From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: William Crocker, 1975


Where they are How many
Linguistic family

Foto: Michel Pellanders, 1989
Foto: Michel Pellanders, 1989

Antônio Gonçalves Dias’ famous poem "Os Timbiras" (The Timbira) cannot be used as an introduction to the peoples known by such denomination. The poet, who was born in 1823 in the then village of Caxias, in the State of Maranhão, to the north of the lands of these peoples, which had just been conquered, did not have much contact with them because he left the area when he was very young. For that reason he attributed to the Timbira costumes from the Tupi of the coast, which he learned by reading books written by travelers, combined with norms, feelings and aspirations typical of the urban environment in which he himself lived. Even the names of his characters are inspired in the Tupi language.


Foto: Curt Nimuendaju, 1964
Foto: Curt Nimuendaju, 1964

Timbira is the name that designates a set of peoples: Apanyekrá, Apinayé, Canela, Gavião do Oeste (Western Gavião), Krahó, Krinkatí, Pukobyê. Other Timbira ethnic groups no longer are considered autonomous groups: the few Krenyê and Kukoikateyê live among the Tembé and Guajajara, who speak a Tupi-Guarani language (Tenetehara); the Kenkateyê, Krepumkateyê, Krorekamekhrá, Põrekamekrá and Txokamekrá were dissolved into the seven Timbira peoples first listed.

Some of these peoples, although distinct among themselves, are known by the same denominations. To three of them is applied the term Canela: the Ramkokamekrá, Apanyekrá and Kenkateyê. Of these three neighboring groups from southern Maranhão, the last one disappeared after the destruction of its village and the extermination of its inhabitants by a landowner in 1913. The term Canela has been increasingly used to designate the first group, which is abandoning the name Ramkokamekrá. In reality, Canela is an abbreviation of Canela Fina (Thin Ankle), term which, in the beginning of the 19th Century, was applied to the "Capiecrans". No longer used, this last term referred to the Ramkokamekrá.

By the name Gavião are usually designated three other Timbira groups, Krinkati, Pukobyê and Western Gavião, most commonly the latter, less commonly the first. They also maintain a certain spatial proximity, the first two in western Maranhão, on the edge of the Amazon forest, and the third in eastern Pará, in the forest proper. This type of vegetation has made possible for the groups in Maranhão to resist for a long time the expeditions that marched against them. The group in Pará, on the other hand, refused contact with whites for much longer, accepting it only in the second half of the 20th Century.

The name Krenyê also applies to two peoples. One used to live in the vicinity of the locality of Bacabal, in the lower Mearim River, in the State of Maranhão; today there are no reports of individuals who identify themselves as belonging to it. The other used to live in the mid Tocantins River and moved to the Gurupi River, living for a while by one of its tributaries, the Cajuapara River.

The meaning of their indigenous names is indicated in their respective entries. As for the general name, Timbira, Curt Nimuendaju, the ethnologist who pioneered the study of these groups, suggests that, if it is of Tupi origin, it might mean “the tied ones” (tin = to tie, pi'ra = passive), a reference to the straw bands or cotton braided ribbons they wear on the forehead, neck, wrists, below the knees, the ankles. But many of these groups call themselves Mehím.


All those different ethnic groups speak a single language, the Timbira, which belongs to the Jê branch, with dialectal variations among themselves. The most distinctive dialect is that of the Apinayé, which may even be considered a separate language, even though the other Timbira do not seem to have trouble in understanding it. It is also the Apinayé who are the most different in what regards to culture. As the only group living west of the Tocantins River, they are called Western Timbira, as opposed to the others, the Eastern Timbira. In all of the present-day Timbira peoples, the men, in addition to the indigenous language, speak Portuguese fluently; the women, even when they don’t speak Portuguese, can understand it. It is very possible that the Krenyê and the Kukoikateyê no longer use the Timbira language.


