Foto: Thomas Gregor, 1983

Mehinako

  • Other names
    Meinaco, Meinacu, Meinaku
  • Where they are How many

    MT286 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family
    Aruak

Relations with upper-xinguan peoples, other peoples of the Park and with the whites

The Mehinako are assiduous participants in the system of trade of the peoples of the upper Xingu. In a way that is similar to several of the other upper Xingu groups, they divide the world of humans into three categories: wajaiyu, kajaiba and putaka. According to the Mehinako, all the people of the upper Xingu, putaka, have a single origin. All, the Mehinako say, "eat the same foods".

The wajaiyu are the "wild Indians", who live beyond the frontiers of the Upper Xingu world and with whom they have lived since the arrival of the Villas-Bôas brothers and the creation of the Park. In the past, the Mehinako suffered attacks from the Ikpeng, Suyá and other wajaiyu peoples who had attacked the upper Xingu peoples in search of women and ceramic pots. An historic village of the Mehinako is located at the place where a Suyá was killed by furious residents, and is for that reason today called place of the Suyá (Suyapuhi).

The Mehinako explain the differences between them and the wajaiyu in terms of mythology. In ancient times, the Sun made the people of the upper Xingu, giving each of them a place to live and a way of life. The wajaiyu (represented, in many myths, as progeny of the animals) never obtained the rituals, implements and the culture of the peoples of the upper Xingu.

The wajaiyu are examples of all that could be wrong in human behavior. Recently, with the Mehinako being free of invasions, interaction with individuals considered as wajaiyu has increasingly gained space, especially in the soccer matches, in commercial partnerships and in the political articulations among the peoples who live in the Park, principally those involved in the defense of their territory. Since the creation of the ATIX (Indigenous Land Association of the Xingu), in 1995, the Mehinako have participated in large assemblies with all of the other leaders of the PIX (Xingu Indian Park), during which they have discussed the vigilance and defense of the territory, health, education and economic alternatives for their territory. Besides that, the fact that they are responsible for the administration of the PIV Kurisevo means that the Mehinako maintain a strong political articulation with the peoples of the "Lower Xingu", especially the Kaiabi and Yudjá, who participate in the Frontiers project - for watching over and defense of the territory - by the ATIX.

Now the idea they have of the Karaiba, the white men, is that they are children of the sun like the Mehinako themselves. Their technological civilization is a gift from the sun, their specific customs and physical appearance are perpetuated by following their culture and, especially, by eating their unique foods. A Mehinako man explained the significance of food in the creation of differences between the peoples of the Xingu, the wild Indians and the white men: "Your semen is made of coffee, milk, soup, and hot chocolate; of rice, beans, and the meat of animals. From Guaraná also. Your semen is, like these foods, sweet. And your children are big because your food is sweet. But your food is different. Our food has no taste, and our blood is different. Our children are small and different from yours. For that reason the children of the Japanese and the wild Indians are different from ours. Their food and the semen of their fathers are different from ours".
 

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In relation to the whites, the Mehinako still have difficulty in understanding the decrease in the political activity of the Funai, which resulted in the decrease of presents offered at the Leonardo Post. In general, despite a generally positive experience with the whites, the kajaiba are still deeply uncomfortable to the inhabitants of the villages. It is significant that in the Mehinako system of dream interpretation, the white man appears as an omen of sicknesses, known as kajaiba ipyana, or "sorcery of the white man". On the other hand, the Mehinako have sought to make a strong alliance with the prefecture of Gaúcha do Norte, seeking above all another source of goods, such as gasoline, school material and salaries for the indigenous teacher.

Another notable presence of the universe of the whites in their area is a missionary who lives in the village and whose wife is a Terena Indian. He teaches in the school, along with the indigenous teacher. Although he is quite unprepared pedagogically, the missionary has succeeded in gaining the trust of the leaders of the village

Beyond the limits of the Xingu, the Mehinako have sought to publicize their culture among the Karaija through the publication lof a book with photos and video, with support from Rainforest (an NGO) of Japan. They also participate in the project "Passage Rite", which promotes the presentation of indigenous dances and songs in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.