From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Sílvio Coelho dos Santos, 1975


Where they are How many
SC 2153 (Siasi/Sesai, 2020)
Linguistic family

The Xokleng Indians of the sub-group Laklanõ, from Ibirama Indigenous Area (Terra Indígena Ibirama – TII) situated in the highlands of the State of Santa Catarina, are the survivors of the brutal process of colonization in southern Brazil which began in the mid XIX century, and which has been responsible for their almost total extermination. Despite of the extermination of other Xokleng sub-groups who lived in the state of Santa Catarina until the early decades of the XX century, and the confinement of the survivors in reserved areas, in 1914, the Xokleng-Laklanõ were contacted and came together around the TII. This has guaranteed ‘peace’ after decades of fights between Indians and whites, and subsequently, the development and progress of the colonies in the Itajaí River Valley. The Xokleng-Laklanõ still struggle to survived and reproduce themselves physically and socio-culturally, even after the extinction of TII’s natural resources, worsened by the construction of the Northern Dam on their original land which began in the 80’s.


Foto: Provável autoria de E. Hoerhan
Foto: Provável autoria de E. Hoerhan

The origin of the name ‘Xokleng’ provoked many debates. Since their first friendly contacts with the Indian Protection Service’s employees (SPI), in 1914, the denominations given to the group were various: ‘Bugres’, ‘Botocudos’, ‘Aweikoma’, ‘Xokleng’, ‘Xokrén’, ‘Kaingang de Santa Catarina’ and ‘Aweikoma-Kaingang.’

These denominations are due to: the linguistic and cultural proximity existing between the Xokleng and the Kaingang; little importance given by ethnographers to the auto-denomination; and lack of knowledge of Xokleng ethno-history.

In the first ethnography on Xokleng, Jules Henry (1941), although termed them Kaingang, admitted there was linguistic-cultural differences among them and the other Kaingang. Gregory Urban (1978) termed them Shokleng and affirmed that the Xokleng originated from the Kaingang, and such separation was due to the fissions of their patri-moieties, and that the term ‘Xokleng’ is very generic and doesn't give them identity. The Kaingang from other Indigenous Areas in southern Brazil don't recognize themselves as Xokleng’s ‘kin’.

The term ‘Xokleng’, popularized by the ethnologist work of Sílvio Coelho dos Santos, had been just incorporated by the group as a denominator of identity externally to the TII world, used in their political fights. But internally, the Xokleng themselves allege that this word, that means ‘spider’ or ‘taipa’ (wooden form for concrete), had been ‘invented by the whites by mistake.’ Today, many denominate themselves as ‘Laklanõ’, that is, ‘sun people’ or ‘fast people.’ The term Laklanõ is gaining internal political space due to the recent movement to write their language, and the telling of old myths and of recovering the ‘traditional culture.’


Xokleng and Kaingang languages form the southern branch of the Gê trunk language.

According to the Indians, at the TII is spoken ‘Xokleng,’ a language next to Kaingang. The Xokleng say that they understand a little of the Kaingang language, but don't speak it. In the lasts twenty years, the number of eloquent Xokleng reduced a lot. The majority of the youths only speak fluent Portuguese. This is due to increase in marriages with non Indigenous and to the countless social, political, economic and cultural rearrangements provoked by the Northern Dam.

From 1992 on, as an initiative of Xokleng Nanblá Gakran, the Xokleng language learning has been incorporated at schools of TII. With the support from FUNAI, local prefectures and by FURB (Foundation Universidade Regional de Blumenau), Gakran produced a small dictionary Xokleng-Portuguese and a booklet with ‘legends’ written in the two languages. They are being used in the classrooms. From this initiative, the youths and the adults who didn't know written Xokleng are becoming aware of the importance of knowing their own language and culture. Today, the Xokleng language is openly spoken in public, especially in political meetings with the presence of the whites, and the language is becoming more and more a political symbol in the construction of a positive ethnic identity.


TI Ibirama is situated along the Rivers Hercílio (called in the past River Itajaí do Norte) and Plate, which form one of the basins of the River Itajaí-açu. TI Ibirama is situated about 260 km northwester of Florianópolis (capital of the state of Santa Catarina) and 100 km west of Blumenau. It is located in four municipal districts of Santa Catarina - José Boiteux, Victor Meirelles, Doctor Pedrinho and Itaiópolis - about 70% of the area of TII is within the limits José Boiteux (southwest of the TII) and Doutor Pedrinho (north of the TII). The then governor of Catarina, Adolfo Konder, created the TII in 1926, with an area of 20.000 hectares. In 1965 it was officially measured with a size of 14.156 hectares. It was initially denominated Posto Indígena Duque de Caxias. In 1975 it received the name of Posto Indígena Ibirama.

TII occupies a subtropical forest area, that until the 60’ was still very rich in ‘palmito’ (Euterpes edulis), but the predatory extraction practically wiped it out by the end of the decade. Until the mid 70’s, the native forest was abounded of noble woods, but it started to be explored systematically by log plants in the second half of the decade with the consent of FUNAI, that alleged that the Indians needed new houses for the new forming villages after the flood of the old ones provoked by the dam. All the forests of the TII were practically wiped out by the middle of the 80’s.

