Foto: Geraldo Silva, 2000


  • Autodenominação
  • Where they are How many

    MT880 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family



The ethnonym Juruna (variants Yuruna, Jurúna, Juruûna, Juruhuna, Geruna) has a foreign origin and appears to mean “black mouth” in the Língua Geral (a Tupi-based creole language widely used in the colonial era).  This people may have earned the name because of the tattooing they used, according to reports from the seventeenth century, when their territory on the lower Xingu was invaded, a few years after Belem was founded (1615).  The name they use for themselves is Yudjá (pronounced “Yudya,” phonemically written as Iuja); however, the name Yuruna also serves as a term of self-reference, having been commonly used before schools were introduced in their villages in the mid-1990s, when it was no longer considered correct.

The Juruna or Yudjá contrast themselves with two other human collectivities:  the Abi (a Juruna gloss for “Indians”), who include all indigenous peoples who do not speak Juruna (or a similar language, depending on the context), do not make manioc beer, and did not traditionally navigate the waters of the Xingu basin.  The Karai (the Juruna gloss for “white people”) include all other human beings.

In their mythology, the Yudjá portray themselves as the prototype of humanity, that is, as canoeists and beer makers.  The Abi were derived from some Yudjá who got lost in the forest after a great flood and who became savages (imama:  Others, wild people, nomadic hunters, non-cannibals, non-beer-makers).  The Karai were derived from warriors who, after instigating the split between the Yudjá and their Creator, refused to share the flesh of the Abi with the latter.  Because the Karai persecuted Him, the Creator turned their speech backwards (which was the origin of Portuguese) and gave them a corral of cattle to make them a sedentary people.Although it is not possible to analyze the meaning of the ethnonym Yudjá, the Juruna consider it their name because they are the preeminent “masters of the Xingu River.