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Timbira (Canela) Pitek, Emily


The Timbira are located in eastern South America and are comprised of about 15 tribes. This entry focuses on the Canela group living in Brazil (mainly in the state of Maranhão) around the time of 1915, prior to the reservation era beginning in the 1960’s. The name “Canela” includes the three adjacent but independent Timbira groups of Kénkateye, Apą'nyekra, and Rąmkō'kamekra. The term Canella was originally used by settlers, and translates to cinnamon or shinbone in Portuguese; “Canela” is the modern term. Traditionally, the Canela lived in a large, circular village plan with houses all facing a central plaza. These villages historically contained up to 1,500 individuals, but the introduction of diseases in the 1800 has dramatically reduced the population (Crooker and Beierle, 2012). At the time this entry focuses on, the largest Canela group (the Rąmkō'kamekra) was comprised of about 230 people. Canela social units include the individual family, matrilineal extended family, matrilineal exogamous moieties (each includes half of the village), nonexogamous rainy season moieties, plaza groups, plaza moieties, age classes, age-class moieties, and six men’s societies. Note that these groupings are all within the village level. The village is led by a chief (pa’hi) and a group of councilmen. Pa’hi have minimal political control and serve primarily as peacemaker and ceremonial leaders. Ceremonies are important, but not necessarily religious in nature and are largely associated with the social and economic importance surrounding puberty rites and the calendrical cycle. Religion and beliefs about the supernatural do not play a significant role in Canela daily life. Supernatural beings (such as the sun and moon) and ghosts are present, but not described in substantial ethnographic details. Religious practitioners, referred to as medicine men or shamans, consult with spirits to cure illness and sometimes gain a “disease substance” that can be used to afflict others. Religion does not exist within a distinct sphere of life for the Canela; this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with the society at large.

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Attribution 4.0 International