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Decolonizing relations

Indigenous knowledge and scientific collections: Collaborative research with the Ka’apor Indigenous people

Conocimiento indígena y colecciones científicas: Investigación colaborativa con el pueblo indígena Ka’apor
Claudia Leonor López-Garcés, Mariana Françozo, Valdemar Ka’apor, Irakadju Ka’apor, Rosilene Tembé, Pina Irã Ka’apor, Pina Ité Ka’apor, Ximorã Ka’apor et Wa’i Ka’apor
p. 138-151


This article reflects on the relationship between Indigenous knowledge and scientific collections from the perspective of a collaborative research experience between the Goeldi Museum (Belém, Brazil), Leiden University and the Ka’apor Indigenous people who live in the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land – Maranhão (Brazil). We start with a visit to the Goeldi Museum’s scientific collections in September 2022, as part of the BRASILIAE research project, which prompted memory exercises and reflections on Ka’apor knowledge. We will also reflect on the Ka’apor’s own ways of creating and transmitting knowledge, encouraging the participation of women in reflecting on Indigenous knowledge and their role in creating and transmitting knowledge.

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1In the context of the greater Amazon, the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi (MPEG), founded in 1866, is the oldest scientific institution with a museum character, and it holds scientific collections related to two major fields of knowledge as defined by Western science: the natural sciences and the humanities. In the field of natural sciences, the Goeldi Museum holds collections in zoology (entomology, herpetology, ichthyology, mastozoology and ornithology collections), botany (MG Herbarium and the recent Ethnobotany Collection), earth sciences and ecology (paleontology, palynology and soil collections).

2In the field of the humanities, the Goeldi Museum holds important and historical ethnographic collections from 120 Indigenous peoples and riverine populations from the Brazilian Amazon and, to a lesser extent, from the Colombian and Peruvian Amazon, as well as from the Maroon populations of Suriname. It also houses an archaeological collection that shows the cultural diversity of ancient human collectives in the Amazon and an important linguistic collection that holds records of the enormous linguistic diversity that exists in the Amazon.

3In the area of anthropology, we highlight the research carried out among and with various Indigenous peoples with whom the Goeldi Museum has maintained close relations since the early days of this research institution. A case in point is the century-old relationship that the Goeldi Museum has maintained with the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó Indigenous people, at least since the beginning of the 20th century, mediated by various researchers throughout this century and throughout the 21st century (Sanjad et al., 2022; López-Garces et al., 2014).

  • 1 The ERC-funded Project BRASILIAE Indigenous Knowledge in the Making of Science: Historia Naturalis (...)

4In terms of methodology, this article is based on the ethnography of a visit by a group of Ka’apor Indigenous people to the Goeldi Museum’s scientific collections in September 2022, carried out as part of the ERC BRASILIAE research project,1 which stimulated dialogues with the Ka’apor about practices of knowledge production. In short, we wanted to show the Goeldi Museum as a central institution in Western scientific research and how it operates together with Indigenous peoples, to recognize the contribution of Indigenous knowledge to the development of Western science and, finally, to motivate reflections on Ka’apor knowledge and their own ways of creating and transmitting it, thereby encouraging reflections on the important role of women as creators and transmitters of knowledge.

5Based on this experience, in this article we seek to articulate a reflection on the relationship between Indigenous knowledge and Western science as knowledge-making practices. We seek to advance in the transformation of inequalities as an alternative in order to build a new science of an intercultural nature, which recognizes and values the importance ofIndigenous knowledge in the sustainability of life on the planet. It is through research in collaboration with Indigenous peoples that we can move forward in this direction.

Collaborative research with the Ka’apor people

6The Ka’apor, speakers of a language from the Tupi trunk, Tupi-Guarani family, live in the Alto Turiaçu Indigenous Land, located in the north of the state of Maranhão in the Brazilian Amazon, sharing this territory with other Indigenous peoples such as the Tembé and the Awa Guajá, also speakers of Tupi languages. There are around two thousand people who identify themselves as Ka’apor, an ethnonym that comes from the terms “Ka’a,” which means forest or jungle, and “por,” which means inhabitant or dweller, so the term Ka’apor can be understood as “forest dwellers” (Balée, 1994).

