An Introduction to the Trumai
Speakers of an isolated language which does not belong to any of Brazil's big linguistic families (Jê, Tupi, Karib, Aruak), the Trumai were the last ones to arrive in the cultural complex of the Upper Xingu, more than 150 years ago. To this day, they remember some aspects of the material culture they had before they moved to the area: the men used to have long hair and tied up their penises, the women used a special sash made of embira, they slept on mats on the floor rather than hammocks, and they used a propulsor of arrows instead of the arch. Their arrival in the Upper Xingu did not generate a simple loss of the previous culture, however. Instead, an exchange occurred. The Trumai learned the new customs of the Xinguan peoples and, at the same time, taught the Xianguan some of their own traditions. For example, the Javari, one of the most important inter-tribal festivals in the area, was brought by the Trumai, who called it Hopep.
Today the Trumai people are divided into three villages: Boa Esperança, Steinen, Cristalina and, recently, Mukuretep. There are also Trumai families living in Canarana, a city close to the Xingu reserve, and other localities, such as Posto Leonardo and Terra Nova. Additionally, there are individuals who, through marriage, have gone away to live in the villages of other groups.
The current situation of the Trumai language and our traditional knowledge is quite worrying. While the oldest people still speak the language, the children are able only to understand it. The fact that families are dispersed in various localities complicates the situation, since it impedes the occurrence of frequent festivities and rituals, indispensable for the transmission of the traditional music and chants to the new generation. Some festivities have already been lost, such as, for example, the Manioc Feast (Ole Deani). Others exist only in the memories of single individuals. This situation produces an acute feeling of loss in the Trumai community.