression were the small tenant farmers who refused to abandon their lands for the farmers and just over three dozen Indians, encountered in a precarious state of health, including suffering from leishmaniasis (see the testimony of Colonel Antonio Medeiros Azevedo given to Maria Hilda Paraíso 1976:35). The tenant farmers who had remained in the reserve were the beneficiaries since their situation was made official through the SPI’s standard contracts, as well as the new squatters claiming lands (Paraíso ibid:36).

The situation continued apparently unaltered with the tenants from 1938 onwards having use of fertile land in exchange for a symbolic tax of 0.10 (ten cents) per hectare until the 1960s when the issue was raised within the National Indian Foundation, the agency replacing the SPI. A report on the inspection visit made by Colonel Hermogêneo Encarnação, in July 1968, refers to the “36,000 ha of extremely fertile land, entirely occupied by tenant farmers who pay Funai a symbolic tax of just ten cents (0.10)” (Brasileiro 1968). At the time there were 800 tenants in the already measured and demarcated area, lacking only the assignment agreement from the state government. In 1969, Funai considered the possibility of signing new contracts for the real price of the region, i.e. NCR$50,00 per ha, and this aim in mind José Maria Gama Malcher, acting president, sent a report from the executive secretary for evaluation by the Head of the Minas-Bahia Office, Manuel dos Santos Pinheiro, who in turn submitted it to the head of the IP, José Brasileiro. The latter stated that there would be no difficulties in making new contracts bearing in mind the fact that the farmers had constructed “valuable assets in improvements.” However he disagreed with the new value planned, a rate that, he said, was applied in the region to leasing of pastures, and suggested a rate of 5% per year on the value of the leased land, which would provide Funai with a “substantial income” and would not generate discontent among the tenant farmers (Silva 1969).

Brasileiro’s position, heavily compliant to the tenant farmers’ interests, as well as that of his superiors by delegating any decision to an inferior clearly in collusion with anti-indigenous interests on such a key issue, demonstrate the government’s carelessness in a case whose negative consequences still have a severe impact on the Indians today, limited to using just 12,000 ha of discontinuous areas of their territory and battling in the courts for almost two decades to over-turn the land titles granted by the state of Bahia in the 1970s and 80s to the non-Indians established there since 1938.  

Cosmology and ritual

Toré. Photo: CPI/SP , década de 1980.
Toré. Photo: CPI/SP , década de 1980.

Douville recorded the couvade among the Mongoió and Pataxó, stating that after the woman gave birth in the forest, she would return to the village where her husband would immediately lie down and follow a rigorous diet during which he would avoid the meat of deer, tapirs, peccaries and monkeys, though he could eat small birds. He could also eat yam, but banana and maize were prohibited. The woman who had given birth gave the food to her husband and took on all his activities since he was unable to love, remaining in bed and “literally dying of hunger.” They thought that the child and mother would die if the man failed to observe this diet (Douville apud Métraux 1930:266).

Both the peoples used cauim. After a good hunt or for fun, the Kamakã would celebrate with dancing and singing, while a large group of men would begin to cut the trunk of a barriguda tree (Bombax) and hollow it out, leaving just the base from which they obtained a container about two or three and a half feet in height, which they placed in a flat spot between their huts or nearby. While the men worked on this, the women made cauim from manioc or maize. Between twelve and sixteen hours earlier they had chewed the maize seeds, spitting them into the pot, later adding hot water and pouring the mixture into the tree bark container where the fermentation took place (Wied-Neuwied 1958:435). Meanwhile the dancers decorated themselves for the festival: the men were painted with long black stripes and the women with circles formed from concentric half-moons and lines on their faces. Some decorated their heads with feather caps and stuck painted feathers in their ears. One man played the herenehediocá, an instrument made from a set of tapir hoofs tied in two bundles with strings: this was used to mark the beat. Another man played the kechiech, a rattle made from a wooden-handled hollow gourd containing small stones (Wied-Neuwied ibid:435; Douvillle apud Métraux 1930:259-60). Douville also refers to a bow stretched with a very fine cord, which they vibrated with a stick (ibid:260).

