Foto: Beto Ricardo, 2002


  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    MT669 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Social organization


Kalapalo social organization is extremely flexible, with considerable variation in the identification of individuals with specific groups. Kalapalo may often have several options for joining groups, their choices being dependant upon the personal relationships between individuals rather than upon such considerations as clan membership, religious affiliation, or ancestral rights and obligations. The elaborate system of relationship terminology seems to accommodate this flexibility and to provide a means for specifying in precise detail the actual relationship between individuals in both a social and psychological sense.

Both the settlement and the household acts as a unit when performing economic and ceremonial activities. Thus, the inhabitants of each village clear land for manioc fields, harvest arrow cane, collect wild fruits and other plant materials, and exploit aquatic resources of the region’s lakes and streams. Members of other settlements do not exploit Kalapalo territory, unless they are living temporarily with them and have been explicitly invited to do so.

Similarly, members of a household group are obliged to distribute food among themselves. Although every adult is responsible for contributing continuously to the food supply, a Kalapalo is assured of a share even when he or she does not, or cannot, contribute. However, the obligation to share food is not extended to include the membership as a whole of other households, and it is considered impolite to exploit the goodwill of persons outside one’s own group who are under no obligation to provide one with food. Despite this corporate organization, membership in settlements and households shifts from time to time, and there is occasional movement of some persons from group to group.