Foto: Tiago Moreira dos Santos, 2010.


  • Autodenominação
  • Where they are How many

    AM, PA13.755 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Cultural aspects


After Munduruku contact with the frontiers of economic expansion and non-indigenous institutions (the mission and the SPI), various aspects of their culture suffered changes. Since they were a warrior people, various significant cultural expressions were related to war activities, which had an important symbolic role in the formation of the man and Munduruku society. The dislocations of the traditional villages to the banks of the rivers, forming small population nuclei, certainly also contributed to the disappearance of the men’s house, an important unit in the traditional village and in the fixed character of certain collective rituals related to food-producing activities, divided between the dry season (April to September) and the rainy season (October to March). Among these rituals was the “mother of the woods”, held in the beginning of the rains, the purpose of which was to obtain permission for hunting activities, incursions into the forest and good results in the hunt. Several elements of this activity are still present, or have been reshaped with new meanings, especially in relation to respect for the hunted animals, daily practices of the hunter in order to obtain game animals and dietary rules.

The Munduruku maintain several cultural practices related to fishing, an activity which is done with greater intensity in the summer, among which are the games that precede fishing with timbó, a root that, after being beaten to a pulp, is dowsed in the rivers to facilitate the capturing of the fish. Generally, on the day before the fishing expedition, or “tingüejada”, the timbó root is beaten on trunks, in a rhythmic fashion with clubs by the men. The women, especially the young women, gather urucu [red dye] or the sap - in the form of a white gum - called sorva, and start persecuting the men in order to smear these products on their faces and hair; the men flee and so begins a game that involves the whole village. For the Munduruku this is a way of pleasing the fish and obtaining abundance in fishing on the following day.

Presently, in several villages the parasuy flutes are still periodically played; these are important instruments in Munduruku mythology. But the players are old men, which compromises the continuity of the tradition. Nevertheless, the young men, especially the teachers and young leadership, have taken initiatives seeking to preserve the traditional music and songs.

The richness of Munduruku culture is extraordinary, and includes a repertoire of traditional songs with a level of poetry and musicality which is rare among Amazonian groups, and which has to do with daily relations, fruits, animals, etc. The cosmology includes narratives that demonstrate knowledge of the stars, constellations of the Milky Way, called kabikodepu, in which the stars that comprise it are identified.


In religious practices, the shamans exercise a primordial role of curing through the manipulation of herbs, smoke-curing and contact with the world of the spirits. Traditional religiosity is very present among the Munduruku, even with the changes they have suffered from colonization. Religiosity is present in all aspects of daily life, governing their relations with nature, practices in the world of labor and social relations.


There are two religious missions present. The Mission of São Francisco, located in the Mission village, on the Cururu River, which was established in 1911; and the Baptist Mission, which began its activities at the end of the 1960s, located in the village of Sai Cinza, on the Tapajós River, at a distance of about 40 minutes by boat from the small city of Jacareacanga. As I have said before, interferences in the cultural and religious life of the Munduruku have taken place due to the presence of the two religious institutions; however, most of the Munduruku, despite participating in Catholic and Protestant rituals, can hardly be considered fully converted. Presently, there is no longer any open objection on the part of the Mission to the practice of shamanism. And it seems that the Munduruku do not give much importance to the condemnations made by the Christian religions of their traditional religiosity. The presence of missions from different religions has not caused rivalries or religious disputes among the Munduruku, a fact which can be taken to mean they have found their own solutions and interpretations with regard to religion.

Material culture

In their material culture, the Munduruku are distinguished in their basketry and weaving, which are male activities, and it is up to the men to make the Iço – a basket the women use to carry fruits and garden products –, the sieves and other utensils for domestic use made from natural fibers and strips.

Munduruku baskets are decorated with designs made with urucu that identify the husband’s clan. Thus, for example, the straps for carrying children which are made by the women with a fiber extracted from a tree, identify, through their natural red or white color, the exogamous moiety to which the child belongs.

Several men and especially the women are outstanding in the making of collars with zoomorphic figures (fish, turtles, wildcats, alligators, etc.) sculpted from inajá and tucumã seeds.

Ceramics, a female activity par excellence, has nearly disappeared, although there are several women in the villages of Kaburuá and Katõ who still have a command of the traditional techniques. There is information that, among the Munduruku of the Coatá indigenous land, in the state of Amazonas, this practice has a greater presence.

Weaving, mainly cotton hammocks, has also fallen into disuse, despite there being a considerable number of adult and elderly women who know the technique and sometimes weave articles for sale as artwork.