The ‘dance’ described by Wied-Neuwied heavily evokes the ritual present today among many indigenous peoples in the northeast and east of Brazil called Toré: four men leaning slightly forwards advance and form a circle, some behind the others, singing hoi!hoi!hê! hê! he! while one man accompanies the melody with the sound of an instrument, alternating between loud and soft. At this point the women enter the dance, two by two, with their left hand resting on the back of the next woman. Then the men and women take turns to circle the container with the cauim to the sound of the “enchanting music.” They dance through the night until the container is empty (Wied-Neuwied 1958:436).

After the night of ritual dancing, log races were held: to display their strength, the young Indians ran to the forest, cut down a large cylindrical section of a barriguda trunk, extremely heavy when full of sap, and inserted a stick in it to make the log easier to carry. The strongest of the group lifted this section of trunk, carrying it on his shoulders and ran to the village pursued by the rest who tried to snatch the log off him (ibid). Douville claims that the Kamakã name for the race was “cutting the cake” and that after it was over the men washed and drank the cauim made by the women (Douville apud Métraux 1930:275), while Casal observes that the Kamakã also made use of inebriating or alcoholic drinks made from bees wax left to ferment after being strained and then diluted with water (1976:228).

Diseases among the Kamakã were generally treated through shamanic practices using tobacco smoke. The deceased were mourned for days at a time: men and women stooped over the corpse and emitted “horrible cries” with short periods of rest, while the deceased sometimes remained lying on the ground for a long time before eventual burial (Wied-Neuwied ibid:437). According to Douville the deceased was very well adorned: various threads of beads were placed on various parts of the body as well as a feather headdress. The entire body was painted with red and black lines that criss-crossed each other fairly haphazardly, after which the corpse was transported to the burial site and placed in the grave pit. They planted some bushes on top of the grave and some cotton and banana trees nearby if the site was not covered in too much shadow. These bananas were never eaten and the cotton never used (Douville apud Métraux 1930:272).

The missionary Brother Ludovico de Leorne, who lived among them, described the grave as a hole lined with posts and leaves in which they placed the corpse wrapped in tree bark, which served as a coffin. After its upper section was lined, the grave was filled with earth to the sound of “mournful cries” (MS 1). Spix and Martius, for their part, recorded pieces of fresh meat placed on a pile of palm leaves that covered the tomb: as soon as this food was eaten by an animal or disappeared for some other reason, they believed that the deceased had partaken of the food and they then avoided eating the meat of the offered animal for a long time (1976:168). The deceased was mourned during the day and after the burial in the morning, at midday and in the afternoon as the sun began to set, over the period of one moon (Douville apud Métraux ibid:272).

In the past the Kamakã observed the custom of cremating the dead shamans to prevent them from returning in jaguar form to destroy them one by one. When Douville visited, though, they were content with making a fire on the tomb after burying them. Métraux observes that it is probably this particular case to which Douville refers when he states that “they transport the sick deep into the forest where they are left until they are dead, when they are then cremated and their ashes deposited in large urns” (ibid:272).

The missionary Ludovico Leorne recorded that the Kamakã supreme being is Queggiahorá and that they believed in the immortality of the soul and that when the latter separated from the body it would not move away definitively until the corpse had rotted completely. They also believed that once free of the body, souls wandered through the forest, listened to their conversations, watched their dances and saw all their actions. They flew through the atmosphere or the space existing between the sun and the moon, which they identified as the exclusive dwelling place of the souls of their dead and the place where they rested. The souls of the dead were also considered divinities able to answer prayers and cause storms. Those who had been treated baldy while alive returned in jaguar form to bring affliction to the living; this explained why they left a small amount of cauim next to the corpse in a gourd or pot, as well as bows and arrows – objects that were placed underneath the deceased before the grave was filled and a fire lit on top” (Wied-Neuwied ibid:437).

