Xerente (Sherente) Indians

The Xerente Indians, sometimes called Sherente Indians, are native to South America, more specifically Brazil. They are one of several Je tribes, which speak Sherente, a Macro-Ge language. They stay in the plains of the Matto Grosso, to the east of the Tocantins River, and South of the Amazon. Their lands, known as Tocantins, center around the capital city of Palmas, and include both Xerente and Funil indigenous territories. The area is hilly, upland plains, divided only by thin strips of woodland. The lines of trees typically trace minor bodies of water including rivers and streams. They experience a summer, which is dry, followed by a wet winter.

The tribe is considered peaceful, and has not engaged with war-like conduct with other tribes since the 19th century. They establish small villages, and have a total tribal population of less than 2000 members. The population is divided into 33 villages, each of which is comprised of several family huts organized in a semicircle around a central gathering area. There are 10 to 50 people in each village. During the hunting seasons, men may leave their village and travel to hunting lodges in outlying areas to seek game. Meanwhile, women stay in the village and clear land both for their hut to be built on, and to cultivate herbs, grain, and other foodstuffs. When the need arises for governmental decision making, the village votes, each man and women with adult standing in the community gets to vote once.

Xerente were originally hunter gatherers, but settlers forced them to move to the north and abandon much of their hunting ground. As fish and game declined, the tribe both increased their horticultural practices, and began integrating into the local culture. They interacted with local missionaries, converted to christianity, and found ways to incorporate themselves into the Brazilian economic community. Today they hand weave baskets, carve war clubs, and sell other seemingly authentic indian arts to tourists as a means of gaining capital. They have largely given up tribal practices to assimilate to Brazilian culture, but members of the tribe still use their native dialect to communicate. Children typically speak only Sherente until the age of five, at which time they also learn Brazilian.

Most men in the tribe are married by the age of 20, with remarriage and divorce rates similar to that of other cultures. There is no strict consequence for divorce and adultery for men, but women face losing all rights to their children and property should they be caught in an extramarital affair. Only chieftains are allowed to take multiple wives, and they limited to two wives. During pregnancy, mothers are placed on bed rest, and allowed to rise only to bath. Husbands assist their wives during childbirth, delivering the baby, and sitting on the mother’s pelvis to help it reshape. Mothers breastfeed their children, unless they are medically unable, for the first two years of life. Body paint, nasal piercings, and beaded jewelry are used in ritual, and to mark social ranking. A woman’s hair is never cut, and a man’s hair is cut to make his passage between childhood and manhood.

Xerente Baskets

Baskets are woven from palm leaves, and formed around gourds. The palm leaves are dyed using natural coloring agents to add blues, greens, and yellows to the weave work, and create interesting designs in the weave. They may or may not include convenience design elements like carrying straps, lids, and handles. They are typically three to four inches in diameter.

Additional Information

Indian Lands Continue to be Cut by Roads – … built under the pretext of development.
Ethnoarchaeology (Ethinic archaeology) – … also document the manner how the Indians fabricated the objects, following all the work … Daily life in Xerente settlement at Tocantins: straw basket production …
Brazzil – Xerente Indians have already reported deficiencies in the provision of health care services…
Xerente vocabulary, 2

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