The TII began to suffer other great transformations from the mid 70’s on with the construction of the Northern Dam, which dammed the River Hercílio at TII’s southeast boarder. Supposedly, the purpose of the dam was to contain the summer floods in the industrial cities of the industrialized Low Itajaí's Valley, like Blumenau. The contention lake that was formed up river flooded about 900 hectares of the most farmable area of the TII, where the Xokleng lived and worked. Due to the flood, Xokleng had to move to the higher parts of the TII, where there was the virgin forest and where the Indians didn't know how to survive economically. From then on, the wood exploration intensified. The TII was divided into ‘frentes’ (‘exploration fronts’), where the extended family units started to commercialize the wood with the participation of FUNAI employees and logging companies. Several areas of the TII were invaded by white settlers and logging companies. Despite all political mobilization of the Indigenous community, it was only in 1997 FUNAI officially organized an interdisciplinarly team to redefine TII’s borders and return to the Xokleng their invaded areas. There is still a lot of tension at the location and it demands the intervention of government authorities and of the federal police to intermediate the conflicts between settlers, lumber companies and the Indians.

Still today, the government has not yet entirely fulfilled all items agreed to pay back the Xokleng as part of the compensations for their losses provoked by the construction of the dam. The Xokleng are still demanding the constructions of houses, bridges and roads, as well as demands to find alternatives for their physical reproduction at the TII. At the TII today, there is almost no agriculture and hunting is rare. Fishing is one the important alimentary supplements, besides food that they must buy at local grocery stores.


The population at TI Ibirama has been pluri-ethnic; composed of several generations of Xokleng who have intermarried Kaingang Indians from other Areas in southern Brazil; by some whites, Guarani and Cafuzos. Its configuration has been constantly changing throughout the almost 90 years of contact with the whites.   The Population of Terra Indígena Ibirama Along the History

  SPI 1914 Henry 1932 Santos 1962 FUNAI 1980 FUNAI 1997
Xokleng 400 106 160 529 723
Guarani     33 102 54
Kaingang     11 88 21
Mestiços     82 129 126
Cafuzos         18
Whites     50 18 67
Total 400 106 336 886 1009


The first Kaingang were brought by the SPI in the first years of contact to help in the ‘attraction’ and pacification of the Xokleng. The Kaingang and their descents have intermarried the Xokleng as well as some of the SPI employees and descents of local Italian settlers. In the second half of the 70’s, a new wave intermarriage took place between the Xokleng and the Kaingang with whites who came to work on the dam’s construction. The Cafuzos arrived at the TII in the 40’s. They were actually landless Black, remaining survivors from the Contestado War. They were brought to the TII by the SPI and worked as almost slaves in agricultural activities. In 1991, almost all of them left the TII because they had received from the government their own land to live. The marriages between the Xokleng and the Kaingang with the Cafuzos have been rare. The first families of Guarani Indians arrived at the TII in the 50’s. They came from the Southwest, from the borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, and from the west of Santa Catarina. They have been living in a remote corner of the TII, and are socio-politically isolated from the rest of the population. In the first half of the 90’s, most of them migrated to other Guarani camping sites along the southern and southeastern Brazilian coast. The intermarriage between the Guarani and the Xokleng has been uncommon.

The censuses also show the massive death of the Xokleng provoked by influenza, yellow fever and measles epidemics in the first two decades of contact. Between 1914, year of the contact, and 1935 two thirds of Xokleng died.

The last census carried out in 1997, summed 20 Xokleng nuclear families living in the peripheries of the cities of Blumenau, Joinville and Itajaí.

History of contact

Rio Plate, Santa Catarina. Foto: Wessel
Rio Plate, Santa Catarina. Foto: Wessel

Since the start of the XVIII century, the government has been studying the possibility to build a road to link the provinces of Rio Grande do Sul to São Paulo, in order to improve the commerce between both regions, to increase the cattle breeding, the agriculture as well as to open new national boarders. Enormous plateau areas formed this territory and it was traditionally occupied by the Kaingang and Xokleng (between parallels 25th and 30th, and between the high plateau and the coast). In 1728 a troop road between both provinces (with basically the same tracing of the current BR-116) was opened.

Bugreiros e suas vítimas. Acervo Sílvio Coelho dos Santos
Bugreiros e suas vítimas. Acervo Sílvio Coelho dos Santos

The village of Lages was formed in 1777. Lages becomes a convergent place of trade for regions' great cattle farms, exploration and cultivation of erva-mate (Ilex paraquiriensis) and, later, of araucária (Araucaria angustifolia) lumbering plants. The araucaria nut represented the most victual source of food for the Indian Xokleng and Kaingang during winter months. The occupation of this area has reduced the game, and the destruction of araucaria forest areas has threatened Indians' subsistence, since these societies were hunters and collectors. The reduction of natural resources have launched the beginning of several conflicts between the whites and the Indians, and among the Indigenous sub-groups themselves, who have started to fight for still untouched areas in the region.

In the first decades of the XIX century, the European colonization began in Rio Grande do Sul, which expeled the Xokleng and the Kaingang towards Santa Catarina, increasing even more the fight among the Indians for territory. In the middle of the century, the European colonization moved westwards, towards Santa Catarina's high plateau and the Itajaí River valley; in the same direction followed the Indians to escape from the invasion of their territory.

