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Laklãnõ ethnonymy: beyond etic readings

Etnonímia Laklãnõ: além de leituras éticas
Jefferson Virgílio
p. 5-25


A proposta procura sintetizar a etnonímia presente na produção bibliográfica que menciona ou que foi produzida sobre a população indígena que na atualidade é conhecida como Laklãnõ. O recorte temporal principal começa no início do século XIX, podendo mencionar alguns trabalhos prévios, e é concluído com as publicações mais recentes. O levantamento não está concluído e busca incentivar a exaustão da bibliografia visando permitir melhor compreensão da evolução etnonímica que foi promovida sobre esta população nos últimos dois séculos. O material revisita as justificativas e alegorias que foram construídas sobre alguns etnónimos procurando mapear as continuidades, descontinuidades, coerências e incoerências presentes nestes discursos.

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1The closest ancestors of the population presented here as Laklãnõ can be found in the literature under a variety of names. Differences between registered names can refer to different situations, from inaccuracies in defining supposed territorial borders occupied by the indigenous groups, to confusions caused by indigenous languages that are considered similar or derivative from each other.

2The incorporation of pejorative exonyms produced by indigenous and non-indigenous about the Laklãnõ, in addition to the accumulation and maintenance of multiple flaws in translations and transcriptions committed by anthropologists, historians, linguists, military and religious missionaries were also the cause of many misunderstandings or even undue generalizations. Such generalizations would often include people who had little or nothing in common as cultural or even linguistic units.

3Since the first contacts with non-indigenous people, the Laklãnõ people have always been treated by their institutions as a people on paper. After centuries of watching non-indigenous people write the history that should have been told by them, the indigenous peoples became interested in producing a written version of their own history in the colonizer language. Throughout the process, they realized that the names the invaders gave them over time meant little or nothing to them other than to relive memories of centuries of violence, expropriations and constant attempts of ethnocide and the different means of exploitation that were inflicted upon them.

4This paper aims to make some considerations about the production of ethnonymy among the Laklãnõ people, promoting consultations for bibliographies, people and institutions that were directly and indirectly involved in these constructions, as well as for those that have participated in the dissemination and maintenance of these perceptions.

The creation of cultural uniformities

5The critical and explicit discussions about the improbable cultural uniformities that have been established arbitrarily by researchers and common people against the group have been occurring, at least, since the 1940s (Guérios 1945: 321-323; Métraux 1947: 148, see note 1), when the analysis and surveys of the linguistic aspects and components of this people were prioritized to propose distinctions or similarities with other populations that were being analysed.

6Closer readings can find indications of similar hints from decades earlier (Vasconcellos 1912 [1884]: 20-22; Ihering 1912: 254; Baldus 1937: 31-32). Years before, the discussion on the false cultural unity appeared in the Brazilian proto-academy, its existence was still almost prematurely predicted by Ehrenreich (1906 [1894]: 284) and by Gensch (1908a: 7).

7The constructed and projected cultural uniformity between the Laklãnõ and other people remained under discussion in the 1960s, with texts written by Hicks (1966: 839), for example, that reinforced the existence of this discussion, which explicitly questioned the proposed uniformities.

8Subsequently, numerous authors have produced works on the suggested cultural uniformity (Guérios 1945: 328-331; Wiesemann 1978; Gakran 2005: 12-14; Jolkesky 2010: 6-7) from different perspectives, with a consensus being built on how the languages came to be seen as branches of the Macro-Jê linguistic trunk. This perception remains until today.

  • 1 Consider all mentions for the Xokleng language as the language used by the Laklãnõ people.

9Regarding the linguistic relationship of the Laklãnõ with other indigenous peoples, the best documented case refers to the relationship between what is known in the literature as the Xokleng language and the Kaingang language,1 but it is possible that similar situations have occurred with other languages of the Macro-Jê trunk, especially with the other two languages identified by Jolkesky (2010: 5) as belonging to the so-called southern Jê: Ingain and Kimdá. On the phonological differences between the language recognized as Xokleng and the Kaingang language, Wiesemann (1978) and Jolkesky (2010) are recommended authors. On Ingain and Kimdá languages, it is recommended to consult Ambrosetti (1895, 1896), Ihering (1904), and Jolkesky (2010).

10Other authors tried to discuss the relationship between different indigenous groups about the advances that were being built by population genetics (Salzano 1964: 279, 291-292) or even comparing specific ritual behaviours (Baldus 1937: 31-33; Hicks 1966: 841-845; Veiga 2016: 25-27). Analyses about the use of specific ornaments and aesthetic aspects are also noticed (Ihering 1912: 254), among other diverse social and cultural characteristics, such as the production of material culture (Forno 1966: 783-785).

