Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Canela are an indigenous people of northeast central Brazil. Traditionally they occupied an area between the wet Amazon basin and the dry northeast region, but since the late twentieth century have lived on reservation lands in central Maranhão state. Their subsistence was based on hunting, fishing, and gathering supplemented by the growing of minor crops such a manioc, corn, sweet potatoes, yams, peanuts, and squash. The social organization of the Canela was complex, involving several moieties, a number of men’s societies, high and low ceremonial groups, and formal and informal friendship systems.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Eastern South America



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures Collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number

The SO08 Canela collection covers a time span from the early nineteenth century to approximately 1979. A major contribution to the study of this group is that of Curt Nimuendaju’s classic study of the Canela (1946, no. 1), based on historical records and well as his own fieldwork during 1913-1930. The bulk of his information comes from the Ramokamekra, although relevant data from other related groups is incorporated throughout. Crocker (1974, no. 4) compares the Canela Ramokamekra of the 1960s with the Nimuendaju study completed some twenty-five years before in an attempt to trace the changes that have taken place in most areas of the culture. Crocker (1990, no. 5) deals with the Canela Indians of the municipio of Barra do Corda, Brazil during the period of 1929-1979. Data presented in this monograph give a wide coverage of Canela ethnography ranging from ecology and acculturation, through the various annual cycles, to material and recreative culture. Other information in this work discusses socialization processes, psychological orientations, the social, political, and the terminological (kinship) system, religion, shamanism, ethnobiology, pollution, medicine, and an analysis of the Canela’s dualism system.

For a more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

akaa –a belt of cords with bead pendants hanging behind– Use SPECIAL GARMENTS ( 292) and/or ORNAMENT ( 301)

deputy chiefs Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

girl associates in a men’s society or moiety Use SODALITIES ( 575) and/or MOIETIES ( 616)

hamren –a honorific order of individuals who share public esteem and ceremonial eminence– Use STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

hara?kateye –lower ageset moiety– Use MOIETIES ( 616)

hàwmrõ –hearth groups– Use EXTENDED FAMILIES ( 596)

kay –shamans or sorcerers– Use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756) and/or SORCERY ( 754)

kheetuwaye –two of the initiation festivals– Use ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796) and/or PUBERTY AND INITIATION ( 881)

kheykateye –upper ageset moiety– Use MOIETIES ( 616)

King Vultures Use CONGREGATIONS ( 794) with STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

kokri’t –monsters– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

mamkye’ti –leaders of the eastern and western plaza groups– Use AGE STRATIFICATION ( 561) and/or STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554) and MOIETIES ( 616)

men’s societies Use SODALITIES ( 575)

messianic movement of 1963 Use POLITICAL MOVEMENTS ( 668)

plaza groups Use MOIETIES ( 616) and/or SIBS ( 614) AGE STRATIFICATION ( 561) and SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS ( 571)

setores –farm villages– Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)


wetheads vs. dryheads –status of low or high positioned individuals in the society– Use STATUS ROLE AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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