Foto: Camila Gauditano, 2001

Kisêdjê

  • Autodenominação
    Kisidjê
  • Where they are How many

    MT424 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Economic Activities

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Women's economic activities tend to be undertaken by groups of female relatives living in the same house. They are usually oriented toward the extended or nuclear family. The work area for women is located inside or behind their residence. A great deal of women's time is taken up with the preparation of food from the products they bring from their gardens, especially the time-consuming processing of manioc, as well as cooking fish and game provided by their husbands. Before the 1980s, most cooking was done inside the residential houses. After that many houses built small shelters out back for cooking, away from the sleeping area, at least partly in response to a concern of visiting doctors about the effect of smoke and manioc fumes in the residences. By 2003, gas stoves were used in some houses. Several women usually work together processing manioc. Work is usually accompanied by lively conversation, and the women are usually surrounded by groups of children and pets as they work. Women also produce caxiri, a fermented drink made from manioc or corn learned from the Yudja (Juruna). Caixiri is made by all of the women living in a particular residence and is destined for the men of the group-- the women also partake of it.

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Men's economic activities tend to take place outside the village. Men are responsible for cutting the trees to clear land for gardens, and they assist with the planting. Hunting and fishing as well as the construction of canoes and houses are often done by groups of men and boys who share a common residence. Manioc is the staple starch. Fish and game are considered to be noble foods--starch unaccompanied by fish or game is not a complete meal. Unlike the Indians in the Upper Xingu, the Kĩsêdjê consume a great variety of animals, including caymans. They do not eat jaguars and a other carnivores. Gathering activities contribute to the diet in a much more limited fashion than garden products, but are very important in certain seasons. The most important fruits are the piqui, the mango, and the fruit of various species of palm, especially the inajá. Like other groups in the region, the Kĩsêdjê eat very different things in different times of year. For example, piqui fruit has a quite limited season, but becomes ripe in a time when other foods are scarce. The Kĩsêdjê have a very sophisticated understanding of the environment in which they live and the availability of different foods in different ecosystems at different times.

In the sexual division of labor in the garden, men prepare the earth for planting, cut down the trees and clear the brush for future gardens, burn the garden plots, and plant much of the manioc, bananas, and some other crops. Women generally harvest the gardens, transporting the crops in heavy bundles to the village where they labor long hours to transform the manioc into flour from which they make beiju, a thick starchy pancake. Women do plant some products, such as cotton. The planting, collecting, spinning, and weaving of cotton are exclusively women's tasks. Women also plant and collect corn, potatoes, various kind of beans, tubers, and some other crops.

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Hunting and fishing activities are almost exclusively undertaken by the men, with the exception of timbó fishing during the dry season in which the entire community usually participates. Entire families also engage in looking for turtle eggs, but women never use a bow and arrow or gun.

In the evening the members of nuclear families gather together near their houses or around a fire where they consume a meal and talk. Frequently one of the members of these groups crosses the patio to deliver food to other families. The foods that circulate among the houses are usually those brought by the men, especially fish, which are caught in large numbers during the dry season, as well as other perishable edibles collected in large quantities, including wild fruits and turtle eggs. Fish and game, however, are the principal food elements for inter-house distribution. When these exceed the minimum necessary for the nuclear family, they are distributed to the rest of the residential house, and to relatives in other houses. An entirely different form of food distribution occurs during ceremonies, when a group of men go hunting or fishing and the game is distributed to all the families in the village by one of the hereditary leaders. Such distributions are especially common during times of rituals, when collective activities of all kinds are frequent. Food distribution is carefully supervised by political leaders so that all families receive something.

Since 1998, the Kĩsêdjê have added a new subsistence resource to their already varied diet: beef from a cattle ranch that was already established in the Wawi area before their reconquest of it in the mid-1990s. They are learning the basic activities of cattle ranching and intend to substitute the infertile pastures with forest or to plant native fruit trees. These plans, however, require expensive machinery and training that is very difficult to obtain. The Kĩsêdjê are trying to find sources of funding for these important projects that will determine their future economic activities.