Ritual Hunting of the Xavante of Brazil


About the Institute and Exhibit Program

Founded in 1924, the Middle American Research Institute (M.A.R.I.) at Tulane University strives to promote greater understanding of the vibrant and diverse cultures of Mesoamerica, the area encompassing much of Mexico and Central America.

The Institute stewards an extensive collection of textiles, artifacts, and ethnographic materials and an archive of letters, field notes, maps, and photographs gathered during field projects and given by generous donors. M.A.R.I. endeavors to make these collections visible and accessible to researchers, students, and the general public through exhibitions, workshops, symposia, and scholarly publications.

M.A.R.I. interns have the opportunity to work with and research the Institute’s archival and artifact collections. The culmination of their hard work is an online exhibit available through Tulane’s library website. These exhibits cover a wide range of topics showcasing the people and material culture of Mesoamerica.


Ritual Hunting of the Xavante of Brazil

The Xavante people of central Brazil are an indigenous population inhabiting the eastern portion of the state of Mato Grosso, west of the Rio Araguaia. The Xavante, who self-identify as A’uwe, meaning “people,” are part of the Akwén ethnolinguistic group belonging to the Gê linguistic family. The population of the Xavante in Mato Grosso was estimated to be around 10,000 at the beginning of the 21st century. Although extensive cattle raising and monocropping have limited the Xavante’s access to land and lifestyle as trekkers, they continue to thrive in the Brazilian tropical savannah or cerrado. This exhibit presents objects used by the Xavante and other indigenous groups in Central Brazil. Weapons, personal ornaments, and baskets are used to illustrate ritual hunting and other aspects of the lives of the Xavante. The ethnographic materials in this exhibit were collected by James Welch in the 1990s and early 2000s and donated to M.A.R.I. in 2018.


Creation Date: Fall 2020

Acknowledgements: The exhibit was designed by Education and Outreach Intern Aiyana Thomas and supervised by Jocelyne Ponce, M.A.R.I. Collections Manager.


Further Readings

Wasserspring, Welch, James
2014 Xavante Ritual Hunting: Anthropogenic Fire, Reciprocity, and Collective Landscape Management in the Brazilian Cerrado. Human Ecology 42(1):47-59

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