7In the context of the Goeldi Museum, research among the Ka’apor Indigenous people was initiated by anthropologist William Balée, who carried out an important study on the ethnobotanical knowledge of this people between 1988 and 1991 (Balée, 1994. At the invitation of Professor Balée, in 2005 Claudia López was asked to support the Ka’apor people, who were creating an Indigenous association as an organizational space from which to continue organizing economic and political initiatives. Their aim was to continue the struggle, which began in the 1980s, to defend their territory, the Alto Turiaçu-MA Indigenous Land, which was constantly invaded and affected by illegal logging by non-Indigenous logging entrepreneurs (López-Garcés, 2018).

  • 2 Cauim is the name of a cashew-fruit beverage made by the Ka’apor, which is drunk during a multi-day (...)

8From this initial collaboration, the Goeldi Museum went on to carry out new research initiatives with the Ka’apor people, focusing on issues considered to be a priority, such as income generation initiatives, especially handicraft production for the market (López-Garcés et al., 2015). From 2013, when one of the authors of this article was curator (from 2011-2018) of the Curt Nimuendaju Ethnographic Collection, we established new research partnerships with the National Museum of Ethnology and the University of Leiden (Netherlands), dedicating ourselves to studying the ethnographic collections of Ka’apor objects kept in the respective museums in Brazil and the Netherlands. As a result of this research collaboration, and thanks to the Ibermuseus Conversaciones II Grant that we received, the research group collectively decided to organize an exhibition about the Ka’apor at the Museu Goeldi. The decision as to the topic (and title) of the exhibition was made quickly by the Ka’apor representatives while in Leiden: A Festa do Cauim, that is, The Cauim Party (López-Garcés et al., 2017).2

9The exhibition opened in 2014 at the museum in Belém. It reflected our collective attempt to translate essential concepts and values of Ka’apor life to a wider public. These intercultural exercises consisted first of the Ka’apor examining and discussing their objects kept in the museum’s storage areas (and on display, in the case of Leiden) – a discussion they carried out in their own language, afterwards translating it into Portuguese for the remaining members of the group. Later, sitting around a table, we – the Ka’apor and the anthropologists and museum staff – looked at the images of the objects, read aloud some of our notes, and from the stories evoked by each object we decided on what to use and how to display the Cauim ritual. This method of working together was similar to those described by other scholars and museum practitioners working with Indigenous peoples in a collaborative manner (Peers & Brown, 2003; van Broekhoven et al., 2010; Silva & Gordon, 2011; Pearlstein et al., 2023). In this sense, it is important to highlight the role of having open, often long conversations about the different partners’ interests and views of the work process at hand, instead of following a strict pre-planned schedule or chasing a set of goals to achieve. As we will describe below, this same manner of working was employed when discussing science and knowledge-making with the Ka’apor.

10The research partnership with Leiden University continued within the framework of the ERC BRASILIAE research project, which held two workshops on the theme of recognizing scientific collections: one at the Goeldi Museum in Belém in 2022, and the other at the Naturalis Museums and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden in 2023. In this paper, for analytical purposes, we will focus on the research workshop carried out at the Goeldi Museum, the results and discussions of which were presented at the event “Decolonizing academic disciplines and collections” in Marburg in June 2023.

Getting to know museums and their scientific collections with the Ka’apor

  • 3 Co-authors Irakadju Ka’apor and Rosilene Tembé participated only at the Leiden 2023 workshop, but t (...)

11In August 2022, a group of Ka’apor Indigenous people chosen by their communities (co-authors Valdemar Ka’apor, Pina Ité Ka’apor, Pina irã Ka’apor, Ximorã Ka’apor, Wa’i Ka’apor), were invited to visit and talk about the scientific collections kept at the Goeldi Museum.3 The five adults were joined by two children who were also present during the visits to the collections. The workshop, “Indigenous knowledge and Western science: a visit to the Goeldi Museum’s scientific collections with the Ka’apor,” had the following objectives:

  1. to bring the Indigenous people into contact with the world of science produced at the Goeldi Museum through visits to the scientific collections;

  2. to motivate reflection on the contributions of Indigenous knowledge to Western science and vice versa;

  3. to motivate reflection on the Ka’apor’s own ways of creating and transmitting knowledge;

  4. to encourage the participation of Ka’apor women in reflecting on Indigenous knowledge and their role as creators and transmitters of knowledge.

