Tupinambá, a people living in the eastern lowland area of South America, related to the Tupí of the Rio São Francisco and the Guaraní of Paraguay and adjacent portions of Brazil and Argentina. Although the name originally applied to only one out of a number of culturally related native groups, it has been used more inclusively in recent years, to denote the Guaraní, Caeté, Potiguara, and the original Tupinambá. At the time of the Spanish conquest (16th cent.), the various groups had migrated through the Amazon basin as far as Bolivia, and lived in settlements consisting of four to eight large communal dwellings, each of which accommodated 100 to 200 people organized into 30 to 60 extended patrilineal families. Chiefs were patrilocal, but other men married through matrilocal bride service. They depended primarily on intensive farming, supplemented by fishing and some hunting and gathering. Their staple crops were corn and manioc. Men cleared fields which women had tilled. Although their material culture was not advanced, Tupinambá songs, dances, and myths constituted a rich body of folklore. Their religion was based on an impressive and elaborate mythology. The shaman was believed to possess supernatural powers and used these to ward off evil and cure sickness. Ritual cannibalism of prisoners of war and the children of captive women was common. After contact with Europeans, most Tupian groups disappeared, although some moved inland; other survivors were assimilated into Brazilian society. See Natives, South American.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: South American Indigenous Peoples