The Timbira groups are located in an area that spreads through southern Maranhão, eastern Pará and northern Tocantins. Those that live in the southeastern part of this area inhabit a relatively flat region, interrupted by hills with vertical walls and flat tops, covered by cerrado (the Brazilian savanna), with rivers bordered by riverine forests. Those who live on the north are established either in the transition area between the cerrado and the Amazon Forest, such as the Apinayé, Pukobyê, Krinkatí and the Kukoikateyê, or in the forest proper, like the Western Gavião and the Krenyê.

Contact history

Foto: Curt Nimuendaju
Foto: Curt Nimuendaju

Contacts with the civilized date from the 18th Century. In 1728, a large Timbira attack on the locality of Oeiras, capital of the then Captaincy of Piauí was registered. From the second half of the 18th Century on, however, there have been no records of the presence of the Timbira east of the Parnaíba River. The cattle ranches that expanded from Bahia into Piauí and on to Maranhão clashed with them, pushing the Timbira westward.

In northern Maranhão, which is a forested area, large rice and cotton plantations were being established at the time. These cultures also exerted pressure upon the Timbira, because they required slaves for the fields and for the machines that removed cottonseeds. Another market for Indian slaves was Belém, in Pará, which had direct access to the Timbira region through the Tocantins River. A Carta Régia (Royal Letter) of September 5, 1811, favored the enslavement of the Timbira by allowing the temporary enslavement of the Indians of the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers who resisted the colonists, for ten years or more, while their “atrocity” lasted. The Indians were confronted by troops made up of military men and civilians as well as co-opted Indians, such as the Krahó. Knowledge of this period comes mostly from the memoirs of the military commander Francisco de Paula Ribeiro, who fought the Indians but did not approve of the deceptions, non-fulfilled promises and slavery imposed upon those who were willing to establish peaceful relations with the colonists.

The conquest of the Timbira lands by the whites was carried out mostly in the first quarter of the 19th Century, during a period of juridical vacuum, that is, between the extinction of the Diretório dos Índios (Indian Directory), issued by the Marquis of Pombal, and the first legal disposition relative to the Indians of independent Brazil, in the Additional Act that amended the Imperial Constitution in 1834. Between them, only the Carta Régia of 1811 was issued. No concessions of land by the Portuguese Crown were made, nor aldeamentos (villages for Indians) created by the government, as had been done in the 18th Century.

The dispositions determined by Emperor Pedro II (1840-1889) reached the Timbira in an unsystematic way and did not prevent them from being at the mercy of local cattle ranchers and merchants: the resumption of the religious missions, especially with Italian capuchins, after 1845; the Indian provincial directorships; the military colonies. In the area of the forest, the cotton and rice exports from northern Maranhão slowed down, and a period of stagnation followed, after the United States resumed their production with the end of a era of wars that had jeopardized its external commerce (the War of Independence, Napoleon’s continental blockade and the so-called Second War of Independence).

It may not be an exaggeration to say that, after the armed confrontations of the beginning of the 19th Century, the history of the Timbira peoples has been a continuous process of withering away that lasted until the mid-20th Century. The survivors of the different ethnic groups who were left after massacres, epidemics and land losses joined those that were not facing such problems at the time, thus reinforcing the permanence of the Timbira culture.

It is possible to identify three situations of contact based in the region’s most important economic activity:

a) that of the groups that had contact with the ranches that raise cattle extensively and do not need many workers, who were kept aside from the activity of cattle-raising and often have been the most harassed because they occupy lands needed for the expansion of properties and hunt the cattle that occupied their former hunting grounds. On the other hand, they were the ones who preserved the traditional ways the most. With no activities that provide them money to buy industrialized items with, they try to get them in long trips to the large cities. Such is the case of the Apanyekrá, Krahó, Pukobyê and Krinkati;

b) that of the groups that, living in the forest, had contact with economic fronts attracted by a highly valuable product and who, by joining the activity of extracting it, rapidly changed their culture. Such is the case of the Parkatêjê, whose culture has been much more changed than that of the Timbira groups that have had contact with cattle ranches for more than two centuries, even though they established peaceful contact with whites who collected brazil nuts only around 1955;

c) that of the groups that got involved with the extraction of a product of medium commercial value, which ensured them access to a not very large but constant supply of industrialized products, who maintained their traditions in part but not as much as those that were associated with cattle growing activities; such is the case of the Apinayé, who harvest babaçu nuts, even though the Timbira of the vicinity of the Gurupi River that extract copaíba oil from the copal tree have a different, little known situation.

