The Canela (Eastern Timbira), I: An Ethnographic Introduction.
By William H.Crocker
Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology,
Number 33, 487 pages, 11 tables, 51 figures, 78 plates, 1990.

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[I have reproduced this book for on-line use in a manner that is as exact as possible considering the available facilities. Major exceptions are indicated after the Preface. William H. Crocker, 2002.]


This monograph is about the Canela Indians of the município of Barra do Corda, in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, and also about the neighboring Apanyekra, who are culturally very similar and are used here for comparisons. The Canela are also known as the Ramkokamekra-Canela, or the Eastern Timbira. These names were given to them in the monograph, “The Eastern Timbira,” by Brazil’s great ethnologist, Curt Nimuendajú (1946). The present monograph, referred to herein as the “Canela Introduction,” is a product of 64 months of fieldwork over a period of 22 years. It is the first volume of several in a potential series.

The Canela live in the ecologically intermediate cerrado area between tropical forest Amazonia and the dry Brazilian Northeast. First contacted over two centuries ago and pacified in 1814, they were largely hunters and gatherers, depending little on crops. Now, however, they support themselves principally by swidden agriculture, producing mostly bitter manioc and dry rice. Having passed through an acculturative nadir in the 1960s, they became adjusted to the backland Brazilians who were increasingly surrounding them in the 1970s. Their lands were legally demarcated between 1971 and 1978 by the Brazilian government’s National Foundation of the Indian (FUNAI, the “Indian service”) giving them security. Their population numbers increased from about 400 in 1968 to about 600 in 1978. Their sense of awareness as a people in the wider Brazilian setting began to develop in the late 1970s.

Part I of this monograph describes the field situation and the methods used. Part II provides ethnographic background materials ranging from ecology and acculturation, through the various annual cycles, to material and recreative culture. Part III presents socialization, psychological orientations, and the social, political, and terminological (kinship) systems. Part IV is devoted to religion taken in its broadest sense and includes the festival system, individual rites of passage, mythical history and cosmology, and shamanism, ethnobiology, pollution, medicine. Part V is a presentation and analysis of the Canela’s special kind of dualism. The epilogue brings the reader up to 1989 in certain topics, and the appendices provide information on the Canela research collections (material artifacts, photographs, films, magnetic tapes, manuscripts) at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

OFFICIAL PUBLICATION DATE is handstamped in a limited number of initial copies and is recorded in the Institution’s annual report, Smithsonian Year. COVER DESIGN: Initiates’ plaza group genipap body painting designs of Pepyê festival, 1975 (see Plates 26, 27).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Crocker, William H. (William Henry)

The Canela (Eastern Timbira), I: an ethnographic introduction / William H. Crocker.

p. cm.–(Smithsonian contributions to anthropology; no. 33)

Includes bibliographic references.

1. Canela Indians. I. Title. II. Series.

GN1.S54  no. 33 [F3722.1.C23] 305.8’983-dc20  89-600303 CIP

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