Parakana Indians are a group who have been divided into two major segments in the East and West. A portion of the Parakana Indians live on the Tocantins River basin and the other portion live along the Xingu basin. Once a single group, they were divided in the early 1900s and have been separate since then.
The first population contact count for the Parakanã was around 1000. Their first contact was due to the construction of the TransAmazonica Highway and the Hydroelectric project at Tukurui. Almost all their traditional customs have been altered due to their constant relocation. They have lost all their traditional hunting and fishing lands. They have lost the sacred burial grounds of their ancestors. When they were finally relocated to the Xingu Park, they arrived in a state of total genocidal shock and trauma.
The Parakana Indians speak Tupi, which is a Guarani language. They are slash and burn farmers and produce small crops, the most important being their manioc crops. From bitter manioc, they make beer, teas, and breads.
The living arrangements for the Parakana Indians involves a community house that everyone in the community sleeps in, eats in, and communes in. During the day, the community house is a haven for everyone to spend time in. At night, it becomes more of a female-dominated zone as the men go out for their nightly meetings.
Meals are cooked and eaten within this building and the building contains hammocks for all of the villagers. Each night, the men gather for meetings that are held in complete darkness. They form a circle and talk about the different issues going on with the village.
The role of women is pretty traditional in the Parakana tribe. Women are responsible for caring for the children, cooking, preparing the manioc, and tending the crops. Men help with the crops as well. They help to clear the plots, remove undergrowth, and help during times of harvest.
Ceremony and music are both very important to the Parakana way of life. Most of their ceremonies revolve around feasts that include music. One of their feasts, called the Clarinet Feast, involves the task of the villagers creating clarinet instruments from dark green bamboo. These instruments are played during the feast that lasts about a day. Villagers enjoy the music played and the foods that are prepared.
During the Cigar Feast, the celebration hinges around tobacco and vocal music. Villagers enjoy dancing with one another and the feast normally lasts around three to four days. This feast promotes sexual relationships and centers around the women in the village, welcoming them into the group of men and celebrating their long sexual life.
Marriages are very serious in the Parakana village, as there are normally not that many females to go around. Marriages are often arranged even before the birth of a child so that by the time a child is just a few years old, she already knows who her husband will be.
The Parakana Indians live off the land and grow most everything that they need to survive. They do send out hunting groups that are filled with men that go out to find prey for the village to eat. Most prey includes monkey, snake, peccary, and just about any animal that can be caught.
The Parakana also eat honey, wild fruits, seeds and sometimes fish. They work hard to keep their villagers safe and fed and must sometimes move to prevent the croplands from becoming depleted after too many plantings and harvesting.