Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Karajá are found on or near the island of Bananal on the middle Rio Araguaia, in central Brazil. Settlements consist of houses strung along rivers, and subsistence is based primarily on fishing, supplemented by shifting horticulture, hunting, and gathering. There is some participation in the market economy through commercial fishing, cattle herding, and handicrafts for sale to tourists, especially weaving. Dual descent emphasizes the matriline, although patrilineal moieties determine inheritance of ceremonial roles and chieftainship.


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


South America --Eastern South America



OWC Code


Number of Documents


Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.

Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and title where necessary.

The Karajá live on and near the Ilha do Bananal, a vast island in central Brazil formed by a divide in the middle course of the Rio Araguaia in southwestern Tocantins, where it borders Mato Grosso. The main focus of the collection documents is the largest subgroup, the Karajá proper. They are the sole subject for Dietschy (1963). Krause (1911, 1912) also provides observations on the Javaé; Ehrenreich (1891) and Cook (1909) give additional information on the Xambioá or Northern Karajá. Ethnographic fieldwork took place at approximately two-decade intervals from 1888 to 1955.

The foundational ethnographies, supplemented with ethnohistorical evidence, are Ehrenreich (1891) and Krause (1911). Cook (1909) mostly adds notes on the natural environment to a summary of Ehrenreich’s findings. Krause (1912) follows up with an in-depth examination of Karajá art, which Gow-Smith supplements with brief descriptions of craft items (1925 "Caraja and Cayapó artifacts…") and of a men’s costumed dance ceremony (1925 "The Arawana…").

Drawing on Ehrenreich’s and Krause’s earlier works, Lipkind (1948) supplies a condensed ethnographic overview, and in a separate study focusses on Karajá belief systems (Lipkind 1940). Dietschy (1963) examines and critiques previous conclusions, especially regarding kinship.

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

Overview by

Leon G. Doyon

Close Box