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Waiwai in Brazil

  • The indigenous people known as the Waiwai (or ‘Wai-wai’ / ‘Uaiuai’) are the result of the union of the Wai-wai, Parukoto, Tarumã and Mawayana indigenous groups, who inhabit the Brazilian Amazonian regions of Roraima and Pará, as well as the south of Guiana.

    Waiwai people enjoy a multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual way of life. To understand this diversity, it is necessary to comprehend some fundamental factors about the Waiwai, such as their history of contact with non-indigenous people, their history of migration, their history of inter-ethnic relations and their process of Christian religious conversion.

    Waiwai language, which belongs to the Karib linguistic family, is influenced by several other ethnic and linguistic groups, as a result of a characteristic of the Waiwai, which is their willingness to contact isolated Indigenous Peoples.

  • The Waiwai ethnic group does not correspond to a single substantial ethnic unit, but encompasses 11 ethnic groups, the main ones being: Hixkariana, Mawaiana, Karafawaina, Curuma and Xereu.

    In Brazil, Waiwai territory is recognized in the form of three titled Indigenous lands located in the states of Amazonas, Pará and Roraima: the Nhamundá-Mapuera Indigenous Land (Pará), Trombetas/Mapuera Indigenous Land.

    Waiwai people make their living from fishing, hunting, gathering and farming, which are mainly subsistence activities. As a source of income, they rely on government benefits (such as pensions and Bolsa Familia), the sale of handcrafts, and salaries for indigenous teachers and Indigenous Health Agents (AIS).

Updated June 2024

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