Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
In this chapter, I discuss aspects of mathematical activity in the Xingu Indigenous
Park and, more specifically, at the Diauarum Indigenous Post. It was at this post
that the Juruna, Suyá, and Kayabi founded the Diauarum School, where I taught
Portuguese and mathematics from 1980 through 1984. Transactions among different
Xingu peoples, and between them and merchants, loggers, cattle ranchers, and other
non-Indigenous persons have increasingly involved arithmetical operations and
monetary calculations. Conflicts and tensions arise when the parties engaged in the
exchanges privilege different structuring resources when generating and solving
arithmetical dilemmas. In other words, values are attributed to goods under forms
that are not exclusively material - that is, that can be easily quantified. Symbolic
capital (Bourdieu 1991) is also accounted for in arithmetical operations, and the
process of transforming symbolic into material, quantifiable capital magnifies
discrepancies found in dilemmas requiring (among other structuring resources)
arithmetical operations.
The Xingu Indigenous Park was officially demarcated in 1961 by the Brazilian
government as a reservation that would conveniently contain both local tribes
(such as the Suyá and the Juruna) and other populations (such as the Kayabi)
whose territories were sought for their large supplies of gold, timber, and other
natural resources. With the transfer of these groups into the park, the emptied land
became available for federal development projects of the 1950s and 60s. Today
there are approximately 5,000 individuals from 17 different peoples living in
the park, an administrative territorial unit of the Brazilian state located in Mato
Grosso. 4
The Juruna, Kayabi, and Suyá share similar histories of contact with the broader
Brazilian society. Rubber tappers, gold prospectors, and cattle ranchers encroached
on the original territories of these peoples, indiscriminately killed the Indigenous
Peoples with firearms and diseases, enslaved them in their settlements, and raped
and tortured women and children. The Juruna and Suyá were thus forced to migrate
towards central Brazil to the Xingu area in the mid-1800s, and the Kayabi were
transferred to the park a century later.
The Kayabi, Juruna (Tupi-speaking peoples), and Suyá (Gê-speaking) thus have
suffered heavy population losses (70 to 85 percent) since their initial contacts with
different segments of the Brazilian society. Since the establishment of the Xingu
Park in 1961, most groups have increased demographically. Today 132 Juruna live
in the Tuba-Tuba village on the margins of the Xingu River, whereas only 45 were
“pacified” in 1948. 5 Similarly, the 179 Kayabi who were brought into the park by
Funai in 1966 increased to 526 individuals. 6 There were only 60 Suyá alive in 1959
(i.e., date of their official “pacification”); their population has now risen to 165. 7
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