Bororo Indians

The Bororo are an indigenous people originating from the southernmost areas of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state. The traditional territory of the Bororo once extended well into Bolivia and other parts of Brazil, including the state of Goias and the fringes of the Xingu River. As of 2010, the indigenous tribe numbers approximately 1,570 members in approximately eight villages throughout lower Mato Grosso.

This Nation has shown an enormous ability to assimilate into the culture of non-Indians without losing their traditions. From the depths of their cultural complexities, intricacies of their accumulated wealth of environmental and cosmological information useful to the non-Indian has produced the Encyclopedia of the Bororo. Their language shows a rare richness for detail that has resulted in an enormous three volume dictionary written by two Salesian priests, Albisette and Ventureilli, who lived among the Bororo for more than a quarter century.

As hunter-gatherers, the Bororo once commanded a large territory throughout their 7,000-year existence. Unfortunately, the encroachment of Westerners and non-indigenous people onto Bororo territory as well as their assimilation into non-indigenous Brazilian culture has resulted in a tremendous reduction in territory in modern times, along with a reduction of tribe members. Today, the Bororo supplement themselves with farm labor and menial jobs. Much of the Bororo’s former territory now belongs to the Brazilian state.

The Bororo are known by many different names, including the AraÉs, AraripoconÉ, Boe, Coroados, CoxiponÉ, CuiabÁ, and Porrudos. The word “Bororo” translates into “village court” in the Bororo language. Also known as “Boe Wadaru,” this particular language is a member of the Bororo language family, which in turn is also a member of the Macro-Ge language family. Although the vast majority of the Bororo speak Portuguese, at least 30 percent of the indigenous population remains literate in Bororo Proper.

There are plenty of interesting traits that are associated with the Bororo indigenous people. For starters, members of the indigenous tribe on shared the same Type O blood type. This particular trait is extraordinarily uncommon in many other populations. The Bororo also share a number of beliefs that originate from their indigenous religion. According to Sir James George Frazer’s accounts in the 1922 book “The Golden Bough,” the Bororo refuse to eat maize or meat until after it’s been blessed by a medicine-man, due to the belief that touching or consuming unconsecrated maize or meat could kill those who consume it, along with the entire tribe. The Bororo also associate breath odor with a person’s soul and body odor with a person’s life-force.

Poari

As with many other indigenous cultures, the Bororo produce a number of functional crafts for use in ceremonies and rituals. The poari, an idioglottal clarinet-type instrument, is just one of many examples of these functional crafts. The poari consists of a gourd adorned with parrot feathers and a narrow cane reed that fits inside of the gourd. The upper end of the reed is closed, while the lower end is left open, allowing the air to resonate within the gourd. It is said that the Bororo still use this particular instrument in their ceremonies.


The poari is an idioglottal clarinet used by the Bororo Indians of southern Brazil.

Bororo Headdress

The Bororo also use elaborate headdresses in many of their traditional ceremonies. These headdresses helped form images of mythological characters with blood ties to the Bororo people. The use of ceremonial headdresses was recorded in 1791 by Portuguese scientist Araucho, who acquired a bright headdress along with a ritual stone ax used by the Bororo. Like the poari, the ritual stone ax had practical purposes outside of its use as a ceremonial ornament.

headdresses were used by the Bororo Indians

Vocabulary “Boróro”

Bee – me
wing hawk – aiága
belly – icûre
lip – inôgua Itô
mouth – iare
hat – so
I like – inoguagedo
Fat – aroiarôgo
wasp – eitugi
Oz – atúgo
pan – miririá
sun – Méri
armadillo – bokodóricucúrê

Additional Information

Socioambiental – Bororo
Bororo – Culture summary of this Mato Grosso tribe from the Ethnographic Atlas.
The Jaguar
Frazer, Sir James George. 1922. The Golden Bough – The Bororo Indians of Brazil think that it would be certain death to eat the new maize before it has been blessed by the medicine-man.
Book – Crocker, John Christopher, 1985. Vital Souls; Bororo Cosmology, Natural Symbolism, and Shamanism. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. This is an examination of the Bororo-speaking peoples of central Brazil and their shamanistic practices. This work investigates the recurrent theme of shamanism within Bororo life.

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