11Nowadays, it is agreed that the Kaingang and Laklãnõ are distinct indigenous peoples. However, archaeological studies that promote attempts to identify the space and time where possible separations between these peoples have occurred are recurrent. It is recommended to read Schmitz et al. (2007: 272), Masi (2009: 109-111), Souza (2011), Lino, Silva and Lino (2012: 169-170), Machado (2017: 96), Mota (2017: 172-173) in addition to Noelli and Souza (2017).

Ethnonymy of indigenous peoples

12Ethnonymy of indigenous peoples is not a phenomenon restricted to the Laklãnõ, and as a consequence of the dissatisfactions that can be triggered by this phenomenon, proposals for reconsideration, in addition to developments of self-denominations in diverse indigenous peoples, are common, e.g., the ethnonymic conflicts among the Guarani (Mello 2007: 50-52), the recovery of the previous name of the Pataxó (Castro 2008: 69-71) or the alternation of self-denomination noticed among the Xavante (Quintino 2000: 2), among many other cases.

13There is a great linguistic distinction between the Guarani of southern Brazil (Mbya or Chiripá / Nhandeva) and the others (Chiriguanos or Kaiowá, for example) in very independent ways. Among the Mbya there are transitions and imports of linguistic elements between different social groups or with the Chiripá / Nhandeva, and there are even academic discourses suggesting that different populations may be losing their linguistic variability as a reflection of greater contacts and attempts to survive.

14Some authors, such as Urban (1978: 166-167), Namem (1991: 23-25), Wiik (2004: 35-38, see note 4), Gakran (2015c: 54-55), and Serpa (2015: 25-26), support similar population divisions among the Laklãnõ. These authors do not enter into the merits of linguistic variability, but of population conglomerates. The approaches of Wiik, Serpa and Gakran are very influenced by Urban’s proposal (1978), which is synthesized by Wiik (2004: 35-37).

15The constructions of identity and self-denomination Pataxó referred to consultations carried out with historical documents that were written before and during attempts to destroy territories in the national efforts to extinguish the Pataxó populations. Between the identifications of the past as Pataxó and the beginning of the current self-denomination as Pataxó, these indigenous people were often restricted to a general condition of nomenclature as caboclos.

16In the south of Brazil, almost at the same time as the events involving the Pataxó populations were happening, the Laklãnõ population were limited to a very offensive nomenclature as Bugres. The use of the term Laklãnõ by the Laklãnõ people is recent and involves the recovery of the term by rescuing the past which brought up the nomenclature Rakrano (in some readings as Laklano, Lacranon and other derivations), being in this sense similar to what was observed among the Pataxó. Gakran (2015b: 24-25) summarizes the situation for the recovery of the name Laklãnõ.

17Finally, the origin of the name Xavante comes from a semi-generic term used to define a large contingent of indigenous peoples throughout the central area of Brazil. The current Xavante people alternate their self-denomination according to the presence or not of non-indigenous people. Self-denomination towards other Indians may refer, for example, to the expression A ’uwê uptabi (which can be translated as “us” or “real people”), reserving the term Xavante for public speeches. A similar situation occurs among the Laklãnõ, who quite often reserve the term “Xokleng” for political and external demands as an ethnic group, even though the name Laklãnõ is gaining more and more space, accepted and mainly disseminated and recognized, inside and outside indigenous territories, thoughts and discourses

18The establishment of nominal identifiers for indigenous populations occurs since the first contacts known or registered with non-indigenous people, and often stimulates the perception of biological, cultural, spatial and/or linguistic units that do not match what is described by those who are being described or contacted. Frequently, such identifications are recovered and absorbed from perceptions generated by other communities that had kept unfriendly relations with the people to be identified (Hemming 2004 [1984]: 116).

  • 2 References that include page numbers allow direct access to the justifications that the authors i (...)

19Among the main names recorded in the literature mentioning the Laklãnõ, the following stands out: Botocudos (Vasconcellos 1912 [1884]; Paula 1924; Baldus 1937: 31-32; Hanke 1947; Namem 1991: 12), Kaingang (Silva 1930; Henry 1964 [1941]; Mussolini 1945; Métraux 1946: 449), Aweikoma (Ihering 1912: 254; Lowie 1941: 188; Guérios 1945; Métraux 1947; Salzano 1964: 278; Forno 1966: 777; Hicks 1966), Xokleng (Ribeiro 2004 [1970]: 126; Santos 1987 [1973]: 31; Goulart and Fraga 2000; Selau 2006: 13, see note 4; Jolkesky 2010; Souza 2011; Brighenti 2012; Hoerhann 2012; Wiik 2012; Gakran 2015c; Serpa 2015), and more recently Laklãnõ (Gakran 2005: 14; 2008: 140-142, see note 1), with possible nomenclatures composed between Laklãnõ and Xokleng (Wiik 2004; Machado 2017).2

20Each of the nomenclatures listed in the previous paragraph will be briefly presented and discussed on the next pages of this paper.

