Foto: Beto Ricardo, 1999

Kuikuro

  • Autodenominação
    Ipatse ótomo, Ahukugi ótomo, Lahatuá ótomo
  • Where they are How many

    MT653 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family
    Karib

Name

At the end of the 19th century the German ethnologist Karl von den Steinen (1940) recorded the existence of the Guikuru or Puikuru or Cuicutl amongst the various peoples of the banks of the Culuene river. Steinen observed his difficulty in representing in writing one particular and very common sound in upper Xingu Caribe languages – a type of ‘g’ produced by a click of the uvula. Nowadays the Kuikuro write this sound as ‘g’, whilst non-indians tend to write it as ‘r’.

The word ‘Kuikuro’ has a history. The name that Steinen heard and tried to record was that of a group living at the time in the Kuhikugu village, a contraction of kuhi ekugu (‘true kuhi’), on the banks of a lake with abundant fish kuhi (Potamorraphis, fam. Belonidae). The people of Kuhikugu constituted the first village of a new local group that had separated from other Carib groups of the upper Xingu in the middle of the 19th century. They were the founders of a people that non-indians call Kuikuro to this day. The mispronunciation of the name of the former Kuhikugu ótomo ended up as the collective name for their descendants and the surname for each individually: to non-indians ‘Kuikuro’.

Auto denomination is always achieved by taking the name of the location or village and adding the term ótomo, ‘lords or masters’. Thus current day Kuikuro are Ipatse ótomo or Ahukugi ótomo or Lahatuá ótomo, ‘the masters of Ipatse, of Ahukugi or of Lahatuá’, the names of the three villages that exist today. Many older members however continue to use the term Lahatuá ótomo, from the name of the village forcibly abandoned after the measles epidemic of 1954 had decimated half the population.