At the time of the European migrants arrival and the subsequent occupation of the territory the Xokleng lived, the Xokleng population was divided and organized as such. According to Urban (1978), until the first half of the XIX century, there were two groups of Xokleng, the Waikòmang and the Kañre, that constituted patrimoieties, just as the ones existing among others Gê Indians, including the Kaingang. The Waikòmang killed the men of half Kañre, incorporating to their half Kañre women and children. This ended the patrimoieties' system among the Xokleng, and began a triadic system of opposition established among kin, affines and non-kin.

Acervo: Museu Paranaense
Acervo: Museu Paranaense

From then on, Waikòmang's political history was characterized by factional disputes that gave origin to three factions in the second half of the XIX century: one denominated Ngrokòthi-tõ-prèy, in the west of Santa Catarina's, on the border with Paraná, next to the municipal district of Porto União (SC); one in the center of the State, next to Ibirama's municipal district, close to Hercílio River (or River Itajaí do Norte), denominated Laklanõ; and another close to the coast and State' s capital, Florianópolis, at Serra do Tabuleiro, denominated Angying (Urban 1978). Santos (1973) points out the existence of another Xokleng faction in the south of the State, situated between the municipal districts of São Joaquim, Orleães and Anitápolis; that I believe was part of faction Angying.

The white occupation of these territories in Santa Catarina where the Xokleng lived in the second half of the XIX century, generated a series of long lasting conflicts involving whites and Indians. In the Itajaí River Valley, several assaults and deaths of the European settlers occured. An atmosphere of insecurity among the whites threatened the whole colonization process.

In the capital of the State, the political and religious powers were divided. Part of the political power defended Xokleng's total extermination in order to guarantee the development of the region, others, together with the Church, were against that solution due to humanistic and Christian principles, respectively. Two divergent blocks were created: one led by Cappuccinos monks, who organized incursions to the forests which aim was to contact the Xokleng and bring them to ' civilization' through the use of catechism; others, led by conservative politicians with the support of the officers of the colonization companies, who supported the brigades of bugreiros ' Indian Hunters,' composed by armed militias, officially created by the provincial government in 1879. Officially, the bugreiros were supposed to ' situate' the Xokleng and bring them to a ' safe place,' but in fact they were supposed to exterminate the Xokleng. At that time, local newspapers still questioned Xokleng humanity. They were treated as ' soulless savages.'

Xokleng e colonos alemães Rio Plate, Blumenau 1929. Acervo: Museu Paranaense
Xokleng e colonos alemães Rio Plate, Blumenau 1929. Acervo: Museu Paranaense

The bugreiros were responsible for the killing of hundreds of Xokleng. They usually attacked by ambushing, at night, killing all of the adults, saving some women and children, that were carried to Blumenau, Florianópolis and others cities, where they were baptized and adopted by bourgeois families or by religious people.

At that time in Florianópolis (then Nossa Senhora do Desterro), Monsignor Topp, a prominent member of the clergy, adopted a Xokleng boy. He argued that the Xokleng children should be saved in bugreiros' incursions and be trained to help them in the their relatives' attraction.

In the first years of the XX century, the idea of Indians' attraction and not their killing got more strength in the national arena, due to the growing Romantic Movement. However, in the cities of Blumenau, Joinville, Lages and Orleães, the Indians continued to be framed as obstacles for the progress, and therefore should be killed by the bugreiros.

Grounded in the 'attraction ideology,' in 1907 with the support of the recent Republican Government, the Patriotic League for Catechism of the Indians was created in Florianópolis. In 1910, grounded in a laic attraction of the Indians, the Protection Service to the Indian (SPI) was created by the federal government, which structures several ' posts' to attract the Indians.

The first not fiery contact between Xokleng and the employees of SPI happened in 1911 in the Attraction Post of SPI installed in the region of Porto União. It took place under the command of the frontier man Fioravante Esperança. The Xokleng faction Ngrokòthi-tõ-prèy inhabited this region. This region has been colonized by Europeans and by Brazilians who were then involved in the construction of a railroad that would link Rio Grande to São Paulo. The conflicts between whites and the Xokleng were intense. However, Xokleng's ' pacification' lasted only a year. One day, two local farmers, who have taken part of previous slaughters against the Indian, showed up at the attraction post. They were recognized by the Xokleng, who killed them as well as the employees of SPI. The Xokleng returned to the forest, being again contacted in 1918 by João Serrano, who also was from SPI, in an attraction post situated close to Rio dos Pardos, next to the municipal districts of Calmom and Matos Costa. At this time, there were 50 Indians, but almost all of them died of respiratory diseases brought on by the contact.

The first not fiery contact between the faction Laklanõ, of the region of the high Itajaí's River valley, and the whites happened in 1914 at an attraction post close to the confluence of the Rivers Plate with the Hercílio (Itajaí do Norte). Leading the whites, there was the employee of SPI, Eduardo de Lima e Silva Hoerhann, who became known as ' the pacifier.' Hoerhann ran the post until the 50' s. According to his reports to SPUI headquarters, in the first decades after the pacification, Xokleng continued doing incursions to the forest and were sometimes attacked by the settlers. They sporadically showed up at the Post to pick up supplies, clothes or when they were very sick.

