The Kamayura Indians
The Kamayura Indians are indigenous to the Amazonian Basin, which is located in the Upper Xingu River region of Brazil approximately 800 kilometers from Brasilia city. They live on the land, often tumultuously, alongside the neighboring Suya, Kiabi, and Yudja tribes. The Kamayura speak a distinct language that is part of the Tupi-Guarani family, which is unique to the languages of the other tribes in the area. Kamayura, also spelled Kamaiura, is translated as “a raised platform to store meat, pans, and pots.”
Villages belonging to the Kamayura sit on Lake Ipavu deep in the Amazon rain forest. As a result, the Kamayura Indians are dealing with deforestation as the rain forests are being clear-cut by timber harvesters. Demographically speaking, the Kamayura have a population of 544 as of 2010, which has increased from 355 in 2002. In the past century, the Kamayura were nearly lost to a measles epidemic; in 1954, they reached their lowest population of 94. As an indirect consequence of the epidemic, in 1961 the area where the Kamayura live was declared by Brazil as a national park. The designation served to protect the tribes from unwanted intruders and the exposure to the tribes to deadly, infectious diseases.
The Kamayura have a myth of their origin: In the beginning, the days were nonexistent; only the dark night sky looked over the earth. The people were not able to fish or hunt, and they were dying from starvation. Someone discovered that the birds were hording Day and the people wanted to get it from them. Eventually the Kamayura won the battle and Day arrived in their villages wearing the royal red plumage of the red macaw.
The Kamayura live in a house made with a round roof covered in sape grass; inside the house, it is very dark. Outside most of the homes, families keep private gardens. The women and children spend most of their time inside their home. In their village, they have a house dedicated solely to flutes, which can only be played by the males. This house is the public meeting place for men when they embark on journeys or prepare for feasts.
For trading with other tribes and villages, the Kamayura make high quality bows, arrows, pottery, fishing nets, hammocks, flutes, and canoes. The diet of the Kamayura consists mainly of fish as the protein source, which is supplemented with bananas and wild berries. Most fur-bearing animals are taboo to the Kamayura, but they will eat eagles. Manioc, which is a starchy tuber, along with honey is also eaten in the Kamayura villages.
Following puberty, youth are segregated by gender as they prepare for their roles in adulthood. For girls, this rite of passage involves learning household skills, which includes weaving mats and dancing. Boys are sent out to learn to hunt using a bow and arrow. They are involved in manual labor and wrestling as a form of combat preparedness. In terms of preparing for home duties, boys learn how to make a basket and to lead their families.
After a five-year stint, boys and girls reunite. The head of the patriarchal households are the males who own the home and determine the jobs that each member will do. Marriages are between a man and a woman, and once a couple wed, they move into the wife’s parent’s home.