12As part of this experience, we visited the ethnographic, archaeological, linguistic, herpetological, ethnobotanical, herbarium, historical archive and library collections and went on a hike in the Goeldi Museum’s Zoobotanical Park to identify plants that are important to the Ka’apor. One of the objectives was to show how Western science is built on the idea of creating scientific collections, which make it possible to obtain, classify and store information about the diversity of plants, animals, minerals and human artifacts and then establish comparisons between different specimens and objects, based on which Western knowledge is consolidated.

13In methodological terms, we went on tours of the technical reserves that hold the scientific collections, guided by the curators and/or technicians of each collection, stopping to talk about those specimens or objects that caught the attention of the workshop participants, audio recording the conversations and testimonies about these elements and making photographic records and short videos of these tours. In this article we will focus on the conversions and reflections that resulted from the visits to the humanities collections, mainly the Curt Nimuendaju Ethnographic Collection, but also the Mário Ferreira Simões Archaeological Collection, which holds the largest archaeological collection in the Amazon. We also consider some reflections that emerged during visits to the Ethnobotany collection and the Domingo Soares Ferreira Pena Library.

Memories and reflections on Ka’apor Indigenous knowledge

14The first visit was to the Goeldi Museum’s Ethnographic Collection, which is called the Curt Nimuendaju Technical Reserve (see figure 1). For most of the Indigenous participants, it was the first time they had visited this ethnographic collection, which holds important collections of Ka’apor objects, amassed by various researchers over the course of the 20th century; only Valdemar, who had participated in a previous workshop, was already familiar with the collection. For this reason, Valdemar led the conversations and reflections and explained, in his own language, to the other Indigenous participants about the Ka’apor ceramic pieces kept in the collection:

We’ve lost the professionals who used to make what we call kamuxi (paneiro) and kachimã (ceramic pipe). … Making pottery is very secretive, you can’t be seen, there are only two people [needed], one to make it and another to help. It’s very hidden. Men and women do it. The material is tujuka [ceramic]. Those older than us can make it. It would be very interesting for us to do it. It’s hard even for me, but if we try we can do it. Because first you have to find material, clay that’s kind of red, yellow, not all clay can [be used to] make it. Then you have to mix it, the caripé, a tree from which you remove the bark and burn it, then you make it like a little cement powder, pour it into the clay, mix it two or three times and when it’s very soft, we’ll lift it. It’s enough to do it once, the second time we’ll do it until we get it. You have to do one first. While you’re making it, you can’t drink water, you can’t pee, you can’t date if you’re married. When it’s all finished, you can do it [again], but not while you’re doing it, you can crack [the pot], you can’t look at anyone either.

Figure 1. Visit to ethnographic collection storage area Curt Nimuendaju at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, August 2022.

Figure 1. Visit to ethnographic collection storage area Curt Nimuendaju at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, August 2022.

Photo © Claudia López

15The importance of Valdemar’s speech lies in the fact that the Ka’apor no longer make pottery. This knowledge has been forgotten but can be recovered. The knowledge is safe, Valdemar argues, and asks:

How did this knowledge that we call Ukwaha mupytaha remain forever? Tupã [God] gave us every piece of knowledge, every science … let’s say we all get married, what are we going to eat? Are we going to eat snake? Snakes make you sick. God said not to eat [snake]. This [game meat] is the one to eat. So God gave us ukwaha, this idea, this knowledge. And so we brought our knowledge. That’s where we got this ukwaha from. Our history comes from the beginning, from many centuries ago, when Tupã existed here on earth, he gave us this knowledge. It’s not through books, in those days it was just storytelling. Grandpa is sitting and we’re listening, then it’s a lesson for us. The one who knows, who has a good memory, will receive and learn, the other doesn’t care. Our ukwaha is very interesting. That’s how we bring ukwaha.