Índios ladeados por visitantes alemães. Acervo Edmar Hoerhan
Índios ladeados por visitantes alemães. Acervo Edmar Hoerhan

After the first contact, mass deaths were provoked by epidemics, and they made the Xokleng abandon SPI's post ' to escape from the whites' diseases;' during this period they stopped executing two important rituals: the perforation of the lower lip to introduce the botoque (lip-plug) which was the most important ritual for the boys initiation, the key to their identity and socialization; and the ritual of the cremation of the dead.

Xokleng's sub-groups incursions to the forests and farms of the region made the bugreiros brigades act, with the support from the local governments, officers of the colonization companies and from the settlers as late as the beginning of 1940.

According to Santos (1973) the Xokleng faction that dwelled the southern part of the State was exterminated by bugreiros in 1925. In 1949, three surviving Xokleng were contacted by hunters between the municipalities of Orleães' and São Joaquim. Out of these, two died of influenza and one was taken to the Xokleng sub-group in Calmon. The Xokleng sub-group from Serra do Tabuleiro were considered as uncontacted until the beginning of the 70's. Despite that local whites had always talked about seeing their traces, they were never contacted, being very probably already dead or integrated to the national society without any ethnographical record.

The remaining Xokleng of Pardos River, contacted in 1911 and recontacted in 1918, summed in 1995, 46 people. Only in 1992 Terra Indígena Rio dos Pardos was officially traced. In 1998 it was demarcated, but it still wasn't homologated. The measured area consists of 770 hectares. However this land is still being occupied by white settlers who are waiting to receive government's compensation to leave it. The land has been explored by logging plants, with only a few preserved areas remaining. The Xokleng of the region are organized in nuclear families (Pereira 1995). They are living spread out in the towns of Calmon and Matos Costa and at the TII. They work as day-workers for local farmers, or in marginal local services. The women work as domestic maids. Some families keep small farms in a small area inside TI Rio dos Pardos. However, they only camp on the region during the planting and harvesting seaons. However they continue to have their houses in the peripheries of the town. It is hoped that with the homologation of their land, and white settlers' s removal from it, the Xokleng will be able to return to have a unified social, political and economical organization.

Only the Xokleng from the faction Laklanõ who live at the TII, have survived the contact and constitute to date a differentiated society provided by a particular culture.

Social and political organization pre-contact

Henry (1941) affirms that in the remote past, the Xokleng practiced agriculture and hunting and lived in permanent villages. However, before the systematic contact with the whites, the Xokleng were nomadic, living off hunting and off the araucária pine collection. They did not have fixed camping sites and, therefore, did not cultivated the land. According to Urban (1978), the Xokleng were organized into groups that varied between 50 and 300 people. They divided the time into two periods, summer and winter. During winter they lived on the plateau, living off pone gathering. During the summer, they went down to the valley, where they gathered and built ranches in semi-circles, directed to a central plaza where they performed the initiation rites, marriages and funerary rites. It was a time for celebration, to hunt and to plan new attacks on their enemies. When the ceremonial season fisnished, the village was disclosed, and the groups were divided for one more journey to the plateau in winter, to reencounter for the next season’s ceremonies during summer.

The literature points out the existence of five exogamic groups, each of them with its own particular corporeal paintings (or ‘body marks’) and name sets, which maybe corresponded to the seasonal unfoldings of the three factions that succeed the former two patrimoieties. However, already at the time of the field-research of Henry in the 30’s, there was no direct relation between different corporeal paintings and groups of personal names sets that would remit to any operative role or existence of exogamic groups.

The residence after the marriage was with wives’ relatives. However, the husbands continued their liaisons with the kin from their natal extended families, since they gave a high value to the paternal loyalties.

According to Urban, Xokleng admitted that, in the procreation, the man collaborates with the semen and the woman with the blood for the fetus to be formed. For the fetus to be developed it was necessary to have continuous sexual intercourse. The men were the ones who transmitted children's physical characteristics.

José Maria de Paula, in 1924, verified that, when a boy was born, his father and his kin chose for him as a first name the name of a notable ancestor, to which it was added the father's first name as a surname, plus a name set that identified and qualified the boy as a member of the father’s extended family. The same happened with the birth of a girl, but it was her mother’s kin who chose her first name, added to the first name of the mother’s father name and a name set of the mother’s extended family.

Darcy Ribeiro has noticed that frequent sexual relations with men were important for female teenagers’ sexual maturation. Henry observed that before the contact, there was the existence of polygamy, but not of polyandry.

The death provoked great social rupture among the Xokleng and evoked one main ritual: deceased spouse’s reclusion. Urban noted that when in reclusion, the spouse must obey alimentary restrictions and to a series of purification rites. Widow or widower's return for conviviality demanded that their hair and nails were cut, singing songs, dances and special corporeal paintings that involved the participation of the community. The dead adults were cremated, and the children buried, because it was believed that they would return to the mother's womb to be reborn. The new child, when of the same sex, received the name set of the deceased.