Every year, on the first day of good weather after the rains, the Kamakã men went to the swiddens, made cauim and left it to ferment, a period during which they planted crops. At the end, they drank profusely, believing that their dead kin would return to help them plant and drink (Douville apud Métraux 1930:274).

The Sun and the Moon

The Sun is an evil genius that feeds on men, responsible too for introducing death to the world. Descending to the earth each day, it sates itself during the night on those who were buried during the day. Hence when large swiddens were cleared, the Kamakã only burnt a small patch of forest each day. The smoke irritated the Sun and it turned red with anger when they set fire to the swidden. By burning the forest slowly they made less smoke and annoyed the Sun less (Douville apud Métraux 1930:270-271).

The moon, by contrast, is considered a benign divinity. It tells the Kamakã the best time to plant, during the new moon when the Moon rises in the west just as the sun is setting. The Moon also informs them about the start of the rainy season and storms and guides them during the celebration of festivals: every five years they spend a full year performing festivals during which marriages are celebrated (Douville apud Métraux 1930:271).

Working with the Kamakã woman Jacinta Grayirá in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve, Nimuendaju compiled a series of ‘beautiful stories' and 'ugly stories.’ The former, which she insisted on telling the ethnologist, involved rich white people who used boots and gold chains and lived in large whitewashed houses, whose wives were accompanied by black women who carried the children. The ‘ugly’ stories, which was reluctant to narrate much to Nimuendaju’s dismay, involved werewolves, the Sun and the Moon, the souls of the dead, cataclysms and animals that spoke and acted like people – in other words, expressions of Kamakã mythology. Despite all the difficulties posed in the communication between the two, in the end he collected a total of 24 mythic accounts (Nimuendaju 1938). Of these he later published the myths of the Sun and Moon; the guinea-pigs and the mojarra fish; the flood; the woodpecker’s adornment; the theft of the arrows; the moon in the cavern; eclipses and the world fire; the star-girl; thunder; kecaxkwenyói; the origin of women; the man who wanted to die; Wadyé; the woman who came back to life as a jaguar; the festival of the souls of the dead; the marmosets; the woodpecker and the kanondarátsi; the hero Korõ; the jaguar in the Indians’ festival; the woman and the jaguar couple; the stubborn jaguar; the man among the tapirs; battle of the birds; the enchanted brothers; the traveller (Viveiros de Castro 1984:98-106).

The Pataxó, for their part, fear the thunder, considered a malign spirit who returns to take anyone. They were very concerned to ensure that their kin called them after death, which meant that men came back when called, though women never returned (Douville ibid:287).

Apolinário, an old man of 83 originally from the Trancoso Village, also told Nimuendaju in 1938, in Santa Rosa Village, some myths covering a variety of themes, such as the headless body, the spear leg, twins, the end of the world and the jurema (raintree) ceremony. He and another old man who Nimuendaju asked to be fetched from São Bento at his own expense, still recalled the jurema ritual, which, according to Nimuendaju, the Kamuru of Pedra Branca introduced to the village of Santa Rosa after one of them described the visions he had experienced (Viveiros de Castro 1984:71-73). Apolinário revealed that in his youth he had taken part in the jurema ceremony held by the Kamuru-Kariri (ibid:73). Due to its special relevance, the latter myth is transcribed below:

“East of the ceremony site they went to fetch jurema branches and remove the bark from top to bottom with a wooden stick. The mass of timber was infused in water and later squeezed into a special gourd (with an extension that served as a handle). The ceremony was performed during the night so that the neo-Brazilians would not know about it. A number of young women sat around the gourd. They smoked from a thick clay pipe and blew the smoke on the drink, where it formed a thick layer. An old man with a rattle decorated with a mosaic of glued feathers danced around the group bent over and singing: Endarindandá nafé nafé nafé! and the young women replied: Darindarindandá! Next the old man gave the young women and men, who formed a row to the side, a small amount of the jurema drink in a small clay bowl.

