The Indians of Brazil survive in the natural habitats of the Amazon Rainforest primarily through hunting and gathering. For centuries, they maintained an intimate lifestyle with the natural habitat, culturally co-existing regardless of tribal differences. The following is a background to their housing configurations, village structure, social role of men and women, traditions, and the communal participation between Tribes.
The Indian escapees of the slavery-hunt began to construct villages on riversides and banks as soon as Catholic missionaries entered the Rio Negro River-Valleys after advocating the abolishment of Indian slavery. They continued in constructing these riverside communities even as a new wave of Protestant missionaries arrived on the scene. Formerly, Indians constructed large houses, in which many different families would live together in. The archetype structure of many families living in one residential quarter serves as a beautiful representation of the Indian community. Perhaps, the channel by which mass conversion of the Indian Tribes rooted out of this structure of community. Starting from about 60 years ago, these large multi-family houses were antiquated by one-family houses, although they still exist in villages just as commemorations.

The Indians who escaped slavery began to construct villages on riversides and banks as soon as Catholic missionaries entered the Rio Negro River-Valleys after advocating the abolishment of Indian slavery. They continued to construct these riverside communities even as new wave of Protestant missionaries arrived. Formerly, Indians constructed large houses where multiple families would live together. This archetype structure where many families live under one roof, serves as a beautiful representation of the Indian community. Perhaps with mass conversion, such traditional ways were uprooted into a different social structure. The change started about 60 years ago when these large multi-family houses were converted into one-family houses, and the antiquated structures are still kept for commemoration.

Their current houses are made of tree barks and boards or mud for the walls, and the roofs are either tin-plated or covered by coconut palm tree leaves. Behind the houses, there are open courts used for schooling or as storage for medicine, tools, etc. In the center of every village there is a quadrangle where villagers gather for meetings or exercise. There is always a father-like leader in each Tribe who is chosen by the people to supervise, lead convocations, and encourage everyone to be their best. However, these chosen leaders are not, by any means, given the utmost authority over his people. Rather, he serves much of his time as an ambassador to the Indians and leads meetings.

Relative to their population, a village sections off zones for hunting and fishing. So when a village exceeds 30 - 35 people, they are given an area anywhere between 7km to 10km for villagers to hunt and fish. Due to the insufficiency of wild animals and fish in the rainforest, there is a need for extended hunting and fishing zones. As a result, instances arise where families opt to leave their villages in hopes of constructing a new one, or simply start new lives with the Ribeirinhos (mixed-Brazilians) who live near the river. They are aware that wherever they go there are job opportunities and resource for survival. The Indians take special care in preserving and protecting fruit-bearing trees, plants used for medicine, plants that contain poison to be used for hunting, and many other types of resourceful plants.


Unlike the more adjusted Indians who live near the white-Brazilian populated riversides, the Indian communities in the deepest part of the rainforest tend to preserve and implement their ancestral traditions to this day. For example, the concept of "Jurupari," a Native term for the "devil," is still feared by the more conservative Indians, and is also very familiar to the Indians living on the riversides. With outside influence from white-Brazilians and missionaries, the Indians are beginning to understand the mystery behind Jurupari from a Biblical standpoint.

Both the Indians in the rainforest and the ones living with white-Brazilians have their own versions about creation and the root of their ancestry. Although generally different, there are analogous parts:

After the world was created there was a huge inferno that wiped out all of mankind, except for one survivor. After the great fire ceased, this lone survivor, the one they call "son of Ashes" (O filho do Osso), cleaned up the whole world and humankind was created through him.

Inconveniences, daily stress, the need to labor for food, strife between one another, sickness, death, and other unpleasant factors of life are believed to be the result of misfortunes that occurred long ago. A death of one individual or some kind of tragedy would force a whole community of Indians to move out and settle elsewhere.


The Tribes of Kakuwa, Hupda, Yuhupde and several others from the Wuwapes River-Valleys practice a custom of hunting for the Tribe of Tucano. Instead, the Tucano Indians would toil in agriculture and share the produce with them in exchange for their quarry.

