Foto: Miltom Guran, 1978


  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    MT604 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Kamaiurá Reciprocity and the Moitará

Among kin who are co-residents or not, there are pre-established rules for the retribution of services rendered and the reciprocity involved in acts of giving presents. The greater the prestige of the person, the more generous he should be and the greater his willingness to distribute presents. Thus, in one house, the greatest giver tends to be its owner, that is, the leader of the group of kin.

Friends exchange goods in the form of presents, in which the obligation of retribution is not formally made explicit. The rendering of ritual services, on the other hand, such as shamanism and procedures connected to the burial of the dead, is formally repaid with articles of high value, usually shell collars of cylindrical pieces.

The great shaman has the opportunity to obtain goods of great worth in exchange for services rendered. But he will be led to redistribute what he has received, whether because he is chief of the village, house-owner or even a man of prestige. Thus, differentiated status does not combine with the accumulation of wealth. In providing the individual with possibilities of increasing his prestige, social practice guarantees that redistribution acts as the support for power, in the form of generosity.

By means of the upper Xinguan practice of the Moitará, two other forms of transaction have a cerimonial character: exchange between houses and between villages. Within the village, a group formed by men or women, but never mixed, comes to the house where the trade is supposed to take place. The women, more cautious, usually arrive in a reserved way, carrying articles of their ownership. They are received by the house-owner’s wife, who passes around gourds with pequi nut and cauim [lightly fermented beverage]. The visitors take the initiative in the first offer: they place on the ground, near the entrance, the article that they wish to trade. The article is passed around amongst the women of the house until an interested person puts down her offer. There is then another examination of the qualities of the good offered in exchange. Having concluded the trade, the object is removed from the soil. To the degree that enthusiasm grows amongst the participants, it becomes difficult to distinguish to whom the offers belong, such is the quantity of objects on the ground and in the hands of the women. Having gone through all the articles of the visitors, they return to their house. Later, continuing with the Moitará, the women of the house that was visited go to visit the groups who were before visitors, reinitiating the trade.

With the men, the procedure is more noisy. On arriving at the house where they intend to trade, they announce the event to the village shouting “Moitará! Moitará!”. Many people come to watch. The transactions are done with the same patterns described. To the whites who visit the village frequently, they propose a Moitará.

In the intervillage Moitarás, men, women, and children leave the village taking everything that could be exchanged, under the leadership of the chief. In the village they go to visit, they are accomodated by the local chief, from whom they receive beiju and fish. All the trades are done with the intermediation of the respective chiefs of the village. These chiefs receive the objects and are informed of the owner’s trade intentions. The offer having been made, the interested parties of the other group show their interest through their chief; direct and informal trades among individuals do not occur. Before the trade takes place, the men of the two groups hold huka-huka wrestling matches.