Botocudos from Southern Brazil

21The identification of the possession of specific body ornaments in these Indians was a reason for generating improper designations (Ihering 1912: 253-254; Deeke 1967 [1917]: 103; Ribeiro 2004 [1970]: 112; Santos 1987 [1973]: 30). It is known that different indigenous peoples were identified as Botocudos due to the use of botoques (ornaments in the shape of flat disks), often made of light-coloured wood and pierced in their lips and also in their ears.

22The diverse peoples that were identified as Botocudos had innumerable obvious differences among them, therefore criticisms against the undue generalization expressed were quickly built. Some people who were called Botocudos had ornaments pierced on their cheeks, lips or ears with other shapes, far from the disk shape, the most common being cones, spikes and half-moon shapes.

23It is only after 1808 (Brazil 1891a [1808]: 38, 1891b [1808]: 107; 1891c [1808]: 157; 1891d [1808]: 171) that the Botocudos nomenclature began to be used more often in official documents to refer to indigenous peoples. However, according to the content of the letters, the use of this term is prior to this period, probably due to the knowledge and contact with the populations in Bahia, Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais states that previously received similar records.

24This was one of the first sets of documents that led to the confusion regarding the identification among populations that had very little in common under the ethnonym Botocudos. All because of pieces of wooden sticks or stones that the Indians worn on their heads.

25Lip adornments specifically can still be found in the literature by the Portuguese terms tembetá and labrete (Selau 2006: 107). These adornments are usually thinner, extended in shape, dark in colour, and are not usually pierced on the ears or cheeks, but only in the centre of their lower lips. The botoques wear a flat disk shape. It seems that the Laklãnõ had only labretes and not botoques (Ploetz and Métraux 1930: 128; Santos 1987 [1973]: 281; 1997: 68-71).

26While other peoples (Ihering 1911b: 40-41) who were called Botocudos encouraged the use of botoques in women, this situation is far from that known among the Laklãnõ, due to the piercing ritual known to the Laklãnõ, which represents the boy’s passage, while the ritual for the girl’s passage is given by tattooing their legs (Gensch 2012 [1908]: 9-11; Paula 1924: 129; Silva 1930: 16; Santos 1997: 16, 57; Serpa 2015: 61).

27Ihering (1911b: 41) notes that among other groups that were also called Botocudos, such as the populations of the Rio Doce, botoques were applied only in marriage ceremonies, representing a completely different ritual, being non-existent among children.

28During the so-called “pacification” carried out against the Laklãnõ, numerous practices were reduced, altered or prohibited, such as the ritual of piercing the boys’ lips, until their final interruption during the 20th century. To learn more about the pacification process, Santos is recommended (1987 [1973]: 116-154).

29The use of the term Botocudos to refer to the Laklãnõ after 1940 refers to the consultation of ancient files and texts, and it was decided to keep the previous terminology, sometimes as a stylistic whim or even a forced component of distinction by the author. The term was also exported to German as Botokuden.

Kaingang of Santa Catarina

30The term Kaingang is used to identify different populations by Brazilians instead of other terms, such as cabeludos (hairy), coroados (crowned), Bugres, and Botocudos, and it is almost parallel to the more widespread dissemination of the terms Aweikoma and later Xokleng.

31The name Kaingang became popular for the first time at the end of the 19th century by at least three researchers who used it to describe a set of populations located in different regions of southern Brazil and later also located in São Paulo, who are known to be culturally similar or related to each other. Currently, most of these populations are publicly identified by the ethnonym Kaingang, although some authors build or present complementary internal organizations.

32The viscount of Taunay, president of the Brazilian province of Paraná back then, suggested that he had obtained information about the nomenclature directly from an indigenous person in 1886 (Taunay 1888: 255). In addition to Taunay, other authors (Borba 1882; Cemitile 1882) use the same nomenclature to refer to specific indigenous populations in southern Brazil.

33There is some consensus that the word “kaingang” can be translated into the language of these populations as something similar to man, with a direct meaning to male. There are records of the presence of the word with the same translation in the language used by the Laklãnõ (Gensch 1908b: 752; Silva 1930: 27; Hanke 1947: 63; Gakran 2005: 83).

34Although naming the Laklãnõ as Kaingang led to numerous misunderstandings, its spread was greatly reduced in the academy and it was quickly questioned and avoided. The most representative cases of acceptance of this use refer to the monographs written by Jules Henry (1964 [1941]) and Gioconda Mussolini (1945). Two ethnonyms are quickly identified as substitutes for Kaingang to refer to the Laklãnõ: Aweikoma and Xokleng. Aweikoma is used mainly in foreign literature, and Xokleng became more popular after 1960. This set of questions involving the ethnonyms Aweikoma and Xokleng will be retrieved and developed in the next sections of this paper.