16When asked how the Ka’apor create new knowledge, Valdemar replies:

Now? Today we’re going to preserve what we still have today, first the land, the forest, second our ukwaha, our knowledge, how we lived, our grandfathers. So we’re going to preserve it. We’re still original Indigenous people, so let’s talk, have our party, plant. Today we’re already among the karai [non-Indigenous people], they’re already teachers, they’ve been hired, but we have the language. Since we’re teachers now, we have to write a history book so that it doesn’t end.

17Valdemar’s reflections on Ka’apor knowledge are reinforced by his daughter Pina Iran, who comments:

We make all this stuff here (feathers). We women know how to make these [cotton fabrics]. Now we don’t know how to make this one [ceramics]. We didn’t learn, the old men are dead, the ones who knew. The others didn’t learn. They used to make ceramic ovens too. I don’t know this one (ceramic pipe). I’ve seen them doing it, Emídio’s wife knows how. She makes gourds and pots, then they burn them when they’ve finished making them.

18Asked about her knowledge of cotton fabrics, she replied:

We know how to weave cotton. I know how to make a belt, weave a sling (see figure 2); we also know how to cut a gourd. Headdresses (cocar) only men make, women can’t make them because it’s all crooked for them. Our heads also hurt, they say, the Ka’apor men, so we [Ka’apor women] don’t even pick it up or put it on our heads, only the men do. Clubs [borduna], too, only the men take it, we [women] can’t even touch it, it gets all hard, they say. In the past, women didn’t take it, only men did. They [men] also do this [honking]. Then, if they’re going to attack a karai [non-Indigenous person], they blow this one here [horn] so that we can gather there [and attack]. Women can’t make tipiti [to press cassava] either. Women now do the work in the village, to learn from the old people what they used to do, what we don’t know, we don’t know how to do. Then we talk to them and they teach us what they know how to do. The old people teach us, even the young people and the boys are learning how to make paneiro. We do everything with them. We didn’t even know anything at first, but now that we need it, we’re learning.

Figure 2. Cotton fabrics made by women. Ethnographic collection storage area Curt Nimuendaju, August 2022.

Figure 2. Cotton fabrics made by women. Ethnographic collection storage area Curt Nimuendaju, August 2022.

Photo © Claudia López

19These approaches provide an initial understanding of Ka’apor knowledge, in which some specific characteristics are evident: ukwaha mupytaha knowledge was given by Tupã; it is kept in people’s memories; it is transmitted orally; there are professionals who specialize in certain types of knowledge and knowledge-practices; there is specific knowledge for men and women, as well as restrictions in this regard; there is now dialogue with non-Indigenous ways of knowing (teachers, school, books) that contribute to strengthening Indigenous knowledge.

Considerations about other knowledges in scientific collections

20The visit to the Ethnographic Collection also included contact with and observation of collections of objects made by other Indigenous peoples and peoples of African origin, which prompted reflections on the diversity of peoples and their knowledge. Suzana, a Karipuna Indigenous woman who works as a conservator at the Ethnographic Collection, explains that the collection of objects from the Juruna people, organized by Henry Coudreau, arrived at the Goeldi Museum in 1896, a fact that surprised Valdemar, considering that these objects have been in the museum for almost 130 years. “It’s another way of knowing about care,” said Valdemar, referring to Western museological knowledge that focuses on the conservation of collections. And thinking about the diversity of Indigenous peoples, Valdemar continued:

Before, God made one house, just one, very big. There the Indigenous people had only one language. At that time, they also had iron teeth. The Ka’apor don’t know how to eat with that [iron tooth], which is very sharp, and they cut out their tongues. Boy, I’m going to take this one out and put corn in it. That’s why our teeth rot. That also divided them, there’s going to be another Indigenous people, they’re going to be different. They’ll be enemies of each other. Like before, our ancestors fought a lot. We fought with the Tembé and the Guajá, Munduruku.