Obviously this is a point of view based on the ethnological perspectives of the mid-20th Century, when the changes in indigenous cultures were analyzed according to the economic fronts they had had contact with. Today it is necessary to take into account other forms of contact, such as the big projects of infra-structure, which, in the case of the Timbira, affected directly or marginally especially the forested northwestern portion of the region they inhabit: the Belém-Brasília highway, Serra de Carajás-Itaqui railroad; the Tucuruí hydroelectric plant; energy transmission lines; large agricultural and cattle enterprises.

Dispersion and coalescence of the timbira peoples

Foto: William Crocker, 1975
Foto: William Crocker, 1975

The distinction between Eastern and Western Timbira has already been mentioned. It is based on dialectal differences, which correspond to a geographic distribution as well; the ethnologist Curt Nimuendajú classified the former in two sets, one on the north, one in the south.

The northern Eastern Timbira are those who used to live on the lower Mearim and Pindaré rivers, in Maranhão. On the Mearim lived the Krenyê from Bacabal (an urban center nearby), the Kukoikateyê and possibly the "Pobzé". As for the groups that inhabited the lower Pindaré, the sources have registered no names. The Krenyê and the "Pobzé" started to make peaceful visits to the town of Bacabal around the mid-19th Century, so the government created the colony of Leopoldina (on the mid-Grajaú River) for them and for the Kukoikakateyê. In 1855, while the Indians were living there, an epidemic swept through, killing many of them and forcing others to flee. In 1862, in Leopoldina still lived 336 Timbira from the Mearim, of which 87 were Krenyê, 158 Kukoikateyê and 91 "Pobzé". By 1919, the Krenyê were living in Cajueiro – 43 of them – while 30 Kukoikateyê lived in a locality called Santo Antônio. When Curt Nimuendaju was writing his book The Eastern Timbira, published in 1946, the Krenyê and the Kukoikateyê still lived in localities in the vicinity, in the forest, relatively close to the right bank of the lower Grajaú River; as for the "Pobzé", he believed they were extinct. Of those three peoples only the Kukoikateyê survived. Today they live in the Geralda/Toco Preto Indigenous Land, crossed by the Grajaú River, in the municipality of the same name, along with Guajajara Indians. Available information for this Indigenous Land register 72 inhabitants in 1990, with no distinction between the members of each ethnic group.

The Timbira groups of the lower Pindaré River, on the other hand, began to migrate west in the mid-19th Century. In 1862 there were between 100 and 150 such migrants on the Gurupi River, which separates Maranhão from Pará. Exploited by a civilized man, they moved away from the river, but returned in 1889 and accepted the situation of living under the influence of another civilized man. In 1900, other Timbira from the Pindaré who had survived an attack carried out by Guajajára Indians and rubber gatherers joined them. In 1903, following an outburst of smallpox, the Kaapór attacked them; after that, they established themselves on the Araparitíua River, a tributary of the Gurupi on the Pará bank of this river. When Curt Nimuendajú visited them in 1914-1915, he counted 41 individuals. He could still see remains of the masks that the Indians had used in a ritual performed before his visit. They had, however, abandoned agriculture to dedicate themselves to the extraction of copaíba oil, to work for rubber gatherers or to serve as oarsmen. In 1919 they were 43. Those Timbira from the Araparitíua, as Nimuendajú called them, were later transferred north to the Felipe Camarão Post, located next to the mouth of the Jararaca River, a tributary of the same Gurupi, but on the Maranhão bank, inhabited by the Tembé, and eventually were reduced to only a few survivors.

