The Aikanã are an indigenous tribe living in the Brazilian state of Rondônia. According to Ione Vasconcelos there were 180 members in the tribe, as of 2005.
The reservation where the Aikanã reside now does not correspond to their traditional territory. The Aikanã are now developing cultural revival projects, and are working to maintain an active usage of their language through bilingual school education.
These people refer to themselves as Aikanã. Other names used to refer to this tribe are Aicana, Huari, Corumbiara, Kasupá, Mundé and Tubarão (Rodrigues, 1986:94).
Location and demographics
The majority of the Aikanã live in three villages in the Tubarão-Latundê
reservation, in the southeast of Rondônia, 180km from the city of Vilhena
and 100km from Brazil’s border with Bolivia
In December 1988 there were 85 individuals, and in 2005, there were around 180 people.
Today each of the three villages possesses a school, maintained by the Vilhena local council with both Aikanã and non-Aikanã teachers.
The language spoken by the Aikanã is still unclassified, and there is no relationship to the other indigenous languages of the region. All the Aikanã speak Portuguese, and some speak Kwaza
as well. In a couple of villages children are taught to speak and write in their own language.
The language was analyzed and its phonology shows that it had sixteen consonants and ten vowels, six of which are oral and four nasal. There are unusual morphological features, such as classifiers; these are morphemes embedded within a verbal construction with the purpose of providing information on semantic aspects of the verb argument, such as size, form, consistency and so on.
A myth mentioned by the Aikanã is that of Kiantô. According to the myth, just as a kingdom exists on Earth among its inhabitants, there is also a kingdom of the waters with its own inhabitants, resided over by the deity Kiantô.
Another myth is the "Day the sun died" (ya imeen). On this day, people who are not in their own homes may be attacked by spirits from the forest. The "death of the sun" (ya) occurs during a total eclipse: "the sun dies and the world becomes dark."
Nowadays, ritual celebrations among the Aikanã occur rarely. In one festival Vasconcelos witnessed, they made chicha
(a kind of beer brewed using manioca
), sang music and, in a special location hidden from the women, the men played their music using large wooden flutes.
These people are also skilled craftsmen, and make items both for personal and commercial usage. They produce various items such as ear decorations, bracelets, necklaces, bags, rings and some wooden objects. The oldest living Aikanã is over 80 years old, and still makes traditional bows and arrows, designed for various purposes.
on socioambiental.org, in English