Brazil Indigenous Civilizations Part 2

It remains now to illustrate the wider area of ​​the Amazonian culture, which, as mentioned, brings together the two linguistic groups Arawak and Caribe in the north and the Tupi-Guarani in the south. The stilt houses, the small house with a tendency to form villages, the hammock woven in cotton, the bitter mandioca, the cassava compressed with the special bag filter, poison fishing, single-piece dinghy are presented as properties of the northern division of bark, quadrangular vases, basket with lid, double burial, with the secondary case of the remains in terracotta urns; Tobacco wrapped like a cigar is smoked, cotton cultivation and spinning are practiced, the use of coca and signal drum is absent. In the southern division, on the other hand, tobacco is smoked in a stone pipe. The houses are arranged in a village, although it seems that this character has recently acquired, under the influence of the white man, while originally the dwelling was collective and the society monoecious. The villages are surrounded by palisades. The burial in terracotta urns is direct, not secondary.

But to give a concrete and living idea of ​​the Amazonian culture, it will be good to analyze the heritage of a specific tribe: we have chosen that of the Vapisiana, masterfully described by Farabec Curtis, located in the northern area, and which is part of an encircled Arawak nucleus. on all sides from Caribi. The villages of the Vapisiana are made up of a few houses grouped irregularly in the open savannah, near the forest; these houses have a rectangular, circular or oval plan, and have two doors, one for women and one for men; they are windowless; the armor is made of tree trunks and branches of various thicknesses, the walls of palm leaves or mud, the roof of palm leaves, and its shape can be two-sided, or conical, or in the shape of an overturned boat. The Vapisiana are mainly farmers; their fields are located in the woods at a great distance from the villages, in places specially thinned out during the dry season; usually they plant sweet potato, sugar cane, and grains, in the same field, together with mandioca; also interspersed with pineapple, cucurbit, bananas, tobacco and papaya. They understand the value of a careful selection of seeds. Men help to sow, but very little to cultivate and reap, which are women’s tasks. Hunting and fishing give a certain variety to the essentially vegetable diet of the Vapisiana; they use hunting amulets and special spells for all kinds of animals to be captured; certain species of mammals and birds are trapped. The weapons of the hunters are the bow and the blowpipe with poisoned arrows. Fishing is done with a bow and arrow, hook, traps and water poisoning. The sharp teeth of the piranha (Serresalmo) limit the use of fishing line. The traps have a great variety of forms, but the method of greatest efficiency in fishing is the poisoning of the waters with vegetable juices, and requires the participation of a large number of individuals, directed by a leader; it is used during the dry season. Foods are prepared by roasting or boiling them. A kind of bread is prepared with the cassava; the tools of said manipulation: oven, graters, sieves and cupboards, are held in high regard by the Vapisiana, who usually keep them in special buildings in the village. The poisonous juices are extracted from the cassava with the characteristic filter in the shape of a long sleeve, woven of vegetable fibers; by means of a very simple device, said sleeve reduces its diameter and compresses the pulp inside, causing the release of evil juices. They also use mortars with wooden pestles. Contrary to the generality of the Arawaks, the Vapisiana are not great potters; they manufacture pots and other vessels for cooking and storing liquids, in terracotta, with the system of the spiral braid, they dry in the shade and then cook the pots on an open fire; the decoration is painted. To transport liquids they use pumpkins instead. The men wear a belt that supports the ends of a band that passes between the legs in front and behind, the women a small apron. Men sometimes use sandals with leather or wood soles, but only to cross stony ground. Long hair, styled in various shapes; corporal mutilations are rare: they sharpen the upper incisors and perforate the nasal septum. They use face and tongue tattoo. Men wear brightly colored feather diadems. On the legs and ankles, on the arms and on the wrists, men and women wear cotton bands; other bands and cotton ropes hang from the shoulders, like a double bandolier. To protect themselves from insects they paint the body with annatto (Bixa Orellana), but for the dances women adorn the body with real decorative designs. They weave their clothes, hammocks, nets, bags, etc. spinning various vegetable fibers, mainly cotton, but also palm fibers and bromeliads. Each type of fiber requires a long and complicated preparation process. The Vapisiana are exogamous and polygamous, the patrilineal inheritance; the women go to live together with the husband in the village of his father. Divorce is not excluded, consisting in simple separation, without ceremonial, but in general married life and the related prohibitions take into account the respect of public opinion. The children are breastfed for three or four years. When a child is born, the father lies in the hammock for a month, subject to a special diet (couvade). Each village has a leader who directs the affairs of the community especially the dances and hunting and fishing parties. There is no punishment defined for crimes. Death is attributed to bad spirits; the corpse buries itself under the floor of its hut, accumulating the tools of the dead on it, and the whole, together with the house, is burned; the family moves to another nearby place. When it comes to a woman, the family continues to live there, but more often the women, and so the children, bury themselves, as beings of lesser importance, in a special external place. They do not worship the sun or the moon, but its eclipse is feared. Disembodied spirits populate their supernatural picture, but life too is a function of union with the spirit. The image of the creator is highly anthropomorphized. Shamanism is widespread. Vapisiana don’t excel in music; they use flutes and rattles. Every event is celebrated with dance, but the great dance that is practiced when a mandioca field has reached maturity is of special importance; in this case, long preparations are made, and masked individuals take part in the ceremony. Boys and girls never play together. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known. The former have fun with bows and arrows. The games of intertwined threads are known.

We cannot close this brief review without mentioning the quite recent results of general ethnology, which, in the footsteps of Foy, Gräbner and mainly W. Schmidt, managed to diagnose, by means of the comparative method, the assets of each of these areas, coming to establish that each of them represents in South America the extension of well-defined cultural areas in the Pacific Ocean. Leaving aside the most elementary cultures, which summarize the correlative forms of the old world, we find the Amazonian culture to correspond to Melanesian (Schmidt’s free matriarchal), to which elements of Polynesian (free patriarchal) were added, functioning the western triangle as a species of oceanic totemic culture reservoir (Gräbner).

Brazil Indigenous Civilizations 2