The children’s initiation ritual was central. The boys, between three and five years, had botoques (lip-plugs) inserted in the inferior lip; the girls, also at this age, received tatoos on the left leg, below the kneecap. The godparents, responsible for the labial piercing and tatooing, were the same as those who, according to Métraux, buried the child's umbilical cord and that later would accompany the development and children's socialization until the adult phase. In return, it was the godsons that were assigned to the cremation of their godparents when they died.

Along with men’s life-cycle, it was important that they became waikayú , which means ‘proud’ and ‘admired.’ This title was only given/socially attributed to senior great hunters and warriors, who fought against other Indians and whites.

Henry affirms that there was a strong relation established between men denominated ‘hunt companions,’ which were stronger than observed ties established among consanguineous.

Current Social Organization

Nowadays the Xokleng from TI Laklano-Ibirama are organized in eight main villages: Barragem, Palmeira, Figueira, Coqueiro, Toldo, Bugio, Pavão e Sede. All of them have political autonomy, a cacique and a vice-cacique. There is also a cacique-president, that represents and gives unity to Xokleng in the face of the Brazilian institutions with which they establish political and/or administrative relations. These leaders are chosen by direct vote, they have mandates of two years with the right to re-election. If the community is discontent with some of the leaders, they organize a signed-list that circulates among the Xokleng asking for his/their removal and organize a new election. If the leaders do a good job, he/they can stay in power for a longer period of time, without a new election.

Candidates for cacique and/or cacique-president, usually come from the larger and most influential extended families. The association of different extended families united around Indigenous religious and political leaders-who usually are senior members of the extended families-who run the various Pentecostal temples, greatly influence the results of the elections, as well as are able to keep them in power; when they are not themselves villages’ caciques. A series of privileges and resources that turn around the caciques are shared among members of their respective extended families and/or members of the different extended families who congregate at a same temple and around a same religious leader, who form a broader community of substance of faithful Indians. These broader communities of substance formed around Xokleng version of Pentecostalism-an autochthonous cultural creation-are ultimately responsible for and work as mediators of the distribution of political power, social forces and economical resources in Xokleng society.

Despite that the houses of the villages are constructed copying the shape of nuclear families households, they, in fact, form clusters of houses that are all linked to senior kin households. They form a secularized version of extended families units, constituting micro-villages within each village that usually bear the name of the extended families that dwell these sections of the villages. Thus, kin, affines and aggregates form a unit of solidarity, production and support. They form the domestic communities of substance.

The leadership of theses extended families is usually exercised by the senior couple, and especially by the senior women, due to the influence of the post-marriage matrilocality. The senior women will usually exert great influence on the partners of their sons and daughters will choose to marry, will raise their grand and great-grandchildren, as well as coordinate the households economical tasks. The households continue to exist even when senior women’s husbands divorce them or die.

The mature age, for both sexes, does not impede the physical involvement of elderly people. There is no moral impediment for old widows and widowers, or divorced elders, to remarry with either old or young men or women.

In daily life, the kinship terms employed are Portuguese, but their internal meanings are the ‘traditional’. Thus, when a Xokleng says ‘my father’ he/she is referring to his/her biological or social father, consanguine or social grandparents, or even any male person elder than ego with who he/she has respect and socio-affective or consanguine ties. Therefore, only family's genealogy or the context unveils whom he/she is referring to. There is no distinction between natal kin or adopted kin among the Xokleng.

Generally, the mothers raise their daughters’ first-born sons; giving them one name from the name set that their mother-father or father-father have/had. These grandchildren will function as their support in their old age, assisting them in the domestic tasks and in household economy. These male grandchildren are raised as their own sons. This adoption system is crucial in a culture where the male usually leaver their natal household upon marriage and relations with sons-in-law who come to their wives’ household units may not be very supportive with their senior in-law.

As Santos (1973) had already noticed, the nomination process remains important for the social organization of the Xokleng. The children, today, have a combination of several ‘beautiful names’ (‘uh names’), or name-sets: usually a name set is composed by ‘secular’ (Portuguese, north-American or biblical) names, and one or more Xokleng names followed by child’s father's last name.

The Exogamy of name sets and body-paintings are not important nowadays. There are people with the same ‘mark’ and ‘names’ married to each other. The body-paintings function more as a symbol of identity for the Xokleng as a whole. However, all people have at least two different body-paintings one extracted from their mother and one from their father, indicating that bilaterality (patri-and-matri lineages) are still operative. Besides, the Xokleng consider these paintings ‘uh’, that is, ‘beautiful,’ and they paint their bodies with them on certain occasions for aestheticses purposes.

The main collective rituals performed today are restricted to the highly dramatized rites that happen everyday at the different Pentecostal temples spread all over the TII. Beside, these daily rituals, there are some more elaborated Pentecostal rituals played once a month termed Holy Supper that congregate members from different temples at TII and the Baptism in the Waters once a year that is a great celebration. Children and teenagers go very often to the Sunday Schools. Women and teenagers organize choirs where they sing religious songs in Xokleng. Men organize bands to play at the festive services.

Main gatherings of people take place around the constant political meetings that also has ritual component due to the rhetoric of the political leaders.

