but part of a broader cultural system which is informed by a very specific worldview
that privileges individualism and capitalist economics.
It is true that the decimal system has been used by the Xavante in commercial
transactions and other situations, such as the interpretation of official maps and
documents. But the Xavante are strongly opposed to the individualism and the
market-oriented Salesian numerical system and in the missionaries' pedagogical
convictions, based on individual intellectual capacities and achievements. Xavante
mathematics values human solidarity because it privileges social relationships and
the pleasure of generous expenditure.
In Brazil, these ideas have recently prompted the development of culturally
sensitive and historically situated pedagogical materials for teaching mathematics
in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous schools. The history of Xavante, Kayabi,
Juruna, and Palikur mathematics, for instance, has helped design classroom
textbooks and curricula guidelines that have helped Brazilian students from different
ethnic backgrounds understand arithmetic, use it as a tool, and appreciate the beauty
of mathematics. 10
Research on the Sangradouro Indigenous Land from 2000 to 2002 was funded by a post-doctoral
fellowship provided by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo - FAPESP (grant
The four major lingustic families in Brazil are: Gê, Tupi, Aruak, and Pano. Xavante is a language
spoken exclusively by the Xavante people that belongs to the Gê family.
According to FUNASA, the National Health Foundation in Brazil, there were 15,315 Xavante in
Central Brazil in 2010. See http://pib.socioambiental.org/pt/povo/xavante/1161 .
The self-designation of the Xavante people is A'uwe (also spelled Akwe or Akwen), meaning “real”
or “good” people ( A'u people; we good or real). Xavante was a named bestowed on a few Indigenous
Peoples by settlers in Central Brazil at the turn of the 20 th century. Today, the A'uwe have chosen
“Xavante” as their official designation as a recognized Indigenous People in Brazil, but retain A'uwe
as the way in which they identify themselves amongst other Gê-speaking peoples.
The Summer Institute of Linguistics, SIL, is the scientific branch of Wycliffe Bible translators, which
translates “scriptures” in more than 70 countries. See http://www.wycliffe.org/ .
For more information on the UN DRIP, check out the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues site
See, for example, Lopes da Silva 1986; Maybury-Lewis 1967, 1979; Seeger 1981; Turner 1979; Lea
Each of every two groupings formed is structurally symmetrical in terms of its normative composition,
but the relationship between each of them tends to be expressed symbolically in an asymmetrical way
(Lévi-Strauss 1963, 1956, 1952), adding to the dynamism of what is known as the “moiety system.”
There is evidence that for decades, male and female Salesian missionaries have engaged in sexual
relationships with Xavante boys and girls. Xavante elders narrated in detail how the missionaries
would lure Xavante teenagers into having sex with them - a perverse system of privileges and
compensation practiced extensively by the clergy of the Catholic Church worldwide until this day.
In 1998, The Brazilian Ministry of Culture published, for the very first time, the National Guidelines
for Indigenous Curricula, taking into consideration the Indigenous Peoples' aspirations and the cross-
cultural studies carried out by anthropologists, historians, ethnomathematicians, and other scholars.
The Mathematics Chapter was written by Ferreira and Mendes (1998).