The set of Eastern Timbira from the south includes the Krenyê from the Cajuapara, the Krinkati, the Pukobyê, the Western Gavião, the Krepumkateyê, the Krorekamekrá, the Põrekamekrá, who in the early 19th Century lived between the Mearim and the Tocantins rivers, and the Krahó, Kenkateyê, Apanyekrá, Canela and Txokamekrá, who then were established between the Mearim and the Itapicuru rivers.

The Krenyê from the Cajuapara used to live in the area between the Mearim and the Tocantins rivers; in the mid-19th Century, they had two villages in the vicinity of the Santa Tereza military colony – the present-day city of Imperatriz, in Maranhão – with population over 200 inhabitants, where a Carmelite missionary worked. By 1872 they were already in the headwaters of the Cajuapara River, one of the watercourses in Maranhão that form the Gurupi River, in a village with between 400 and 500 inhabitants. They said they had migrated from the vicinity of Imperatriz because local inhabitants had attacked their village when the men were away and many Indian children had been kidnapped. In revenge, they had burned a neighboring farm, killing seven people, and then fled for fear of a reprisal. Nimuendajú visited them in 1914-1915 on the Cajuapara, where they had a village with some 100 inhabitants. By 1919, their population had been reduced to 65 individuals. Soon after, the Serviço de Proteção ao Índio – Service for the Protection of the Indians – (SPI), Brazil’s first official organ for Indian policy, transferred them north to the Felipe Camarão Post as well. There they too were reduced to a few survivors.

Thus both the Krenyê from Cajuapara (originally from the mid-Tocantins River) and the Timbira from Araparitíua (originally from the lower Pindaré River) converged to the same place, the Felipe Camarão Post. Darcy Ribeiro, who sailed up the Gurupi River in 1949/1950, reports in his Diários Índios (1996, pp. 84-85, 87, 93, 166-168, 196-200) the presence of those Timbira, without distinguishing their different origins. They comprised a total of 23 individuals, who lived in the post, in the village of Sordado (apparently comprised of just one single house), upriver, and, downriver, in the Pedro Dantas Post, the place where the first contact with the Kaapor had been made. Some were married to non-Timbira, Indians or not. Ribeiro grouped them in a single genealogical scheme, and got from their leader the kinship terminology and a few myths (one of them that of the twins, from the Tembé). This leader, who could speak Portuguese, Tembé and Kaapor and was the most knowledgeable individual in the Timbira language, was not very sure about the pronunciation of the words in this tongue. In short, the Indians currently known as Krenyê, who live in the Alto Guamá Indigenous Land, in the municipality of Paragominas, in the State of Pará, are descendants of the Timbira from the Gurupi River whom Darcy Ribeiro met. Data from 1990 indicate a population of 813 individuals in this Indigenous Land inhabited by Tembé, Kaapor, Guajá, Munduruku and Krenyê, but do not specify the numbers for each ethnic group.

In the early 19th Century, the Põrekamekrá had two villages between the upper Grajaú and the Farinha River, a small tributary of the Tocantins River north of the town of Carolina, in Maranhão. One of them made peace with the whites and came to Carolina (then called São Pedro de Alcântara), led by its chief "Cocrît", bringing green branches as a sign of peace. Months later the village moved close to town, but the chief was imprisoned and his followers suffered so many abuses from the whites that part of them took refuge among the Krahó (who had migrated from the basin of the Balsas River, a tributary of the Parnaíba River, to the Farinha River). The other village was assaulted by an expedition from São Pedro de Alcântara, with the help of the Krahó. Convinced by the false promises of chief "Cocrît", the Indians, who numbered 364 individuals at the time, were attacked by the expedition; some of them were killed, others captured, others fled. Of the 164 captured, 130 were shipped to be sold in Pará as slaves. Along with this second Põrekamekhrá village were attacked the Põkateyê as well. With the last part of both names, kamekrá and kateyê, common in Timbira names, and considering the particle re as a diminutive, both names are constituted by põ. But Curt Nimuendajú gives them a different translation: while põre, from the first name, would be the name of the caburé owl, põ, from the second, would mean field (cerrado). In any case, further information about the Põkateyê is lacking.