The 19th of Aprils are also one important day in Xokleng ritual calendar. It is the National Indians Day. During this day the senior Xokleng make public speeches, children recite verses in Xokleng, all dress and paint their bodies in pre-contact style, perform the epic of the ‘pacification’ that show Xokleng ancestors as the ‘pacifiers of the whites.’ They also dig a large hole in the ground where they will roast meet that is distributed to all community members. In 19th of April of 1998, Bugio cacique, a Xokleng Pentecostal religious leader, prepared the mon, a traditional alcoholic drink fermented from honey mixed with leaves and roots, used in the youth’s initiation rites in the pre-contact period, and that wasn't prepared, for free initiative, since the 30’s.

In the case of death, a special Pentecostal service is performed. A vigil takes placve at the dead’s house, or in one of the evangelical temples, so that his spirit goes away and does not come to take his dear kin to Heaven. The dead is buried with his head pointed to the West and all his/her belongings are buried with him/her or burnt.

Material culture

Simoens Da Silva, that was among the Xokleng in 1930, noted that both men as the women manufactured clay pans and stew. They also manufactured wood canoes, baskets to carry provisions, baskets covered with bee wax to carry water, small baskets to carry the ashes of the dead, long wooden lances with steel sharpened tips of two edges, bracken fine ropes for penis suspension belts, mettle blankets made from urtiga fiber (Euphorbia sp.), coconut and miçangas necklaces; fishing and breechcloths chains. They also manufactured several kinds arrows and long wooden arcs. The botoques (lip-plugs) were made of stone and wood.

Today Xokleng's material culture is produced for immediate use. Breechcloths and necklaces destine only to the parties for the Day of the Indian, being discharged or sold after use. Some make handcrafts for local commerce. The nettle blankets that the women wove are not produced any longer. The only musical instruments still manufactured and used are the rattles, used when they sing old ritual songs.

Cosmology and mythology

In Xokleng cosmos there are ngayun (‘spirits’) kupleng ([ghost]-souls) that inhabit trees, mountains, streams, wind, all of the animals, small or big, and human beings living or dead. These elements may cause harm or help people to find game or provisions. The animals have a spirit-guide that controls them and protects, allowing or not for the men to kill them. In the past, a man could also adopt a spirit child and put it in a woman's womb, so that it could be reborn in the shape of a human child.

Since the mid 50s, when the Xokleng started converting to Pentecostalism, their cosmos started to be reformulated, when a series of over positions of pre-Christian and post-Christian cultural symbols and ritual practices began to take place.

In Xokleng’s myth of origin, told today, there are some heroic characters who came from different places, create all beings and things. They constantly gather to celebrate their creations that are created to protect them as well as to organize their social and cultural world. There heroic characters, inspired by the shape and designs of the skin of the animals they create, also create the body paintings the Xokleng use to date.

Among several myths told today, there is the one of the deluge, that tells about an uninterrupted rain that made their ancestrals migrate to the high plateau, then to the mountains summits and finally to the tree tops, where they lived on parasites, leaves, larvae, insects and fruits. After the deluge, several men returned for the plains and valleys, but many stayed there because they got used to that life in the trees. Because of this, the Xokleng say, today there are monkeys, who were mankind in the past, but who became monkeys because they had decided to live in the trees.


According to Henry, shamans’ medical and therapeutic practices and knowledge were restricted to their respective extended family members. Their skills were passed on to the new generation, and any person could become a shaman.

According to Gioconda Mussolini (1980), their therapeutic techniques consisted, mostly, in the contrast between hot and cold, hands imposition on the bodies and extraction of alien elements that entered one’s body and were causing harm or suffering. This happens because in the etiology of the sicknesses, there is a central idea that these alien agents enter and devour the body and the soul of their victims. Diseases and death can also be caused by prohibited sexual relations, with people and/or spirits. The soul imprisonment by supernatural beings, can also lead to death.

Darcy Ribeiro affirms that, soon after the contact, the Xokleng tried to treat and to cure the new diseases brought by the ‘white’, through supernatural beings’ exorcism that was believed to have been causing them.

From then on, diseases brought by the contact were classified ‘zug [white man or enmie] diseases,’ against which the shaman had no power to heal, only white man’s medicine could heal.

The ‘zug illnesses,’ which works as a metaphor of the disruptions brought on by the contact, continue to affect the Xokleng. After the logging boon that finished at the end of the 80’s, increase of sexually transmitted diseased, tuberculosis and malnutrition has been observed. In 1988, the Xokleng became the first indigenous group, identified in Brazil, to have cases of people living with HIV and aids, and having conffirmed deaths caused by HIV infection.

Nowadays, a good part of the medical work exercised by the shamans in the past has been transferred to the Pentecostal religious leaders. They expurgate the ‘demons’-an alien element that invade one’s body and devours his/her soul-through rites of (des)possession, that resemble the techniques of curing used by the old shamans. During the collective healing rituals, people applaud, scream, fell on the ground, to help to remove the (d)evil from the body of his victim.

It is important to observe that these religious leaders managed to reestablish the religious and ritual links to illnesses phenomena, putting them into a culturally meaningful framework and repertoire that were missing after the contact until conversion when the shamans had lost their power in the face of white men diseases

Funai, Government & Ongs

FUNAI's presence at TII is discrete today. Since the beginning of the 90’s the schools and infirmaries that were under its responsibility were taken over by TII neighboring towns administrations. Further more, the government of Santa Catarina is responsible for the bilingual program and for the differentiated curriculum grid at TII schools.

