Foto: Vladimir Kozak, Museu Paranaense. S.d.


  • Autodenominação
  • Where they are How many

    GO, MT, PA, TO3.768 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Notes on the sources

The references on the Karajá amount to approximately 900 titles (860 of which are found in the famous Bibliografia Crítica da Etnologia Brasileira by Herbert Baldus); owing to the ease of navigating the Araguaia river during the high water season, they have been visited frequently by journalists, travellers, missions, government agencies, photographers and researchers.

Among the earliest ethnographic texts is the rich description made by Paul Ehrenreich, who visited the Karajá in 1888 after participating in Karl von den Steinen's second voyage to the upper Xingu. First published in Berlin in 1891, his work was translated into Portuguese by Egon Schaden and published with an introduction and notes by Hebert Baldus in 1948, with the title 'Contribuições para a Etnologia do Brasil,' which begins with the section devoted to 'As tribos Karajá do Araguaia (Goiás).' Following this work, we have the trustworthy account by Fritz Krause, who travelled along the Araguaia in 1908 and published 'Nos sertões do Brasil.' After these German pioneers comes the North-American anthropologist William Lipkind, who published his ethnography of the Karajá in 1948, based on field work undertaken in 1938 and 1939. It is worth noting that Herbert Baldus, who at the time was dedicated to studying the Tapirapé, visited the Karajá in 1935 and 1947 during his journeys on the Araguaia river: he wrote three articles that included data on the Karajá collected by himself: 'Mitologia Karajá e Tereno,' where the myths of the Karajá occupy most of the work; 'A mudança de cultura entre os índios do Brasil;' and 'Tribos da bacia do Araguaia e o Serviço de Proteção aos Índios.'

In the 1920s and 1930s, a number of São Paulo based expeditions, including journalists, photographers and explorers, travelled along the Araguaia river heading towards the Serra do Roncador and the Karajá were frequently visited and reported. In 1954, the archaeologist Mário Ferreira Simões studied pottery from the Karajá villages: his results can be found in Cerâmica Karaja e Outras Notas Etnográficas (1992).

Modern ethnographies began with Maria Heloísa Costa Fénelon's 1968 thesis on Karajá art and artists. In 1982, Edna Luiza Taveira de Melo published her M.Phil. thesis Etnografia da Cesta Karajá. In the same year, George R. Donahue Junior presented his doctoral thesis at the University of Virginia, providing a general overview of the Karajá. In 1987, the French anthropologist Nathalie Petesch put forward a proposal to classify the Karajá within the ethnological panorama of Central Brazil, while in 1991 Manuel Ferreira Lima Filho completed his M.Phil. thesis at the University of Brasília on the boy's initiation rite among the Karajá. Another three important theses on the Karajá also appear after this date: an M.Phil. by André Amaral de Toral (1992) at the National Museum (Rio de Janeiro), with a wider ethnography on the Karajá; Nathalie Petesch's doctorate at the University of Paris X in the same year; and the M.Phil by Patrícia de Mendonça Rodrigues, who studied gender among the Javaé at the University of Brasília in 1993.

Finally, it is important to highlight the anthropological evaluations of the effects on the Karajá caused by construction of the Tocantins-Araguaia Waterway, contained in the FADESP report dated October 1999.