21Reflecting on his visits to the ethnographic collection and the ethnobotanical collection at the Goeldi Museum, Valdemar said:

You can see every culture, different cultures. You get curious. I’m already from another culture. I used to think that culture was just what we have, but there are several cultures. We’re curious. [The curator of the Ethnobotany collection] was talking about a lot of things for us to know. We’re in the village and there’s a lot for us to work with. We thought it was just that knowledge that we have, us Ka’apor. But there are other Indigenous people who have things we’ve never seen before, not only Indigenous people but also the riverines, the quilombolas [maroons]. And the medicines that are very important, like this vine here [ayahuasca]. I was curious, so many different cultures … there’s so much around the world, as a quilombola, the knowledge we have, each person has their own knowledge. The plants that are used to take care of our health, to make tea, some we don’t know, so we’re learning, too. … It’s the first time they [Ka’apor youth] are coming, they could be coming to do some work here, or they could be coming from outside, it’s going to be very good for them.

22And he concludes with this self-reflective statement: “our Ka’apor ethnic group is getting stronger.”

23Valdemar had the following to say about the visit to the archaeological collection:

I thought it was very important, very interesting and very good at the same time. I had been familiar with [ethnographic collections] several times. But this [visit to the archaeological collection] was the first time, another experience. I was curious because that’s another kind of knowledge, in our language you can say Amon ukwaha, another kind of knowledge, nobody knew that. I’ve traveled a lot, I’ve been to the United States, I’ve been to Holland, but nobody had seen this kind of work, as if it were another world, in past centuries, how we lived, what happened, each people has its own [...] That pot [Marajoara urn], I was curious, I was thinking today, why is there so much pottery, what is it used for, what do they want a lot of it for, is it their own production? So I thought. When [a technician from the Archaeological Collection who guided the visit] explained that that ceramic object is used for someone to be buried in when they die, then I felt sad, like another relative thinks differently! That’s another kind of knowledge. Ka’apor is just burying in the ground, pottery is just for celebrating. [The technician] said that this pot isn’t for storing water, it’s for burying the dead. That’s why I was sad and at the same time it’s another way of knowing. People who died, buried them there and don’t take care of them anymore, they don’t bury them to treat them. This one, put it there for them to take care of.

24And since death is a very sensitive subject for the Ka’apor, Valdemar continues his reflection:

That last [urn] we saw had those [human] bones, from a thousand, three thousand years ago, like a necklace that’s been collected, right? We Ka’apor don’t even want to look at that one. That’s why I thought, everyone has a different way of thinking. That was very interesting for me. The map [referring to the ethnohistorical map drawn by Curt Nimuendaju in the 1940s that was shown to us in the library] was another one, this one more or less, this one was to guide us. Now this ceramics business, I was thinking a lot, this Mr. Raimundo [the archaeological collection technician] works with the heaviest things, he has to renovate everything, this [restoration] work is more laborious than that of the other people we’re seeing there. There are maps, feather crafts, which are lighter. That [work on the archaeological collection] was very heavy.

25Valdemar‘s testimony about the Marajoara urns confirms how issues related to death and the exhibition of human remains are sensitive for Indigenous peoples (Atalay, 2006). This reaffirms the need for museums to continue avoiding exhibiting these types of collections, which were organized at a time when anthropology, archaeology and museology were not yet questioning the ethical implications of these types of collections and exhibitions (Curtis, 2003). On the other hand, Valdemar’s testimony also shows us the importance of museums and their collections as spaces for learning about and communicating the historical and socio-cultural diversity that characterizes humanity. In this sense, Valdemar‘s words are an invitation to reflect on the important educational and communicative role of museums, tasks which, in our opinion, should be carried out in collaboration with Indigenous peoples as a way of expanding and consolidating the mission of museums as educational spaces on the historical and cultural plurality of humanity. We therefore advocate for a plurality of participants and publics in museum workshops and other such settings, so that learning experiences are increasingly multicultural (and not only bilateral).