In 1996 the head of the TII’s FUNAI office transferred it to the town of José Boiteux. He did not cope with the tremendous political pressure he was suffering from Xokleng leaders in the face of FUNAI lack of resources to fulfill all demands imposed by the community.

Before the arrival of Pentecostal Missionaries at the TII during the first years of the 50’s, the Xokleng had had very little contact with Christianity. At the end of the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s, the progressive sectors of the Lutheran Church started to support the Xokleng in their political struggles as well as to find alternatives for socio-economical reproduction of the community after the logging boom that put the Xokleng in a very serious situation of deprivation. The same kind of support is provided by the CIMI, left-oriented Catholic missionaries.

Besides, groups of university students and teachers from the region have been involved in several initiatives of cooperation with the Xokleng; especially in the struggles for the demarcation of TII’s new limits started in 1997.

Notes on the Sources

Modern ethnographic records about the Xokleng from TII are concentrated in the Jungle People, of Jules Henry, anthropologist of Columbia University, who lived among the Xokleng in the 30’s. The conference Mr. José Maria de Paula, from SPI, pronounced at the XX International Congress of Americanists (1922), with a few ethnographic and ethnologic data about the Xokleng has helped to broadcast their existence at the international milieu. The physician Simoens Da Silva was among the Xokleng in 1930 and wrote a small book about the group. The remainder of the academic production between the 40’ and 60’ are all based on secondary data. Darcy Ribeiro was among the Xokleng in 1950. He published some data in his book Os Índios e a Civilização (1979). Gioconda Mussolini (1980) systematizes some data about Xokleng ethnomedicine and cosmology extracted from Henry’s book. The anthropologist Sílvio Coelho dos Santos was among the Xokleng during the first half of the 60’s, and has been writing about the group since then. His focus is more centered on the history of contact between the Xokleng and the whites from a historiographic perspective. He is also dedicated to the study of the impact the dam has brought to the Xokleng. Gregory Urban, a doctoral student from the Department of Anthropology at the Universidade de Chicago, lived among the Xokleng in the 70’s and wrote his Ph.D dissertation (1978) about Xokleng’s ancient socio-political organization and socio-structure (1978). Urban wrote another book about the Xokleng in 1996. His focus is more phenomenological, centered on how the Xokleng constitute a metaphysical community. Some missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics have written a couple of articles about southern Gê, with some notes about the Xokleng. Flavio Braune Wiik has studied issues concerning the impact brought by epidemics, the health situation, medicine and religion among Xokleng in his field research among the Xokleng (1997/98). They have been published in several articles. A contemporary ethnography about the group and the history of Xokleng conversion to Pentecostalism are presented in Wiik’s Ph.D. dissertation in Social Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Regarding Xokleng de Calmon, of TI from Rio dos Pardos, there are practically no ethnographic data, except for some pointed out by Santos (1973) and Pereira (1995).

Sources of information

  • BALDUS, Herbert. Ensaios de etnologia brasileira. 2a. ed. São Paulo : Cia. Ed. Nacional, 1979. 214 p. (Brasiliana, 101)


  • BUBLITZ, Terezinha. Análise fonológica preliminar da língua xokleng. Brasília : UnB, 1994. 52 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • GAKRAN, Nanbla (Org.). Nosso idioma reviveu. São Leopoldo : Comim, 1999. 54 p.

. Aspectos morfossintáticos da língua Laklãnõ (Xokleng) - Jê. Campinas : Unicamp, 2004 (dissertação de Mestrado em Lingüística).

  • GUÉRIOS, M. O Xocrén é idioma Caingangue. Arquivos do Museu Paranaense, Curitiba : Museu Paranaense, v. 4, p. 321-32, 1945.


  • HENRY, Jules. Jungle people : a Kaingang tribe of the highlands of Brazil. New York : Vintage Books, 1964. 216 p.


  • HICKS, D. The Kaingang and the aweikoma : a cultural contrast. Anthopos, Freiburg : s.ed., n. 61, p. 839-46, 1966.


  • LANGDON, E. Jean; ROJAS, Blanca Guilhermina. Um fator ignorado numa situação de mudança rápida : a situação da Área Indígena Ibirama (SC). Boletim de Ciências Sociais, Florianópolis : UFSC, v. 51, p. 65-89, 1991.


  • MAESTRI, Beatriz Catarina. O Cimi e o povo Xokleng : uma análise da atuação missionária na Terra Indígena Ibirama. Florianópolis : UFSC, 2001. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • MARTINS, Pedro. Anjos de cara suja : etnologia da comunidade cafuza. Florianópolis : UFSC, 1991. 300 p. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • MÉTRAUX, Alfred. The Caingang. In: STEWARD, Julian H. (Ed.). Handbook of South American Indians. v. 6. New York : Cooper Square Publishers, 1963.


  • MOTA, Lúcio Tadeu. O aço, a cruz e a terra : índios e brancos no Paraná provincial 1853-1889. Assis : Unesp, 1998. 530 p. (Tese de Doutorado)

(Org.). As cidades e os povos indígenas : mitologias e visões. Maringá : Eduem, 2000. 47 p.