The Krorekamekrá (krore = peccary) also used to live in the region of Carolina and were enemies of the Krahó. Curt Nimuendajú was still able to see a few of them in the village of the Canela.

The Krepumkateyê (Krepum = name of a lake; it supposedly refer to a place where the rhea lay – pum – eggs – kre) used to live close to the place previously inhabited by the "Caracategé", on the Grajaú River, and were probably their descendants. They helped to go after the Guajajara after the episode of Alto Alegre, in which capuchin missionaries were killed in 1901. In 1919, Nimuendajú found them in decline, landless and dependant of a landowner. The ethnologist speculates that the few Karenkateyê (karen = mud) he met in the village of the Canela might have been "Caracategé", based on the similarity of the names and on the position, in accordance with the compass, that they occupied in the village central court. He also makes, with less conviction, an alternative supposition: they would instead be "Canacategé", who used to live on the Farinha River, a tributary of the Tocantins. This group, in the beginning of the 19th Century, in spite of asking for peace, were attacked by an expedition from Carolina that was helped by the Krahó; part of them were enslaved to be sold in Pará while others were dispersed.

Thus all the Timbira from the area between the Mearim and the Tocantins rivers moved away or were dispersed or annihilated, with the exception of the Pukobyê and the Krinkati. But even those two groups faced difficulties. It is very possible that the Western Gavião, who live in the forest by the Tocantins, in Pará, are in reality a faction of the Pukobyê that broke up from this group in the 19th Century and refused contact with the colonists. The Krinkati, on the other hand, saw their lands be reduced to the point that they dispersed in the early 20th century, and for many years had no villages; however, they were able to built them again.

Timbira who lived east of the Mearim River, the Krahó was the group that moved the most. In the beginning of the 19th Century they were living close to the Balsas River, a tributary of the Parnaíba. Pushed away by the advance of the cattle ranch front, they moved to the Farinha River, a tributary of the Tocantins, where, co-opted by landowners and by a merchant from Carolina, helped them attack the Timbira who lived in the area between the Mearim and the Tocantins. In the mid-19th Century, a capuchin missionary transferred them further south to lands that are part of the present-day State of Tocantins.

Two Timbira peoples of the region between the Mearim and the Itapicuru rivers have disappeared as autonomous groups. One was the Txokamekrá (txó = fox), also known as Mateiros (woodsmen), who used to live between the right bank of the Mearim and the left bank of the Itapicuru, south of Caxias, centered along the Flores River, a tributary of the Mearim. They were defeated by the whites in the end of the 18th Century, and were taken by surprise by another expedition in 1815, taking refuge in the heights of a mountain range. Those who came down unarmed, deceived by peace offers, pledges of alliances against their enemies and promises of tools, were captured and sold in auction as slaves in Caxias’ main square. In 1818 they took revenge by first accepting the gifts brought to them by an expedition and then killings its members when on the way to Caxias, where they were being taken in order to sign a peace treaty. In 1847 two of their villages still existed. They were ravaged by an epidemic in 1855. Enemies of the Ramkokamekrá, who even helped the whites against them, they ended up joining them still in the 19th Century. Diseases made both groups break up. However, increasingly harassed by the sertanejos (local inhabitants, usually mixed bloods), they once again got together with the Ramkokamekhrá around the turn of the 20th Century. Nimuendaju, who conducted research among the latter in 1929-1936, was adopted by a Txokamekrá family there. The same happened to ethnologist William Crocker, who began his studies of the Canela in the 1950s.

The Kenkateyê also disappeared in a treacherous massacre, promoted by a landowner in 1913. They used to live on the headwaters of the Alpercatas River, a tributary of the Itapicuru. The few survivors took refuge among the peoples from which they seem to have originated, in the mid 19th Century: the Apanyekrá and the Krahó.

Thus of this area are left the Krahó, the Canela and the Apanyekrá, in whose villages the descendants of other Timbira who got dispersed took refuge.

