The South American language of Maxakali

Maxakali is a South American language that is primarily spoken by 500 people in 14 villages in Minas Gerais, Brazil. The Maxakali people are only found in Brazil. Most Maxakali people are monolingual. The younger population also speak Portuguese. Alternate names of the language are Macuni, Caposhso, Monaxo, Cumanasho and Monocho. These are sometimes viewed as varieties of the Maxakali language or dialects of the language.

Maxakali is written using Latin script. The Maxakali alphabet has 15 letters, with 10 consonants and 5vowels. The Maxakali language has been classified as Macro-Je. The main religion of the Maxakali’s is ethnic religion, which is deeply rooted in the people’s culture and identity.

The Maxakali people live in Brazil near the Bahia border. They were compelled to move into their current location by their arch enemies, the Botocudo Indians. The Maxakali rebelled against the Portuguese who had encroached on their land in the 18th century. By the late 18th century they had come into permanent contact with the Portuguese, whom they allied with to fight against the Botucudo Indians. By the 1970s the Maxakalis were living in the Indian reserve, where they came into contact with non-Indians. The main economic activity they carried out in the 18th century was hunting and gathering, with a bit of fishing. They mainly grew sweet potatoes, cotton and beans. Traditionally, houses were made using tree branches which were stuck to the ground and palm fronds used to cover them. Men slept in men’s huts, where females or uninitiated boys were not allowed to sleep. Initiation of boys into manhood was an annual process, which was lengthy and involved a number of rituals. The Maxakali people buried their dead in the squatting position. It was generally believed that souls could turn into jaguars.

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