  • MÜLLER, Salvio Alexandre. Efeitos desagregadores da construção da barragem de Ibirama sobre a comunidade indígena. Florianópolis : UFSC, 1985. (Dissertação de Mestrado)


  • NAMEN, Alexandro Machado. A barragem de Ibirama e as populações atingidas na Área Indígena : documento denúncia. Boletim de Ciências Sociais, Florianópolis, UFSC, n. 51, p. 65-89, 1991.

. Botocudo : uma história do contacto. Florianópolis : UFSC ; Blumenau : Furb, 1994. 112 p.

. Índios Botocudo : uma reconstituição histórica do contato. Florianópolis : UFSC, 1991. (Dissertação de Mestrado)

  • NIMUENDAJÚ, Curt. Social organization and beliefs of the Botocudo of Eastern Brazil. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Albuquerque : Univ. of New Mexico Press, n. 2, 1946.


  • PAULA, José Maria de. Memória sobre os botocudos do Paraná e Santa Catarina organizada pelo Serviço de Proteção aos Silvícolas sob a inspecção. In: CONGRESSO INTERNACIONAL DE AMERICANISTAS (20o: 1922, Rio de Janeiro-RJ). Anais. v. 1. Rio de Janeiro : Imprensa Nacional, 1924. p. 117-37.


  • PEREIRA, Walmir da Silva. A ferrovia São Paulo-Rio Grande e os índios Xokleng em Santa Catarina. Florianópolis : UFSC, 1995. (Dissertação de Mestrado)

et al. Laudo antropológico de identificação e delimitação de terra de ocupação tradicional Xokleng : história do contacto, dinâmica social e mobilidade indígena no Sul do Brasil. Porto Alegre : Funai, 1998. 213 p.

  • RIBEIRO, Darcy. Os índios e a civilização : a integração das populações indígenas no Brasil moderno. 3a ed. Petrópolis : Vozes, 1986. 510 p.

. A pacificação dos Xokleng. Carta, Brasília : Gab. Sen. Darcy Ribeiro, n. 9, p. 23-52, 1993.

  • SALZANO, Francisco M.; SUTTON, H. Haptoglobin and transferin types of indians from Santa Catarina, Brazil. American Journal of Human Genetics, Chicago : s.ed., v. 17, n. 3, p. 280-9, 1965.


  • SANTOS, Silvio Coelho dos. Índios e brancos no sul do Brasil : a dramática experiência dos Xokleng. Florianópolis : Edeme, 1973. 312 p. (Apresentado originalmente como Tese de Doutorado. 1971, USP)

. Os índios Xokleng : memória visual. Florianópolis : Ed. da UFSC ; Itajai : Univali, 1997. 152 p.

. Lideranças indígenas, indigenismo oficial e destruição florestal : o caso do Iberama. Anuário Antropológico, Rio de Janeiro : Tempo Brasileiro, n. 92, p. 89-104, 1994.

  • SCHADEN, Francisco S. G. A pacificação e a aculturação dos Xokléng. Rev. de Antropologia, São Paulo : USP, v. 1, n. 2, p. 136-9, 1953.

. Xokléng e Kaingáng. In: SCHADEN, Egon (Org.). Homem, cultura e sociedade no Brasil. Petrópolis : Vozes, 1972. p. 79-89. Publicado originalmente In: Revista de Antropologia, São Paulo : USP, v. 6, n. 2, p. 105-12, 1958.

  • SILVA, Simoens da. Terminologia de parentesco Kaingang. Sociologia, São Paulo : s.ed., v. 14, n. 1, p. 76-9, 1952.

. A tribu Caingang (índios bugres-botocudos). Rio de Janeiro : Officinas Alba Gráphicas, 1930.

  • URBAN, Greg. Interpretation of inter-cultural contact : the Shokleng and Brazilian national society 1914-1916. Ethnohistory, s.l. : s.ed., v. 32, n. 3, p. 224-44, 1985.

. Metaphysical community : the interplay of senses and intellect. Austin : Univ. of Texas Press, 1996.

. A model of shokleng social reality. Chicago : Univ. of Chicago, 1978. 398 p. (Ph.D. Dissertation)

. Repetition and cultural replication : three examples from Shokleng. In: JOHNSTONE, Barbara (Ed.). Repetition in discourse : interdisciplinary perspectives. Norwood : Ablex, 1994. p. 145-61.

  • VAN zi to eben ki akleg ne va. Florianópolis : SEE, 1999. 22 p.


  • VANHKALA jo kabel. Florianópolis : SEE, 1999. 24 p.


  • WIIK, Flavo Braune. Contato, epidemias e corpo como agentes de transformação : um estudo sobre a AIDS entre os índios Xokleng de Santa Catarina, Brasil. Cadernos de Saúde Publica, Rio de Janeiro : Fiocruz, v. 17, n. 2, p. 397-406, mar./abr. 2001.

. Doenças e transformação sociocultural : epidemias, corporalidade e práxis entre os índios Xokleng do sul do Brasil. Rev. de Divulgação Cultural, Blumenau : FURB, v. 20, n. 64, 1998.