The Timbira Culture

The culture of each present-day Timbira people is dealt with in its respective entry. Here will only be discussed what they have in common. The similarities begin with the appearance they give to their bodies. The haircut is the same for both sexes – long, with a groove around the head at the bang’s level, except for the Apinayé, in the back. The men display large ear bungs; the Western Gavião used to pierce the lower lip as well. Childless young women used to wear a belt made of several strings made from tucum (a kind of spiny palm). Adapting their pre-contact dress to the current trend of increasingly incorporating the civilized dress, the Timbira from the cerrado adopted a wardrobe made of articles from whites, but with their own characteristics. The men would hide their genitals with a triangle made of cloth tied to a leather belt or a string; sometimes, when traveling, they would make the loincloth out of the top portion of a pair of pants, while the legs were tied to the waist; they would wear the pants the regular way only when they close to places inhabited by civilized people. The women covered themselves from the waist to the knees with a piece of cloth, to which they even made a hem; around the neck, they used several necklaces of beads, decorated with a set of Catholic medals (called "verônicas"). These wardrobes were used in addition to body paintings.

The Timbira groups also share a similar material culture. Instead of ceramics, they use gourds as water and food containers. They sleep on beds covered with straw mats, instead of in hammocks. They manufacture a variety of objects made of plaited straw: baskets, mats, ribbons. They cook cassava and meat loaves wrapped with leaves of wild bananas, under previously heated rocks. Water or soup can be boiled in gourds by putting in them heated rocks. Today the use of heated rocks is more frequent in the preparation of cakes for the rituals; food for daily use is generally cooked in iron pans. There is no indication of how the houses were built before contact with the whites. Today’s houses, of sertanejo origin, are rectangular, covered with palm leaves. The walls, made of vertical tree trunks interspersed with straw, are being increasingly replaced by timber. The sertanejo house usually lacks internal subdivisions, as well as windows.

In the Timbira villages, the houses are built next to each other along a pathway so as to form a circle. A narrower path links each house to the center, where there is a courtyard. This courtyard, contrary to what takes place in villages of other Jê peoples, does not have a Men’s House or any other building. Still, the young men sleep there, in the open, when it does not rain. The court is where the men meet, at dawn and at dusk. There, the women sing shoulder-to-shoulder forming a line, led by a male singer who shakes a maraca.

Marriage, which is monogamous, implies in the transference of the groom to the house where the bride lives. The union becomes stable after the birth of the first child. But there is ample sexual freedom both for single and married people. Contiguous houses, the result of the unfolding of a previous house are, due to the rule of post-marital residence, related to each other through the female line and form a social unit. Those born in the same segment of houses of this kind do not intermarry. Thus those segments are exogamous.

Within the village space, the directions have a meaning. It is necessary to pay attention to oppositions such as center/periphery, east/west, high/low and others in order to understand the various rituals held in it. There are rituals related to the individuals’ life cycles, those related to the annual cycle and yet others associated with a longer cycle, the initiation.

The relay races, in which each of the two teams carries a trunk of buriti palm (or any other tree), are part of those rituals. The format of the trunks (long or short, massive or hollow, carved or held by cables), their size and their ornaments vary according to the ritual.

For those disputes – but not only for them – the Timbira divide themselves in two parts, called halves. The same people may divide itself in different pairs of halves, each one with its own affiliation criterion: personal name, age group, free choice; but it seems that the criterion is never unilinear descendance.

The personal name, in addition to being an important criterion for the affiliation to halves, is also associated with certain ritual roles, which are inherited by the individual who bears it. The male name is transmitted by relatives of a category that includes the uncle on the mother’s side and the grandfather of the father’s side, among others; the female name, by the category of relatives that includes the aunt on the father’s side and both grandmothers, among others.

Such identification by the name, of a more ritualistic character, contraposes with another that associates relatives who are generally part of the same elementary family: the prohibitions of foodstuffs, sex or other behaviors that must be respected when a son or daughter, father or mother, brother or sister of an individual goes through a crises, such as the first days after birth, an illness, the bite of a poisonous animal, based on the belief that whatever affects someone will also affect someone else. Such ties are called usually “of substance” in the books of ethnology.

