Landscape and Subsistence of the Xavante

Ritual Hunting of the Xavante of Brazil

Small Xavante basket part 1
Close-up of small Xavante basket
Xavante medium basket part 1
Close-up of Xavante medium basket
Xavante purse
Xavante basket with lid part 1
Xavante basket with lid part 2

The landscape inhabited by the Xavante people varies from dense forest to open tropical savanna known as cerrado. The climate is defined by the dry season, between April and October, and rainy season, which lasts the remainder of the year. The Xavante live in villages arranged in semicircles.

Horticulture yields crops such as maize, beans, squash, and manioc. Wild roots, nuts, and fruits are often gathered by women. While gathering, women place foodstuffs in open, woven baskets of different sizes made of palm fronds (Mauritia flexuosa L.f.) like the ones below.

Small boat-shaped basket with one braided handle

Medium boat-shaped basket with one braided handle

The Xavante practice reciprocity, which is crucial for developing and solidifying social bonds. Reciprocity involves regular visits to relatives, friends, and neighbors.

The Xavante use visits as an opportunity to bring gifts of foods or request them. Personal items are carried to and from visits in woven purses made from palm fronds such as this one:

Woven purse with one braided handle

Gifts are appreciated by their recipients and cited as evidence of the giver’s generosity. Gifts do not require immediate repayment, but they create clear expectations for return gestures in the future.

The consumption of gifted foods is considered particularly beneficial to health. Woven baskets with lids such as the one below are used for transporting and storing goods.

Round striped basket with braided strap and removable lid

Horticulture and collecting is supplemented by hunting and fishing. Up until the 1960s, extended families went on long hunting and fishing excursions which sometimes lasted for months.

Territories were explored by different groups linked by kinship. Today, expansive cattle raising and monocropping have limited the excursions by reducing the amount of land available to the Xavante.

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