Foto: Isaac Amorim Filho , 1985

Matsés

  • Other names
    Mayoruna
  • Where they are How many

    AM1.700 (CTI, 2016)
    Peru2.500 (CTI, 2016)
  • Linguistic family
    Pano

Location and population

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In order to determine the area in which the Matsés live today, as well as the communities and the swiddens used on a daily basis, we need to include the vast territory traversed during hunting and fishing expeditions; the old swiddens and settlements, which may be reoccupied, and those visited to harvest peachpalm; the houses maintained by some families at the more remote swidden sites, where they live for some weeks or months each year; and even houses in Brazilian and Peruvian towns such as Angamos, Palmeiras do Javari, Atalaia do Norte and Tabatinga.

The Matsés communities are located in the basin of the Javari, a river forming the Brazilian-Peruvian border along its entire length, located in the far west of Brazilian Amazonia. In Brazil, the Matsés inhabit the Vale do Javari Indigenous Territory in the southwest of Amazonas state. Approved in 2001, it covers 8,519,800 hectares. Along with the Matsés, this territory is occupied by the Matis, Kulina-Pano, Korubo and Marubo (all Pano family) and the Kanamari (Katukina family) as well as isolated peoples (see the map of the Vale do Javari IT).

In the Javari Valley, the Matsés are distributed into eight communities along the Javari river itself and the Lobo, Curuçá and Pardo rivers. There is also a community located outside the Indigenous Territory, close to the Palmeiras do Javari border platoon (where 90 people live). According to a census conducted by Funasa in 2007, the total Matsés population in Brazil was 1,143 people.

In Peru, according to Matlock (apud Fleck 2003), the population totalled 1,314 people in 1998, while Fleck (2003) reports 14 Matsés communities in Peru in 2003. Most of these were located in the indigenous reserve, which covers 452,732 ha. The territory was named ‘Comunidad Nativa Matsés’ in 1993 and comprises the triangle formed by the Gálvez where this flows into the Javari river and a southern border formed by a line linking the two rivers, passing through the headwaters of the Choba river located between them.

The families shift between the villages frequently, including crossing the frontier. Hence it is difficult to establish precise data for the Matsés populations in each country.

Earlier demographic data

The data on the Matsés population in Peru, earlier and more reliable, dates from 1976 (Romanoff 1984), when there were 599 people in total. Of these, 508 lived in the settlement close to the upper Choba river, next to the mission post established by SIL in 1969. Forty-four lived at a settlement by the mouth of the same river, while seven resided in a house in the village of Angamos, located at the mouth of the Gálvez on the Javari river.

In 1984, there were between 800 and 1,100 people: 55% lived on the shores of the Gálvez river and the upper and middle Javari, while the rest lived between the Gálvez and Choba rivers in communities situated on the upper Tapiche and Blanco rivers and at the villages of Requena and Jenaro Herrera on the Ucayali river (Calixto 1984:16).

In Brazil, the oldest published figures date from 1980, when there were 337 Matsés. Of these, 86 lived in 10 houses on the Lobo river; 127 at the Trinta-e-Um village (upper Javari) in 22 houses; 32 people in a maloca at the village on the Ituxi river; and 92 at the Lameirão village (lower Javari). Records for the same year also identify a group living on the upper Lobo but with no contact with Brazilians (Melatti 1981).

In 1985, the team from the Javari Campaign registered 483 Matsés in Brazil, divided between the settlements of Lameirão (113), Trinta-e-Um (173), Lobo (107), Santa Sofia (35) and Ituxi (42), with 13 people living outside these communities (Campanha Javari 1985:17).

In the Javari Valley identification report, Coutinho recorded, in 1995, 651 Matsés in Brazil: 308 at Trinta-e-Um; 286 at Lobo; 88 at Lameirão; 42 at São Raimundo, and 27 at Palmeiras do Javari (Coutinho Jr. 1998).