Kayapo people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Kayapó chiefs Raoni Metuktire, Kaye, Kadjor, and Panara, Brazil
Total population
8,638 (2010)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Brazil (Mato Grosso, Pará)[1]

The Kayapo (Portuguese: Caiapó [kɐjɐˈpɔ]) people are indigenous peoples in Brazil, from the plain islands of the Mato Grosso and Pará in Brazil, south of the Amazon Basin and along Rio Xingu and its tributaries.[1] Kayapo call themselves "Mebengokre", what means "people of the wellspring". Kayapo people also outsiders "Poanjos"


The Kayapo tribe lives alongside the Xingu River in the eastern part of the Amazon Rainforest, near the Amazon basin, in several scattered villages ranging in population from one hundred to one thousand people.[2] Their land consists of tropical rainforest savannah (grassland) and is arguably the largest tropical protected area in the world, covering 11,346,326 million hectares of Neotropical forests and scrubland containing many endangered species.[3] They have small hills scattered around their land and the area is criss-crossed by river valleys. The larger rivers feed into numerous pools and creeks, most of which don’t have official names.

In 2010, there was an estimated 8,638 Kayapo people,[1] which is an increase from 7,096 in 2003.[4] Subgroups of the Kayapo include the Xikrin, Gorotire, Mekranoti and Metyktire.[5] Their villages typically consist of a dozen huts. A centrally located hut serves as a meeting place for village men to discuss community issues.[6]

Botany and agriculture[edit]

The resource patterns of the Kayapo are non-destructive to the resource base but require a very large area of land [3] The Kayapo people use shifting cultivation, a type of farming where land is cultivated for a few years, after which the people move to a new area. New farmland is cleared and the old farm is allowed to lie fallow and replenish itself.[7] The particular type of shifting agriculture employed most frequently by the Kayapo is the slash and burn technique. This process allows forested areas to be cut down and burned in order for cultivation of the lands to take place. These “new fields” “peak in production of principal domesticated crops in two or three years but continue to reproduce for many years; e.g., sweet potatoes for four to five years, yams and taro for five to six years, manioc for four to six years, and papaya for five or more years”.[3] Old fields are important for their concentration of medicinal plants.[3] With the spread of indigenous groups, trail-side plantings and “forest fields” were also used for cultivating crops.[3] Trails systems were extensive in the area and were used for transporting and growing crops along their margins. The field system was done by utilizing either naturally occurring or man made clearings in the forest for crop cultivation which required little maintenance afterward.[8] The Kayapo also cultivated “war gardens” which were hidden plots used as a resource in times of food scarcity.[8]

The Kayapo use approximately 250 different food plants and 650 different medicinal plants that they find around their village.[9]

They have trade agreements with The Body Shop.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d "Introduction: Kayapo". Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  2. ^ Dowie, Mark. Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. The MIT Press. 2009. Chapter 15. 978-0-262-01261-4.
  3. ^ a b c d e Posey, Darrel A., Indigenous Management of Tropical Forest Ecosystems: The Case of the Kayapo Indians of the Brazilian Amazon. Dove, Michael R., & Carpenter, C., Environmental Anthropology: A Historical Reader. Blackwell Publishing. 2008. Part 1.1. 978-1-4051-1125-6.
  4. ^ "Bruce Parry's Amazon - About The Journey - The Kayapo". BBC UK. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Gorotire". Countries and Their Cultures. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  6. ^ Popovic, Mislav. "Kayapo". Traditions And Customs. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ Wilson, Edward O., ed. (1988). Biodiversity, Part 3. National Academies Press. p. 140. ISBN 0-309-03739-5. 
  8. ^ a b Posey, Darrel A., Enviromental and Social Implications of Pre- and Postcontact Situations on Brazilian Indians: The Kayapo and a New Amazonian Synthesis. Roosevelt, A., Amazonian Indians: From Prehistory to the Present. The University of Arizona Press. 1994. Chapter 12. 0-8165-1436-4.
  9. ^ McConnell, Douglas John (2003). The forest farms of Kandy: and other gardens of complete design. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 108. ISBN 0-7546-0958-8. 
  10. ^ "Kayapo: The Body Shop states its case". Retrieved January 16, 2012.