The jurema shows the entire world to whoever drinks it: the person sees the open sky whose base is completely red; the luminous dwelling place of God; the field of flowers where the souls of the dead Indians live separate from the souls of the others. In the background there is a blue mountain range. The person sees the birds of the field of flowers: hummingbirds, campo troupials and song thrushes. Around its entrance are cliffs that crash against each other, crushing the souls of bad people when they try to pass between them. The person sees how the sun passes underneath the earth. They also see the thunder bird, which is this high (one metre). Its eyes are like those of the macaw, its legs are red and it has an enormous crest on top of its head. By opening and closing this crest, it produces lightning and, when it runs this way and that, thunder” (Viveiros de Castro 1984:73).

The Toré and religiosity today

It is important to observe that despite being affected by the violent contact history suffered by many of the ethnic groups living in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve, the cosmological conceptions, mythology and rituals are still alive and can be enacted under certain conditions, particularly by the elders. In all cases, in public terms, today the Toré constitutes their most relevant ritual expression. This is a possession ritual through which the chants – or the beings thereby enchanted: enchanted masters, supernatural entities deemed to be beneficial – manifest themselves. It is usually performed to introduce any socially significant activity. Both men and women take part, using pipes to smoke tobacco but not jurema (Mimosa tenuiflora) – a small tree typical to the north-eastern sertão whose inner bark is used by the region’s indigenous peoples to make a wine with slightly hallucinogenic properties – only evoked by the chants.

There are three churches established in the reserve: Catholic, Jehova’s Witness and Wesleyan. The latter acts as a conventional Pentecostal church except for its effort to adapt to the local culture through the use of indigenous symbols such as rattles and clothing.  

Productive activities

Pataxó Hãhãhãe man. Photo: ANAI archive, n/d.
Pataxó Hãhãhãe man. Photo: ANAI archive, n/d.

Most of the area – covered in second-growth forest, some of which is used as pasture and other areas for new swiddens – places limits on mechanized farming and suffers from a lack of water during the dry season, making it more suited to pasture and non-mechanized agriculture. Anthropization has led to the emergence of many fruit trees (mango, jackfruit, guava, acerola, coconut, cajá, banana) which are dispersed across the area and ensure an important source of supplementary food.

Subsistence agriculture, part of which is used to obtain income in the open fairs in the towns of Pau-Brasil and Camacã, today comprises  their main productive activity, followed by cattle ranching and commercial cacao crops. Larger swiddens are usually shared by producers from the same extended family. Cattle, bred in community pastures, are the most important source of income for some households: this income is generated through the production of milk, sold to the region’s dairy producers, and fertilizer, the only input used, while cacao cultivation is very recent, initiated after the repossession of the farms established in the indigenous territory and their installations. The cacao producing areas have a high economic value, making them more coveted, and sometimes the focus of intense territorial disputes.

Fishing is practiced in dammed rivers, lakes and streams and complements cereal and vegetable growing. Hunting is also a very incipient activity, practiced through the use of guns and dogs. The most commonly hunted animals are opossums, paca, armadillo, peccary, tortoise, sloths, doves, grassland sparrow and great kiskadee (Wanderley 2003:35).

Craftwork is produced on an irregular basis, usually for sale in nearby areas or, more rarely, during events capable of attracting outside people to the reserve. A few Pataxó Hã-hã-hãe, Pataxó of Barra Velha and Baenã artisans obtain an important source of income from craftwork (Wanderley 2003:33). The seeds used in the manufacture of necklaces and bracelets are gathered or cultivated, such as beiru or pariri, juerana, mata-pasto, tento and brazilwood seed. The wood used as a raw material includes brazilwood, jatobá, tapicuru, aroeira and genipap. On occasions marking territorial repossessions, the celebration of marriages and other festive events, as well as public presentations, people use body painting, adornments, guns and indigenous attire. War clubs decorated in various forms, feather headdresses, female skirts and bodices made from embira fibre, as well as rattles, necklaces, bracelets and other objects are invariably used as symbols of ethnic affirmation.