Copulation and Aweikoma

35The Aweikoma name was used to refer to the Laklãnõ people who lived in the regions of the plateau and the valley of Santa Catarina in distinction to the Kaingang who lived in the west of the same state, in addition to those indigenous peoples located in the territories of the current states of Paraná, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. It had a great diffusion outside Brazil. Some publications have even encouraged the compound term Aweikoma-Kaingang.

36The first records of the term Aweikoma as a population are found in Ihering (1911a: 139; 1912: 254). Some authors (Métraux 1946: 449; 1947: 148, see note 1; Hicks 1966: 841) state that Nimuendajú (supposedly in 1987 [1914]) would be responsible for this term. There is no record of the term Aweikoma in the text referred to by these authors. The term was imported by Nimuendajú, but it was based on a text by Hugo Gensch (1908b: 752). The dissemination of the term was later encouraged by Ihering (1912: 254) under the known influence of Nimuendajú (Nimuendajú and Guérios 1948: 215).

37There are widespread allegations that the term aweikoma can be translated as a kind of explicit invitation to copulate (with women). All references to this statement, however, refer to one note from Silvio Coelho dos Santos (1987 [1973]: 30, see note 1).

38Henry (1964 [1941]: 17) and Wiik (2004: 129) present the term waikó for copulation, just as Silva (1930: 29) presents the term uvái-cóiê as copulate, and that Gensch (1908b: 756) presents the term awokania for the expression “stay with me!”. Therefore, the various errors of pronunciation or even misspellings of such picturesque event described bias by Silvio Coelho dos Santos are not improbable. Even though he had researched the Laklãnõ for forty years, the professor never learned the basics of the indigenous language.

39It is worth mentioning that Hugo Gensch registered the term awei-koma, as a native speaker of a Germanic language, based on listening to an indigenous language with unknown grammar and without using any phonetic alphabet. None of the consulted authors who used Gensch’s text as a reference, which includes Silvio Coelho dos Santos, reported having this situation in mind. The first change in the term was the removal of the hyphen, removing also some typical temporality, lack of sound or pause in pronunciation. Subsequently to the Portuguese term, it came to be transcribed and reproduced as aveicóma. The pronunciation has been compromised and severely altered many times during these and other transitions.

40It is very hard to affirm or believe that the expression used in the 1960’s by a Brazilian who did not master the nuances of pronunciation in the indigenous language is more credible than that which was perceived or even registered 50 or 60 years earlier by a Germanic speaker who did not know any alphabets’ phonetics or transcription techniques. It should be noted that given the position occupied by Silvio Coelho dos Santos at Federal University of Santa Catarina, and from the political circles that the researcher was part of, the term has been completely ostracized by the academy since then and, at present, even the natives themselves repudiate it.

41The divergence between hearing and writing indigenous terms is not something new (Ihering 1904: 31; Taunay 1931: 81-82, 111-112; Nimuendajú and Guérios 1948: 228), as well as the impossibility of full transcription (Taunay 1888: 251-254, 278; Sampaio 1890: 45-46; Floriana 1918: 567-568). Silvio Coelho dos Santos curiously never put the ethnonym suggested by him (Xokleng) under similar tests of veracity that he applied to the ethnonym Aweikoma. The xokleng word does not have any meaning or use in the Laklãnõ language.

42It may be important to note that some authors (Urban 1978: 334; Wiik 2004: 35) identify the two tribal parts of Laklãnõ social organization by the terms Waikómang e Kañre.

43For decades, entire Kaingang groups identified themselves and were identified by the name of one of their two tribal parts. The best-known case in southern Brazil refers to Camés (Lima 1842; Cemitile 1882; Borba 1882; Taunay 1888; Ihering 1904).

44Gensch was informed about the term aweikoma from an indigenous child that he kidnapped and kept with his family. It is entirely possible that the girl Koziklã identified herself as Waikomang and that, in his notes, Gensch registered as Aweikoma. Santos, trying to reproduce it, probably pronounced something that the indigenous people understood as waikó.

45Even today, it is common to include or remove the prefix a- in words imported by the Laklãnõ Indians. About the suffix -ma (or -mang), in fact it would be the perfective aspect (Gakran 2008: 145; 2015b: 180-183) -mũ, thus being an external marker to the terms, and possibly was included or transcribed due to a limited understanding of the indigenous language.

The Xokleng are the Xetá

46In the last few decades, there have been few attempts to re-interpret the origin of the term Xokleng. Such attempts were developed by indigenous intellectuals. Although its full translation is difficult to be done, interpretations show the term as an adjective with very offensive connotations like cavemen and spiderman (Gakran 2005: 12-14; 2015b: 24). It should be noted that the difficulty of translation described by Nanblá Gakran may be related to the hypothesis that the term came from a foreign indigenous language. This situation is far from that which is perceptible for the ethnonyms produced in the indigenous language itself, as shown in another section of this paper.

