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The Pacaa Nova

The Pacaa Nova: Clash of Cultures on the Brazilian Frontier

Bernard von Graeve
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    The Pacaa Nova
    Book Description:

    The Pacaa Novatells a tragic story, but an entirely fascinating one, with first-hand descriptions that bring the people to life for the student.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0280-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Brazil, Friday, April 10. The hot, heavy humidity that had preceded the torrential downpour was beginning to lift as the sun and a light breeze bought some relief; it was 29C, the air was still palpable, and insects swarmed and buzzed and waged their incessant war against anything human or animal. I’m finally on the river and on my way. As I gaze out over the edge of my cotton hammock, I can see brown, naked children playing a short distance away. They are sitting in a sunken dugout at the edge of the river. The narrow path behind them...

    (pp. 10-14)

    The Pacaa Nova inhabited the western part of the state of Rondônia. They ranged over a large area between the Serra dos Pacaas Novas and the Guaporé river valley, including the headwaters of the Mutum Paraná, Rio Riberão, Rio Lage, and the land drained by the Rios Pacaas Novas, Ouro Preto, and their tributaries.

    In the east, the forest slopes upward toward the granite masses of the Serra de Pacaas Novas. Part of the Brazilian shield, this area has recently emerged as an important source of cassiterite or tin. In the west, it falls to the alluvial basins of the...

  5. Historical Background
    (pp. 15-45)

    The geographic region occupied by the Pacaa Nova was first visited by Europeans in the seventeenth century, as part of Iberian expansion from their original footholds in the New World. The Spaniards had moved down into the lowlands from the Andes and had encountered the Portuguese, who were pushing inland from the Atlantic coast. Between them, they had penetrated all of the major rivers, and their activities had wide-ranging effects throughout the Amazon drainage system. Their occupation of the major riverine environments had destroyed or displaced the populous tribal groups that inhabited these environments, and initiated a dynamic that touched...

    (pp. 46-59)

    The bands collectively referred to as Pacaa Nova first appear in the literature in 1798, where they are mentioned in their present location by Col. Ricardo Franco.

    “Pacaas-Novos... on the river of that name, a tributary of the Mamoré, these are the nations who live on the western side of Serra dos Parecís and on the tributaries of the Guaporé (1857:244)”.

    It is possible that they were labelled differently by earlier expeditions since there is much variation and a great deal of confusion in terminology for ethnic groups contacted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Nothing is known of the...

    (pp. 60-80)

    In these pages, the groups that make up the Pacaa Nova have been dealt with as one ethnic unit or “tribe.” There is widespread confusion and arbitrariness in the nomenclature used for various kinds of indigenous groups, particularly in the use of the term “tribe.” A lot of ink has been spilled in attempts to define “tribe,” “band,” or other such ethnic units, but in almost all of the literature two main defining elements emerge, the emic categorization of self-identification, and the etic identification of the anthropologist, based on language and culture. Historic precedent may be an influencing factor as...

    (pp. 81-90)

    Within months of pacification well over half of the Pacaa Nova had died of diseases brought in by the contacting expeditions. Most died even before members of the pacification team had reached all the settlements. Only five hundred or so survived. Exactly how many perished depends on which population estimates one accepts. All agree that a great many died; figures range between 65% and 80% of the pre-contact population. In Riberão, twenty-eight died of influenza two years later, and in 1970 another twenty died during a measles epidemic at Sagarana. Such a dramatic decline is not unusual for tropical forest...

  9. Sagarana: A Case Study of Dependence
    (pp. 91-135)

    The debacle of pacification and the sensational publicity that followed, generated mutual recriminations between Catholics and Indian Service bureaucracy. To hide its own dubious role, the Service shifted most of the blame onto the Prelacy and banned Catholic mission activity among the Pacaa Nova. The evangelicals, who had refrained from criticism, were banned only briefly and so had the field to themselves for a few years.

    Meanwhile, the bishop requested the help of his French-based order in locating a doctor who could deal with the serious lack of medical care for the Prelacy’s rural population and for the newly contacted...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 136-141)

    The goal of anthropological inquiry is to make sense of social interaction, and in this case to make sense of social and economic relations at the mission of Sagarana, and to relate them to similar conditions of inter-ethnic contact elsewhere.

    Missions, Indian Service Posts, reservations, and indigenous parks illustrate the great similarities in the situation and responses of native peoples, despite their diverse cultural backgrounds and contact experiences. What makes for this commonality?

    Culture contact from the perspective of acculturation is defined as “a process that occurs when groups having different cultures come into intensive first-hand contact, and results in...

    (pp. 141-150)

    On March 23,1971, the administration of the indigenous settlement of Sagarana was officially transferred to Opan. In addition to one of the 1970 volunteers who had remained, an administrator, a teacher, and a nurse were installed. When I visited the mission in June 1972, the administration had changed again, and a young couple from southern Brazil were now in charge. Among the Pacaa Nova, many familiar faces were missing. A few, like Uruaunkun, were working in Guajará Mirim for the Padre, but others had returned to the north, to Rio Negro and Riberão. The Queimada had divided into two camps...

  12. Appendix I
    (pp. 151-151)
  13. Appendix II
    (pp. 152-152)
  14. Appendix III
    (pp. 153-153)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 154-160)