Social organization

Photo: Hermano Penna, 1980.
Photo: Hermano Penna, 1980.

The genealogical makeup of the various ethnically defined indigenous subgroups in the reserve allows us a way of comprehending the kinship networks that connect the various subgroups and enable the construction of an encompassing social and ethnic totality, today known by the ethnonym Pataxó-Hãhãhãe – which is located on the highest level of this hierarchized system composed of subsystems equally defined in ethnic terms.

Since for practical reasons it was impossible to compile the genealogy of all the family-based ethnic segments, which comprise the minimum units, attention was focused on the two segments that have inhabited the area of the reserve since time immemorial, as oral traditional teaches – segments that existed, therefore, prior to the creation of the reserve, namely the Baenã and Hãhãhãe. By focusing especially on the kinship connections that through consanguinity and affinity derived from interethnic matrimonial alliances allow the ethnic ‘boundaries’ between these two peoples to be surpassed, connecting them to a network of kingroups that transform them from discrete and distinct groups in a system that, at this level, is totalizing and multiethnic – and that formed the nucleus in the reserve of what came to be the Pataxó-Hãhãhãe people, as they are organized today. This without forgetting the other subgroups existing there, which also enter into these alliances but lack the crucial strategic position held by the two segments on which attention was concentrated.

The genealogy presented here was based on another genealogy produced by Lopes da Silva and Násser in 1984. In reality this data and the information obtained by Souza (2002) are complementary insofar as they update the genealogy obtained earlier up to the year 2000, and corroborate the data of the first two anthropologists. This first genealogy (Nasser & Lopes da Silva 1984) is part of the Anthropological Report produced by the two as a technical study of the group's social organization, and “as a resource capable of attesting to the existence of consanguineal and affinal ties between the members of a contemporary ethnic group and between these and their ancestors” (ibid).

In the 16 year span between the genealogy produced by Lopes da Silva and Nasser and its complementing/updating in 2000 a new generation was born that follows and accepts the same “implicit rules of behaviour proper to each ethnic group and relating to the residence pattern, descent rules, household composition, matrimonial rules” (ibid) and to many other aspects of their culture.

A brief examination of the diagrams clearly reveals the intensity of the consanguineal ties between their members in all the recorded generations. Furthermore, in the new generation there is a significant set of marriages between different indigenous groups and between the latter and non-Indians.

It was also possible to observe a recent matrimonial alliance (in the generation immediately after the Násser/Silva survey) between the Baenã and the Hãhãhãe. Souza (2002) recorded another interethnic union, this time between a Baenã man and a Kariri-Sapuyá woman. In both cases the man moved to the woman’s point of origin. Another case of matrimonial alliance between a Baenã and a Kariri-Sapuyá woman was also registered, but in this case the Kariri-Sapuyá wife moved to the reserve where her husband’s predominantly male family was located.

In terms of matrimonial alliances between the Hãhãhãe and the other indigenous groups in the reserve, we can also note the existence of just one marriage between a Hãhãhãe man and a Kariri-Sapuyá woman. Among the Hãhãhãe group, specifically the new generation, we can perceive a sizeable number of marriages with non-Indians, perhaps due to the fact that the area occupied by this group (Bahetá village) is very close – about 2km – to the town of Itajú do Colônia. As well as their house in the reserve, some people maintain small houses in a district of the town (Parquinho) that they can occupy alternately from time to time.

[The ethnic distribution in the occupied areas of the reserve can be found in the item Contemporary aspects]

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