Munduruku people

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For the spider, see Munduruku bicoloratum.
Total population
11,630 (2010)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Brazil (Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará)[1]
Munduruku, Portuguese[2]

The Munduruku (Mundurucu or Wuy Jugu) are an indigenous people of Brazil living in the Amazon River basin. Some Mundurucu communities are part of the Coatá-Laranjal Indigenous Land.[2] They had an estimated population in 2010 of 11,640.[1]


Traditionally the Munduruku's territory, called Mundurukânia in the 19th century, was the Tapajós River valley.[1] In 1788, they completely defeated their ancient enemies the Muras. After 1803 they lived at peace with the Brazilians.[citation needed]

Today the tribe faces threats to their homelands from hydroelectric projects, illegal gold-panning, and a new waterway construction on the Tapajós River.[1]


External video
Headdress, Munduruku people, macaw and toucan feathers - South American collection - Peabody Museum, Harvard University - DSC05693.JPG
Mundurukú Headdress: a glimpse of life in the Amazon rainforest, Smarthistory at Khan Academy

Also known as the Mundurucu, Maytapu, and Cara Preta, the Mundurucu's name for themselves is Wuy Jugu. Oral history says the name "Muduruku" comes from their enemies the Parintintin people and means "red ants," based on the historical Munduruku tactic of attacking en masse.[2]


The Mundurucu have a distinctive residence pattern. Rather than a pattern based on conjugal or affinal bonds, in the Munduruku villages, all males over the age of thirteen live in one household, and all of the females live with all of the males under thirteen in another.[citation needed]


The Munduruku language is part of the Tupi language family.[2]

They are also notable for their linguistic separation of "us" (their tribe) from "them" (everyone else), the pariwat. Whereas they refer to themselves as the wuujuyû, or "our people", everyone else is spoken of as the equivalent of "prey".[citation needed]

Munduruku Indians, painted by Hercules Florence

Unlike the Pirahã, the Mundurucu have a numeracy system, albeit limited (similar to that found in some Aboriginal Australian cultures). Pierre Pica was instrumental (in a work done in collaboration with Stanislas Dehaene and Elizabeth Spelke) in revealing the psychophysics and linguistic properties of the Munduruku counting system to the Western world. The Mundurucu have number words up to only five, although each word is not as definite in meaning as number words in English, and the lexical limitation is no obstacle to their making calculations involving larger numbers.[3] Furthermore, the Mundurucu use the logarithmic scale to approximate number "distance", which is a strategy all humans have been shown to use before more extensive exposure in numbers.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Munduruku: Introduction." Povos Indígenous no Brasil. (retrieved 22 June 2011)
  2. ^ a b c d "Munduruku: Name and Language." Povos Indígenous no Brasil. (retrieved 22 June 2011)
  3. ^ Rosemary Varley, 'Substance or Scafforld? The role of language in thought', in Victoria Joffe, Madeleine Cruice, Shula Chiat (eds.)Language Disorders in Children and Adults: New Issues in Research and Practice, Wiley-Blackwell, 2008 pp.20-38, p.27.
  4. ^ Riley, Alex Bellos ; illustrations by Andy (2010). Alex's adventures in numberland (Paperback ed.). London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781408809594. 

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