47In addition to the reinterpretation attempts, it is also possible to find statements (Gakran 2005: 12, see note 2; 2008: 141, see note 2; Gakran 2015a: 11, see note 4) that claim the registration of the term Xaclan dated of 1777 on a map of Guarapuava by Sampaio de Souza. The mention for Xaclan can actually be found in a record dated 1771 (Biblioteca Nacional 1973 [1771]: 22).

48In 1809, a priest named a group Xocren in the same region (Guarapuava, Paraná) and, in addition to the Xocren, there were three other groups: Cames, Votorões and Dorins (Lima 1842: 52). The Cames and Votorões groups were most likely Kaingang groups and were in a catechization process by said priest. However, in an attempt to catechize the Dorins, wars and conflicts were frequently acknowledged between them and the Cames and Votorões.

49It is noteworthy that the Votorões and Cames were united in the battles against the Dorins and that the priest suggested separating the groups between Votorões (and Cames) in a different space from the Dorins (Lima 1842: 51, 62). The Xocrens were never actually settled or catechized by the priest. However, Nimuendajú (1993 [1913]: 57-58) states that the four groups would share cultural and linguistic values, in his readings they all belong to the same linguistic group, identified by him as Kaingang.

50Apparently, it was from a text by Borba (1904: 54) that Nimuendajú had gotten the information that all four groups spoke the same language and cultivated the same habits. However, it reinforces the possibility that the population called Xocrés are in fact the Arés (Ivaporés, Setás or Xetás are also possible nomenclatures for this people). There are records that the Kaingang of Paraná kept indigenous Arés in their domains as slaves (Saint-Hilaire 1936 [1857]: 124; Borba (1904: 62); Frič 1908; Nimuendajú 1987 [1914]: 102-103).

51In addition, there are numerous references to a population of indigenous people who lived in this region and worn lip ornaments, speakers of a Guarani language. It seems that when Borba (1904: 62) asked the person he found enslaved among the Kaingang, he called himself Aré. However, when he asked another Kaingang people in Guarapuava (Borba 1904: 54), they referred to the Aré (identified as Botocudos) as being Xocrés. A similar situation is described by Auguste de Saint-Hilaire (1936 [1857]: 124), who nevertheless clearly perceives that the nomenclature is given by the enemy people.

52In the text by Chagas Lima quoted by Nimuendajú, it is noticeable that although there were feuds between Votorões and Cames, such fights were much greater when they were against the Dorins (Lima 1842: 48-50). The erroneous perception of cultural unity, though mainly linguistic, produced by Nimuendajú among the groups, is disseminated in an almost generalized way, raising a long-lasting discussion (Ihering 1911c: 514; Ploetz and Métraux 1930: 114, 234; Nimuendajú and Guérios 1948: 227-228; Schaden 1958: 105).

53If we cross the information of two texts from Borba (2017 [1886]: 247; 1904: 55-56) it is possible to verify that the Botocudos mentioned by this author, who maintains relations with the Kaingang in a region close to Guarapuava (where the name Chokrén appears), are actually the Aré Indians, who will later be identified in the literature as Setá, Notobotocudos, Yvaparé and Xetá. Another author who recovers the relations between the Xetá and the Kaingang is Ihering (1911a: 139), while allowing to distinguish quite clearly the two main groups that were nominated as Botocudos in southern Brazil until then.

54In another text, Nimuendajú (1987 [1914]: 102-103, see note 40) describes the escapes for survival of a Guarani population after being persecuted and almost exterminated by the Kaingang, and has finally settled in the exact place where we found the indigenous people called Arés, Xetá, Chocrén or Botucudos in the state of Paraná.

55There are records of the discussion of whether or not the Xetá is a Guarani population and whether or not they speak a Kaingang language in many texts (Borba 1904: 55-57; Ihering 1911c: 514; Nimuendajú and Guérios 1948: 227-228; Schaden 1958: 105). These authors also allow us to glimpse the transposition of the name Chokrén between different peoples. Deeke confirms that the Botocudos in Santa Catarina and Paraná clearly did not speak the same language (1967 [1917]: 105).

56One should not rule out the hypothesis that the term Xokleng is derived from bad transpositions of nomenclatures (Socrê, Xocré, Xokren, etc.) originally used to refer to Xetá groups by Kaingang Indians. These nomenclatures possibly suffered different variations on the records (Jochlém, Xaclan etc.).

