Foto: Beto Ricardo, 2002

Kalapalo

  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    MT669 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family
    Karib

Contact history

kalapalo_2

A few similarities between Kalapalo and Yekuana myths suggest that the ancestors of the Xingu Karib groups left the Guiana region in recent times, certainly after contacts with Spaniards intensified in the region in the latter half of the eighteenth century. Nonetheless, there seems to be little in common culturally between the Kalapalo and these northern Karib speakers, and it is difficult to distinguish any prominently characteristic “Karib” aspects of their way of life or world view.

It is uncertain when the group known as Kalapalo was first contacted by outsiders. Individuals identified with the settlement of their name were measured by the German anthropologist Hermann Meyer during an anthropometric study of Upper Xingu peoples at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1920, Major Ramiro Noronha of the Rondon Commission surveyed the Kuluene River and made the first recorded visit to the Kalapalo, Kuikuru, and Anagafïtï (in the literature, “Naravute”) settlements. The latter in particular were to suffer in consequence of this visit, after which the first of a series of epidemics destroyed the integrity of their community.

kalapalo_3

The name “Kalapalo,” initially applied to this group by non-Indians, refers to the name of a settlement abandoned perhaps no more than a hundred years ago. About that time, people moved from Kalapalo to a neighboring site called Kwapïgï, which in turn was succeeded by the settlement called Kanugijafïtï, abandoned in 1961. All these sites are located about a half day’s walk east of the Kuluene River, south of the confluence with the Tanguro. The last remnants of an important Karib-speaking group called Anagafïtï joined the people of Kanugijafïtï after the flu epidemics of the 1940s, and there were Kuikuru, Mehinaku, Kamayura, and Waura living among the Kalapalo by then.

What we now call “Kalapalo,” then, is a community consisting of people whose ancestors were associated with several different communities, with a majority having come from, or descended from persons who lived at, Kanugijafïtï.