Foto: Vladmir Kojak, 1988

Xavante

  • Autodenominação
    A´uwe
  • Where they are How many

    MT18.380 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family

Name and language

The  Xavante- who call themselves the A´uwe (people ) - together with the  Xerente, who call themselves the Akwe,  and live in the state of Tocantins, make up an ethno- linguistic group known in anthropological literature as Acuen,belonging to the Jê  lingustic family. of the Macro- Jê trunk. In colonial and imperial days, the Acuen groups were also identifed by the ethnic group names “Xacriabá” e “Acroá”. These designations were produced by non-indians in order to identify and differentiate between the various Acuen sub-groups which controlled a vast territory in Brazil's midwest. In the literature of travellers, explorers and missionaries, the Acuen, like other groups in what was called Central Brazil, became known as Tapuias, to distinguish them from  the groups of the Tupi trunk, denominated Tamoios who lived on the Brazilian coast. 

The Xavante should not be confused with the Oti-Xavante of the west of Sao Paulo state and the Ofaié (Opaié) who are Xavante from the extreme south of Mato Grosso, with whom they share no historical or sociological characteristics. According to the most generally accepted version, the name "Xavante" was given to them by non-indians to differentiate them from the other Acuen, especially in relation to the Xerente, from whom they separated in the then province of Goias in about 1820.

For some years, groups who had been identified by non-indians as "Xavante" made successive crossings of the Araguaia, Cristalino  and das Mortes rivers and took permanent refuge in the east of Mato Grosso where they are today. The contemporary A’uwe incorporated the designation "Xavante" and use it refer to themselves when they are dealing with whites.  Among themselves, though, the different sub-groups  identify themselves as  a’uwe or a’uwe uptabi (the real people). The mother tongue has been maintained and retransmitted to the new generations - nowadays also in new spaces like the school - and is extremely alive. When speaking to non -indians many Xavante men speak and understand Portuguese well, although this is not true of most of the children, women, or old people.