Kinship terms classify the children of uncles and aunts of the opposite sex of each parent with relatives of past generations. The use of the terms to distant relatives may differ from this pattern when it involves individuals with the same personal name, relatives with whom attitude has changed, formal friends. As for the latter, they can be of two types: those with whom the friendship is spontaneous, which makes them equals, like brothers; and those with whom the ties are more rigid, which are marked simultaneously by an exaggerated solidarity and by prohibition, which make them contraries.

Their local groups are related to honorary chieftaincy, which is defined by the acclamation of a resident of a given village by the inhabitants of another, of the same or of a different ethnic group, thus establishing a relationship of peace and friendship and providing lodging for the inhabitants of each of the villages in the other.

Their myths, which are dealt with in the specific entries for each Timbira ethnic group, are mostly the same, with small variations: the Moon and the Sun and the creation of humankind, of work, of death, of menstruation, of the disturbing or poisonous animals; the Star-Woman, who teaches the use of the cultivable vegetables; the struggle against the great hawk and the great owl and the origin of the Pembyê initiation rite; the ascension, lifted by the vultures, of a man to the Sky, from where he brings down the knowledge of shamanism and of the Pembkahëk initiation rite; the knowledge of the use of fire, which was learned from the jaguars; the transformation of certain human beings into monsters such as the Perna-de-Lança (Spear-Legs); the appearance of the white man after the expulsion of an anomalous member from the Indian society. It is thus constant in this mythology the transmission of knowledge from the outside into the society and of certain beings in the contrary direction. In addition to the myths, the various Timbira groups tell stories of historical character, in general episodes of conflict and war.

Notes on the source

Here will be mentioned sources that deal with the full set of Timbira peoples or that compare them. There is no work dealing with the Timbira in general, but Curt Nimuendajú, in his book about the Canela The Eastern Timbira, makes a brief historical account of each Timbira people, including those that were extinct but about whom there is information available. Among the historical sources, the most remarkable is the memoirs of Francisco de Paula Ribeiro, a Portuguese military man who commanded the troops in southern Maranhão in the early 19th Century.

Few works compare different Timbira peoples. Roberto DaMatta, by comparing the Krahó and Canela versions of the myth of the origin of the civilized, discusses the complementarity of the maternal grandfather and the maternal uncle in what refers to domestic authority. Maria Elisa Ladeira, in her study of the Krahó, Apanyekrá and Apinayé, relates demography, transmission of personal names and matrimonial system. Julio Cezar Melatti takes the grupos da praça among the Krahó, Canela and Krinkatí, as symbolic transfiguration of the different possibilities for the individual to relate with the group. Dolores Newton finds differences between the Krinkatí and the Pukobyê when examining the technique of twisting cotton threads and braiding them in the manufacture of hammocks. Maria Elisa Ladeira and Gilberto Azanha, in the article "Os 'Timbira atuais' e a disputa territorial" (The present-day Timbira and the territorial dispute), discuss the situation of the lands of each Timbira people. Vincent Carelli, in a video, shows how the Western Gavião and the Krahó, in an exchange of visits, study each other and compare themselves.

Sources of information

  • DA MATTA, Roberto. Mito e autoridade doméstica. In: --------. Ensaios de Antropologia Estrutural. Petrópolis : Vozes, 1973. p. 19-61.


  • LADEIRA, Maria Elisa. De bilhetes e diários : oralidade e escrita entre os Timbira. In: SILVA, Aracy Lopes da; FERREIRA, Mariana Kawall Leal (Orgs.). Antropologia, história e educação : a questão indígena e a escola. São Paulo : Global, 2001. p. 303-30.


  • -------- (Org.). Estudando os cerrados. São Paulo : CTI, 1999. 92 p.


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


  • --------; AZANHA, Gilberto. Os "Timbira atuais" e a disputa territorial. In: RICARDO, Carlos Alberto (Ed.). Povos Indígenas no Brasil - 1991/1995. São Paulo : Instituto Socioambiental, 1996. p. 637-41.


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