57It would be safe to suggest that the first references for the corruptions of the term Xokleng appear in the 19th century in the Brazilian proto-academy. Lima (1842: 52) and Saint-Hilaire (1936 [1857]: 124) mention respectively that they heard from a Kaingang indigenous person living in Paraná that their traditional enemies with lip ornaments were the Xocré and Socré. In both cases, these reports are collected in the region close to Guarapuava, referring to a population of Botocudos living near the Ivaí river.

58The suggested Socré / Xocré are “teleported” to Santa Catarina state by Paul Ehrenreich (1906 [1894]: 297), who renames them to Sokleng. The misunderstandings between different populations named in Ehrenreich’s readings can be confirmed in previous material (Ehrenreich 1892: 33), where he also names a population that was possibly Guarani-Kaiowá as Sokleng.

59Hermann Ploetz, along with Alfréd Métraux (1930: 113), Herbert Baldus (1937: 31-32) and Francisco Schaden (1953: 136) adopt the terminology proposed by Paul Ehrenreich and refer to those previously called Botocudos of Santa Catarina by their nicknames of Chokrén, Xokleng or Shokleng.

60In the 1960’s, the Federal University of Santa Catarina was founded and, subsequently, professor Silvio Coelho dos Santos, who was supported by the texts of Schaden and friends, disseminated the ethnonym Xokleng in opposition to Aweikoma, which had been proposed by Gensch (1908b), Ihering (1911a: 139; 1912: 254) and Nimuendajú (Nimuendajú and Guérios 1948: 215).

Laklãnõ self-denomination

61Among the Laklãnõ people, it is possible to identify a more recent attempt at self-denomination by this indigenous population (Gakran 2005: 13-14), which is built after the identification of likely prejudiced tones of the term Xokleng. It appears that there is some appropriation of Urban’s explanation (1978: 346) in the construction of the positive speech about the term Laklãnõ. The attempts to propose new nomenclatures for population divisions among the Xokleng are notable (Namem 1991: 23-25; Wiik 2012: 100; Gakran 2015c: 54-55; Serpa 2015: 25-26).

  • 3 Probably is a Xetá population. This theory is explored in my thesis.

62While Gakran suggests a nomenclature for his own people, Serpa and Wiik suggest renaming three or four distinct populations, one of which is the Laklãnõ. These authors are supported by Urban’s explanation about these opinions. According to Serpa (2015: 25-26, 61-62) and Namem (1991: 25), the groups would be: Ngrokòthi-tõ-prèy (living in the west of the state of Santa Catarina, considered as few survivors of the Guerra do Contestado (War of the Contested Land), near the city of Porto União), Laklãnõ (living near the city of Ibirama, and demographically more expressive) and Angying (living near the coast, in Serra do Tabuleiro, possibly extinct). The suggested population named Ngrokòthi-tõ-prèy by these authors appears registered as Gógklózy tõ pléj (Gakran 2015c: 55-56, see note 24) and, moreover, mentioning a population that was identified as probably Guarani.3

63Rafael Casanova Hoerhann (2012: 92) reports the existence of a group called Cózücránón and another group that would be known as Zúgn. Copacãm Tschucambang (2015: 10, see note 1) records the first population described by Hoerhann as Kózy klã nõ and an additional one that would be called by the name Ágdjin, emphasizing in a note that “on the names of the subgroups, there are several versions among the wise old men”. The authors do not go into details about the geographic locations of these additional populations. In a letter from Curt Nimuendajú to Eduardo Hoerhann (Hartmann 1993 [1933]: 38) five subgroups are suggested, four of which are close to others presented here: Lá-crán-nón, Cózu-crán-nón, Zúgn, Yang-grágn and Ngócózu-to-pléiê.

64It is important to clarify that the recovery of endonyms by indigenous peoples in Brazil indicates a resistance against the generalizing nomenclatures that are imposed on them by outsiders. On that matter, the searches for legitimacy in the historical reconstruction of indigenous identities ends up involving the definition of a native term for that people.

65Often this term is a literal translation of “we”, “people”, “man”, “person”, “human person”, “human body”, “real people”, “beautiful people” or simplifications and contractions of potential origin myths, such as the “sun people” among the Laklãnõ, where Gakran (2015c: 58, see note 27) suggests to be a literal translation of the contraction of ra yidn kra nõ, to ra kra no, and from this to laklano, referring specifically to “people who come from where the sun rises”. Another translation suggested by Nanblá Gakran on the same page would be “fast people”.

66There are records (Wiesemann 1978: 200; Urban 1978: 346) that allow us to affirm that the acceptance of the self-denomination as Laklãnõ is initially established only in the year of 1978, being very possibly to have happened before that, because Hoerhann (2012: 92-93) reveals letters exchanged in 1938 between Eduardo Hoerhann and Curt Nimuendajú that mentioned some self-names, and among them is the term lá-crán-nón.