Although the Indians living in the white-Brazilian communities believe that living on a meat-only diet is detrimental to their health, the Indians living in the rainforest usually dislike the idea of setting up large gardening fields in the midst of their villages. Consequently, compared to the ones in the white-Brazilian towns, they generally have much smaller fields, which is only viable for small-sized vegetables and fruits. This kind of restrained operation is due to their concern about the squandering and deterioration of the environment in which they live in.

After many years of social mutuality between one other in this way of commerce, it has almost become a system of living for these two groups. The Indians of the white-Brazilian towns would regard the rainforest-residing Indians as a younger brother; likewise, the rain-forest residing Indians would respect and be obedient to the white-Brazilian town-residing Indians, regarding them as an older brother. They would also help each other out in times of needs. For instance, the Tucano Tribe is considered to be superior, in the hierarchy scale, over the inferior Maku Tribe, who are (metaphorically-speaking) under their subjection. Depending on the region and its surrounding inhabitants, there is a special bond that can be seen between each Tribe group.

The women of the Indian Tribes play a vital role in preparing food for the family, just as it is with any other cultural setting (of course there are exceptions). The normal routine of these household women starts as they go out to the mandioke field, and with the mandioke vegetable, which is their most common source of food, they would prepare all kinds of foods and drinks for the day. They would also prepare ahead of time the following morning's breakfast and after doing so, end their day's labor exactly where they started, in the mandioke field. At the field, they would sow the stems of the mandioke plants which were harvested the previous day, eliminate all the weeds in the field and scour for any fruits that might have budded in the surrounding fields. After all their work is completed in the mandioke field, the exhausted ladies, more often than not, would finish the work they started earlier in grinding up the mandioke vegetables.

Furthermore, they go down to the river on a daily basis to draw water into a bucket to wash the mandioke vegetables and also collect and prepare the firewood to cook meals. On top of all this, they take on the most important role of them all, by being a mother. Because of the overwhelming amount of tasks to be carried out by the women, the young but mature teenage girls would normally begin to help out their mothers in the kitchen and take care of their younger siblings at a very young age. As they learn and grow in experience at such a young age, they later become mothers who are fully equipped and ready to take on their roles.

The men of the Tribe assist the women in the mandioke fields by cutting down and eliminating weeds in the field with a machete, and after the field work is done, they manually carry all the mandioke vegetables back to the village. By and large, there is a considerable distance between the village and the mandioke fields, which is why the men often times assist the women in traveling (carrying heavy tools), and also in the transportation of the fairly-heavy mandioke vegetables from the fields back to the village. Mandioke vegetables can be grinded up into a paste-like substance which is baked into a mandioke bread called "hwaringya". A lot of the preparations in baking hwaringya are done by men. It is also their role to voyage into the Brazilian towns to barter the hwaringyas with the townspeople in exchange for other goods.

Although the men help out the women in many of the affairs concerning mandioke vegetables, their main source of sustenance, they are mostly responsible for providing the family with food from other sources. This is apparently done through daily fishing and hunting. Sometimes they would set out on their canoes to fish in the morning and at night; likewise with hunting. They are extremely skilled in both hunting and fishing since they always have an opportunity to do so in the rainforest.

Each household usually owns at least one canoe for fishing and traveling. At times, these fearless men would sojourn deep into the rainforests for many days to catch good quarry, exhibiting great patience and stealth throughout. The respected hunters and fishers of the Tribe are usually the ones who are skilled in traveling further distances than the others, to hunt and fish.

The women are responsible for crafting and making earthenware dishes, bowls, etc. Utensils such as the mandioke vegetable grinding "tipiti" and bamboo wicker baskets are crafted and made by the men.


It is very common for all the Indian Tribes, living in close vicinities, to enjoy both breakfast and dinner together in a joint gathering. A variety of different dishes are brought to the gathering, as each household brings a home-cooked and prepared meal to the table. In instances where a large animal such as a deer or anta (a big Brazilian pig) is caught, that would be the main meal for the entire day. For dinner, the meat of the animal is equally distributed to each family, as they go home to prepare a homemade dish and bring it back during their dinner gathering. This way, there is no discrimination in "who gets more" or "who gets less" among the people, although it was caught by one hunter. Before every meal, it is required that everyone washes their hands and give thanks to the "god" whom they believe sustains them with daily sustenance. One of the rules in the kitchen amongst the Indian Tribes is that, meat and fish should never be in the same pot when cooking. Furthermore, when one of the family members of a Tribe is bitten by a snake, the whole family is forbidden from eating until he/she is treated.