Final considerations

26At the end of the workshops at the Goeldi Museum’s scientific collections, we got together to evaluate the activities carried out, focusing on the perceptions and reflections of the Indigenous participants. Valdemar insisted on the importance of young people evaluating the activities.

27Professor Pina Ité Ka’apor said:

We went to look at the material for the first time. It made us sad; our culture is being left behind, [like] that pottery, that pot that we no longer produce in our village. I thought, this is what we’re losing, but we can look again and see if we can make this material, this pottery. But I thought it was very good. It’s like traveling back in time, ancient material. … I think we have to get close to the older people who have this ancient knowledge, we young people have to get close to them, the old people aren’t going to offer themselves, we have to get close to them. Now that cameras and audio recorders have arrived, there are six adults who are studying to make films and recordings too. Now that they’re starting, the old people are telling stories to make things. I thought it was very important because an old man can pass away, but the video will still be there, I thought it was very important, very katu [good]. That’s it.

28These words show us how collections and museums are spaces for recording the history of the peoples of the world, suggesting new forms of cultural expression for these peoples in contemporary times. It is necessary to expand the spaces for intercultural dialog, so that many different (Indigenous and other) peoples may come to learn about these records and reflect on them in order to advance their own processes of socio-cultural creation. At the same time, collaborative work with Indigenous peoples enables us to reflect on the way in which Western science has been made and shown these records, and how museums need to bring Indigenous peoples closer to these records, promoting reflection and changes in the guidelines for working in museum institutions.

29In this sense, we highlight the importance of the reflections of Ximorã Ka’apor, mother of the boy Manoel (see figure 3), whose words were translated into Portuguese by Valdemar:

She couldn’t participate because her child was not allowed in [due to the rules of the Ethnographic Collection]. She saw her father’s photo there [in the Linguistics Technical Reserve]; she was sad, we’re in the forest, the paper that remains in the book we write for others and don’t value, we give it to our children, and they tear it up. That’s why she wanted another [book], which tells the story of her father [Mr. Jupará Ka’apor]. The others had taken it, her sister-in-law almost finished it, she tore it all up, nobody values it. It’s a lot of work, it’s very sad, but at the same time it’s good because here we’ve come to learn about appreciating [conserving] things. When the paper arrives for us, we keep it first, then after two or five days, the kids pick it up, nobody values it, nobody says no, don’t touch it, it’ll be torn up. So now, anything that we have to value, we have to evaluate what is said there, what is being done in the drawing … we have to study, we have to know, we have to learn more about this.

Figure 3: Visit to the library Domindo Soares Ferreira Pena. Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, August 2022.

Figure 3: Visit to the library Domindo Soares Ferreira Pena. Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, August 2022.

Photo © Claudia López

30Ximorã’s statement allows us to reflect in different directions. On the one hand, there is a need to make organizational changes with regards to the accessibility of collections so that children can participate in the work carried out with Indigenous peoples. The Indigenous women who take part in these events normally bring their children with them, so museums need to develop forms of working that do not exclude the participation of children in the storage areas and other spaces of the museum. On the other hand, Ximorã‘s words raise questions about the way in which science disseminates research results using the technique of writing, usually in book format. We are therefore invited to question whether this form of disseminating research is the most appropriate method to reach communities, or if we need to develop other forms of communicating that better align with the orality of Indigenous peoples. Finally, Ximorã shows a self-reflective attitude manifested in the idea of “valorization/conservation”, which motivates her to think about the importance of books as tools for learning content. In doing so, she expresses her openness to these forms of communication which, as Valdemar also expressed, are becoming necessary in the current Indigenous education system.

31Additionally, according to Professor Wa’i Ka’apor:

I thought it was very important because it’s the first time we’ve come here. For me, it’s a study, another knowledge … That’s what I see, we have to sit down with the elders, because they have more knowledge than us young people. Because now we young people are starting to strengthen our culture. For me it’s a good thing to come to this museum. We take this knowledge from here to our village.