67Gakran (2015c: 57) evidences the beginning of the native rescue of the term Laklãnõ between 1983 and 1985, as well as in other material (2015b: 25-26) he points out the 90’s as the moment when this rescue begins to involve a greater part of the indigenous population. It must be kept in mind that this movement occurs immediately after the work of Urban and Wiesemann.

68The Laklãnõ nomenclature is associated with the population that lives or comes from T. I. Laklãnõ. Thus, in order to avoid further loss of meaning and political space reached by the name Xokleng, nor to erase the political construction of the Laklãnõ nomenclature and image, the mentions for the population currently identified as Laklãnõ are being presented as Laklãnõ-Xokleng by some researchers.

69The term Xokleng remains reserved for possible references to the language and for constructions made by other authors, as there could not be found any speaker of the language who actually identifies the language by the nickname Laklãnõ.

70Due to the historical weight of the ethnonym Xokleng in national and regional politics, indigenous people often use this name in their approaches and communication with non-indigenous society. The use of the term Laklãnõ by indigenous people in the community is reserved for scientific publications, researchers, anthropologists and internal discussions about their future.

Other nomenclatures

71Finally, some authors (Paula 1924: 117; Goulart and Fraga 2000: 18) can still identify the Laklãnõ as descendants, continuities or representatives of the old denominations of Tapuya or Aimoré. Sampaio (1890: 43) also suggests a relationship between the populations identified as Gê and the so-called Tapuya.

72The terms Tapuya and Aimoré were generalized and used to refer to any indigenous populations that were not identified as speakers of any languages from the tupi linguistic branches (Ambrosetti 1896: 332; Ihering 1911b: 49-50; Boiteux 1912: 45; Ribeiro 2004 [1970]: 112-113; Hemming 2004 [1984]: 119-120; Raminelli 2000: 544; Krenak and Coelho 2009: 196; Brighenti 2012: 56). It is also recommended to refer to Maybury-Lewis (1965: 340-344) and Silva (2011: 56-64).

73The first questions about the cultural unity that was built by some authors between the Gê and the Tapuya groups can still be found in the 1940’s (Lowie 1941: 188). Some authors may include values of cultural distinction in addition to the linguistic stem, such as the absence of cultivation and consumption of cassava (Ribeiro 2004 [1970]: 112), since it allows mapping diverse cultural aspects, ranging from the presence of nomadic and semi-nomadic practices down to the types of pottery (shallow or deep dish), of a population’s past.

74Due to the impossibility to confirm any relations between the Tapuya and the Aimoré with the current Laklãnõ people, references to these terms should be considered only in strictly significant cases and with additional explanations and clarifications. The geographical location of the registration of these terms should assist in this process.

On the indigenous teachers

75For centuries, education in Brazil, and not only of indigenous peoples, has been in the hands of religious groups (Villalta 2002: 171-172; Platero 2017 [2014]: 246-247) and has been proclaimed as a civilizing tool. For an extended reading of the history involving the establishment of indigenous education in Brazil, and especially in the state of Santa Catarina and for the Laklãnõ population, see Virgílio (2018).

76The education of indigenous peoples, as a rule, always followed national parameters, rarely being open to discussion or adaptation to specific regional and cultural contexts. All decisions were always made by third parties, often complete outsiders to the contexts that would be affected, and with completely flawed interests to the communities. It is therefore safe to affirm that for centuries it was an education to the Indians, rather than an indigenous education.

77According to some authors (Grupioni 2006: 47-49, 52-53; Maher 2006: 23-24), the first projects for training indigenous teachers in Brazil date from the 1970’s. Grupioni (2006: 44-45) goes further and states that the first indigenous teachers have originated in more recent periods, being originally trained to be, in fact, bilingual interpreters of Catholic missionaries, but since the former teachers left the indigenous schools, these monitors started to assume related functions or even started teaching in their place.

78In this context, the native people started feeling the urge of being responsible for the content or procedures that must be developed or applied in those spaces, making the indigenous search for training as teachers so they could be understood. When they became literate, and even more so, teachers, the indigenous began to formally question the names that were imposed on them during centuries.

79Nanblá Gakran, the person responsible for the research of the ethnonym Laklãnõ in the 1980’s, and sometimes referenced in this paper, was the first indigenous Laklãnõ to complete basic education. He was also the first of them to complete high school, and also to complete a university degree, obtaining a master’s degree. After 15 years, only two Laklãnõ have completed a master’s degree (Valderes Coctá Priprá de Almeida, in History, and Ítalo Rodrigo Mongconãnn Reis, in Social Anthropology). Nowadays, another Laklãnõ is studying to get a master’s degree (Micael Vaipon Weitscha, in Linguistics). On June 26, 2021, professor Nanblá Gakran passed away, victim of an illness that had afflicted him for years. He also had a doctorate degree and a post-doctoral degree, both in Linguistics.