The usual meals that are brought to the dinner gathering are either "baejoo", "hwaryangyah" or fish stew carried in wicker baskets or a metal pot. The meals are usually shared with many conversations, sometimes about specific topics where important decisions are made through a consensus. This kind of meeting, fellowshipping and sharing depicts a beautiful portrait of how the early churches of Jesus Christ, which are found in the Book of Acts, might have looked like.


In each Tribe, there are noticeable differences in traditions, varying upon its inhabiting river-valleys of the Rio Negro River. In the past, every Tribe had roofed gathering huts which they called a maloca. After the European discovery of Brazil, these gathering centers became a target of exploitation for the slave-hunter and missionaries. As the conquest continued, the Native Indians were further pushed into the rainforests and the malocas were either burned down or abandoned to be destroyed by natural causes by the Euro-Brazilians. Interestingly, some Tribes of the Chikiwa and Wuwapes River-Valleys have maloca replications, although nonfunctional, erected in their villages as a commemoration.

Malocas and other forms of these big huts weren't just used as simple gathering places, but served greater purposes, in which one of the most important purposes was in worshiping their god or gods. Therefore, the interior of its structure was designed in special ways to preserve and depict their unique history, which serves as reminders of ancestors and their wisdom to the present generation; it was also the birthplace of many of their folklores and tell-tales. In 1947, Catholic missionary Alcinilo Bruzzi in his visit to Chikiwa River-Valley's Sao Pedro, drew out a vivid picture of what we believe to be an exact image of what the common gathering-hut might have looked like in the past.

They were usually dome-shaped, as many of the Indian's traditional architectures were built and approximately 27.60 meters long and 18 meters wide. The roof started about 1.52 meters off the walls and ascended to a pinnacle point right in the middle, reaching up to 7.30 meters. It was compiled of stacked carana leaves, which on the side of the roof were lower drapes to protect them from heavy rain and wind, and an ingeniously designed rain-diverting gutter around its edges. The walls stood approximately 2.50 meters tall, and were mostly covered with tree barks, which were covered with carana leaves all around as a coating. Its interior design is beautified by intricate knitting and surroundings with "cipo" from wisteria plants.

Within the malocas are rooms, or otherwise spaces where the village people can gather for meetings, dance celebrations, guest accommodations and labor. It is also used as a storehouse for alcohol, which is stored in a giant, carved-in tree trunk. Each maloca also accommodates a large pan which is used for baking hwaringyah. Many malocas were even used as residential shelters by placing partitions between each of the corners, to create four separate rooms and each family would take up one room and settle in it, although some tribes or a group of Indians preferred not using any particular partitions when residing in their malocas. Partitions were not only used in dealing with residence issues, but were effective in many other purposeful ways as well.

The rooms for malocan residence were divided and distributed to each family according to their size. Within each given room, the eldest member of each family would reside in the deepest and farthest space stretching from the entrance of the maloca. Next to them would be, starting from youngest to the oldest, children who weren't old enough to marry yet. Then, using marriage as a hierarchy, the son who married earliest would take his place next to his younger siblings, and towards the entrance would be the last married man next to the unmarried sons, where guests were also accommodated. Malocas have been steadily built and operated in these discrete ways as a method of preserving and honoring past traditions.

During times of tribal celebrations, it is a tradition for the Indian men to cover themselves with feathers and perform their ceremonial dance in accordance with the fable with which the dance was supposedly derived from. The malocas are also suitably decorated for the celebration. The dances are performed at any randomly designated space within the maloca, without any particular designations of "sacredness".

Before the extinction of malocas, these beautiful designed, traditional huts served as generational melting pots, where the whole community, both young and old, male and female, assembled as one to resolve conflicts and cooperate in improving their community, all in an orderly fashion. Although malocas are nonexistent now, whenever there are guests or visitors wishing to stay in the Indian villages overnight, shelter and food are still generously shared in very hospitable ways, as this has always been an essential part of their culture.