32Professor Wa’i expresses his understanding of the museum as a space for disseminating Western scientific knowledge, “another knowledge” as he names it, but he also expresses how the experience of getting to know the museum motivates him to work with young people in order to strengthen the knowledge of his people. In addition, Professor Wa’i’s words indicate that museums, when proposing collaborative work with Indigenous peoples, should aim to invite people from different age groups, so that the knowledge exchange that results from working with the collections is broader and reaches segments of the community who will continue passing on that knowledge to new generations. In this way, instead of just receiving knowledge from Indigenous elders and adding it to their collection inventories, the museum provides a broader opportunity for exchange for everyone involved.

33We conclude by drawing attention to the “evocative power of objects” (Van Velthem, 2012) and the intercultural experiences that take place in scientific collections when working in collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Recontextualizing scientific collections together with Indigenous peoples goes beyond “qualifying” objects, it implies new learning for museum institutions and Indigenous peoples alike. It suggests ways to promote changes and innovations in the working dynamics of the institutions that hold the collections, but also in the Indigenous communities that visit them. These meetings promote interdisciplinary and inter-epistemic dialogues, facilitating the expression of feelings and emotions that also contribute to the processes of creating knowledge, living together and understanding others. Based on these collaborative experiences, we ask ourselves about the possibility of advancing in the creation of an intercultural science, with the aim of creating a field of knowledge that integrates the understanding and care of the human and non-human beings who live together on this planet.

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1 The ERC-funded Project BRASILIAE Indigenous Knowledge in the Making of Science: Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648) was directed by Mariana Françozo at Leiden University and ran from 2018-2023. For more information and results, see:

2 Cauim is the name of a cashew-fruit beverage made by the Ka’apor, which is drunk during a multi-day celebration of four types of important, recurring events for the community: marriages, the baptism of babies, young women’s entry into adulthood (first period), and the nomination of a new chief.

3 Co-authors Irakadju Ka’apor and Rosilene Tembé participated only at the Leiden 2023 workshop, but they also took part in the discussions and reflections that led to the writing of this article.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Visit to ethnographic collection storage area Curt Nimuendaju at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, August 2022.
Crédits Photo © Claudia López
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Titre Figure 2. Cotton fabrics made by women. Ethnographic collection storage area Curt Nimuendaju, August 2022.
Crédits Photo © Claudia López
Fichier image/jpeg, 232k
Titre Figure 3: Visit to the library Domindo Soares Ferreira Pena. Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, August 2022.
Crédits Photo © Claudia López
Fichier image/jpeg, 258k
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Pour citer cet article

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Claudia Leonor López-Garcés, Mariana Françozo, Valdemar Ka’apor, Irakadju Ka’apor, Rosilene Tembé, Pina Irã Ka’apor, Pina Ité Ka’apor, Ximorã Ka’apor et Wa’i Ka’apor, « Indigenous knowledge and scientific collections: Collaborative research with the Ka’apor Indigenous people »ICOFOM Study Series, 52-1 | 2024, 138-151.

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Claudia Leonor López-Garcés, Mariana Françozo, Valdemar Ka’apor, Irakadju Ka’apor, Rosilene Tembé, Pina Irã Ka’apor, Pina Ité Ka’apor, Ximorã Ka’apor et Wa’i Ka’apor, « Indigenous knowledge and scientific collections: Collaborative research with the Ka’apor Indigenous people »ICOFOM Study Series [En ligne], 52-1 | 2024, mis en ligne le 03 juillet 2024, consulté le 15 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Claudia Leonor López-Garcés

Museu Goeldi – Belém, Brazil
Email: clapez[at]

Mariana Françozo

Leiden University – Netherlands

Valdemar Ka’apor

Indigenous Education – Xiepihu-rena, T.I Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

Irakadju Ka’apor

Ka’apor Ta Hury of the Gurupi River Association – Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

Rosilene Tembé

Turizinho, T.I Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

Pina Irã Ka’apor

Xiepihu-rena, T.I Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

Pina Ité Ka’apor

Xiepihu-rena, T.I Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

Ximorã Ka’apor

Xiepihu-rena, T.I Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

Wa’i Ka’apor

Xiepihu-rena, T.I Alto Turiaçu, Brazil

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