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The Xavante in Transition

Health, Ecology, and Bioanthropology in Central Brazil

Carlos E. A. Coimbra, Jr., Nancy M. Flowers, Francisco M. Salzano, and Ricardo V. Santos

Publication Year: 2002

The Xavánte in Transition presents a diachronic view of the long and complex interaction between the Xavánte, an indigenous people of the Brazilian Amazon, and the surrounding nation, documenting the effects of this interaction on Xavánte health, ecology, and biology. A powerful example of how a small-scale society, buffeted by political and economic forces at the national level and beyond, attempts to cope with changing conditions, this study will be important reading for demographers, economists, environmentalists, and public health workers. ". . . an integrated and politically informed anthropology for the new millennium. They show how the local and the regional meet on the ground and under the skin." --Alan H. Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Hampshire College "This volume delivers what it promises. Drawing on twenty-five years of team research, the authors combine history, ethnography and bioanthropology on the cutting edge of science in highly readable form." --Daniel Gross, Lead Anthropologist, The World Bank "No doubt it will serve as a model for future interdisciplinary scholarship. It promises to be highly relevant to policy formulation and implementation of health care programs among small-scale populations in Brazil and elsewhere." --Laura R. Graham, Professor of Anthropology, University of Iowa Carlos E. A. Coimbra Jr. is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the National School of Public Health, Rio de Janeiro.Nancy M. Flowers is Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College. Francisco M. Salzano is Emeritus Professor, Department of Genetics, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Ricardo V. Santos is Professor of Biological Anthropology at the National School of Public Health and at the National Museum IUFRJ, Rio de Janeiro.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Human-Environment Interactions


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pp. ix

List of Figures

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pp. xi-xiii

List of Tables

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pp. xv-xvii

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pp. xix-xx

In former times, in those days, our health and the foods we ate were more traditional than they are today. There were not so many sicknesses. We were very strong and resistant because of the way we ate. At that time there wasn’t the interference that there is today, the interference of the whites. At that time there was no tuberculosis, no diabetes; at that time there were none of the sicknesses that we see today.

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xxi-xxv

Sometimes fortuitous encounters in our lives may start us along paths that take us a great distance, involve relationships that last for years, and, if we are fortunate, give us great personal and intellectual pleasure. This book is the result of such a meeting. The idea for a multidisciplinary research project among the Et

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxvii-xxix

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Guide to Pronunciation of Xav

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pp. xxxi

We have not attempted to reproduce the phonetics of the Xav

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-16

This book presents the results of research in an indigenous community of Central Brazil. Our principal aim, in collecting and analyzing demographic, biological, epidemiological, and ecological data, has been to produce a diachronic view of the long and complex interaction between the Xav

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2. Geographical and Social Setting

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pp. 17-48

The Xav

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3. History: Confrontations and Connections

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pp. 49-94

The Xavánte have a legend telling how their ancestors once crossed a wide river on the backs of river porpoises. In a version of this legend told by an old man from Etéñitépa, the Xavánte crossed this river on their way west, coming from where the sun rises and fleeing places where there were many white settlers.1 They founded a village called Tsōrepré. Times were good for the Xavánte when they lived in this village.

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4. Biological Variability and Continuity

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pp. 95-119

In previous chapters we have placed the Xav

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5. Demographic Crisis and Recovery

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pp. 120-150


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6. Subsistence, Ecology, and the Development Trap

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pp. 151-191

If one reads reports by scientists, journalists, and other travelers who crossed Central Brazil in the first half of the twentieth century it is not uncommon to come across descriptions of the cerrado as an extremely inhospitable environment for human life. The engineer Manuel Rodrigues Ferreira, a member of the Instituto Hist

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7. Health Services and Unmet Needs

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pp. 192-201

Contrary to what one might expect, it was not the Serviço de Proteção aos Índios (SPI), founded in 1918, that made the early attempts to provide Brazilian Indians with health care on a systematic basis. The nearest thing to what we might call an Indian health service was the brainchild of a physician, Noel Nutels, who was introduced to the reality of Indian health as a member of the …

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8. The Burden of Infectious Disease

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pp. 202-242

A document that was published recently by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a section of the World Health Organization (WHO), paints a gloomy picture of health conditions among the native peoples of the Americas: “Serious and pervasive inequities are known to exist in health status and health service coverage of indigenous population groups in the Americas” (PAHO 1997, 357). Although reliable data ...

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9. The Emergence of New Diseases

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pp. 243-267

The physical condition of Xavánte men made a powerful impression on those who saw them in the years soon after contact. A journalist who visited the Xavánte at São Domingos in the 1940s wrote: “Although they are not really giants, as was rumored at first, the Xavánte physical presence is admirable. Bronzed, of medium height, among them we can ...

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10. The Xav

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pp. 268-274

In our Xav


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pp. 275-291


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pp. 293-331


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pp. 333-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026517
E-ISBN-10: 0472026518
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472030033
Print-ISBN-10: 0472030035

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 16 drawings, 29 B&W photographs, 39 tables, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2002

Series Title: Human-Environment Interactions