80Gakran was a translator, transcriber and research assistant for Gregory Urban since his childhood. After Gregory Urban concluded his research in the 1980’s, Nanblá started his journey to preserve the language of his people. He was the first indigenous language teacher at the village’s school and, for 20 years, he was the main teacher of all the indigenous teachers who came after him.


81It was not the purpose of this article to propose an ethnography of the historical path of the Laklãnõ people, since this discussion appears in other materials, such as Virgílio (2020).

82The purpose of the article was to explore the evolution of the ethnonymy that was built on an indigenous population in Brazil and the indigenous movement that used the discussion as a means to redefine the popular values. As most of the bibliography and sources consulted are only available in Portuguese, one of the objectives of the article was to make this scenario available to researchers who do not master this language, but who may find similar or contrasting situations in their own research. It was not the objective – even because it would not be possible – to end the discussion on the Laklãnõ ethnonymy, but rather to synthesize the state-of-the-art that can stimulate greater attention on the location of our subjects of study, while also stimulating a dialogue with them.

83In addition, one of the possibilities for other anthropology researches is precisely to notice the considerations of our interlocutors about the research that is and was produced about or against them. In this regard, another objective, perhaps the main one, is to encourage the adoption of the ethnonym Laklãnõ in future researches about this population.

84In fact, after the publications of professor Nanblá Gakran, some authors, such as professor Alexandre Machado Namem, began to adopt the ethnonym Laklãnõ in their scientific productions, replacing other terms. The author of this essay himself has publications that oscillate between the ethnonym Xokleng, the compound term Laklãnõ-Xokleng and currently Laklãnõ. Until mid-2016, my publications that mentioned the Laklãnõ people refer to the population by the ethnonym Xokleng. It was the term I knew from my training between 2012 and 2016. When I started my doctoral research, in late 2016, I decided to use the compound term Laklãnõ-Xokleng, aiming to respect both the self-denomination and the historical and political weight of the ethnonym Xokleng. In 2020, after finishing the chapter of my thesis that had originated this essay, and again in 2021, after professor Nanblá died, I understood that it was necessary to change the thesis to use mainly the ethnonym Laklãnõ, except for specific mentions of certain populations.

85It’s a learning process for all of us. It is therefore necessary that, as anthropologists, we can recognize that indigenous participation has other and perhaps greater implications, in addition to other perceptions that can inevitably lead us to other and new histories, thus reaching other places.

86Finally, if in the last century foreign publications prioritized the ethnonym Aweikoma while Brazilian publications focused on reproducing the ethnonym Xokleng, maybe the ethnonym Laklãnõ would remain unknown in publications produced outside of Brazil or in languages other than Portuguese.

87Therefore, as far as possible, it is expected that this research will encourage other researchers to reflect on when to use each of the ethnonyms, if possible thinking through each use. As a complementary purpose, may this small literature review encourage other researchers to propose similar analyses for other indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Receção da versão original / Original version 2020/10/21
Receção da versão revista / Revised version 2022/04/14
Aceitação / Accepted 2022/05/17

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WIIK, Flávio Braune, 2004, Christianity Converted: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Xokleng Laklanõ Indians and the Transformations Resulting from Their Encounter with Pentecostalism. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago, doctoral dissertation in Anthropology.

WIIK, Flávio Braune, 2012, “Xokleng pentecostalism: an ethnographic account of an indigenous response to christianity”, in Marie-Pierre Bousquet and Robert Crépeau (orgs.), Dynamiques religieuses des autochtones des amériques. Paris: Editions Karthala, 97-132.

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1 Consider all mentions for the Xokleng language as the language used by the Laklãnõ people.

2 References that include page numbers allow direct access to the justifications that the authors included for choosing the nomenclature used or for the single mention. References that do not have page numbers were classified based on the term that is predominantly used in the referenced work. The authors who have registered other indigenous peoples under these ethnonyms were not included in the list. The known list of authors is substantially longer and has been reduced here for the purpose of this paper (see Virgílio 2022: 53-54).

3 Probably is a Xetá population. This theory is explored in my thesis.

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Referência do documento impresso

Jefferson Virgílio, «Laklãnõ ethnonymy: beyond etic readings»Etnográfica, 27(1) | -1, 5-25.

Referência eletrónica

Jefferson Virgílio, «Laklãnõ ethnonymy: beyond etic readings»Etnográfica [Online], 27(1) | 2023, posto online no dia 03 março 2023, consultado o 06 junho 2023. URL:; DOI:

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Jefferson Virgílio

Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal ORCID ID:

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Direitos de autor


Creative Commons - Atribuição-NãoComercial 4.0 Internacional - CC BY-NC 4.0

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