Tukupe Waurá

is an Indigenous researcher and community leader from the Wauja village of Piyulewene, located on the von den Steinen River. The Wauja speak an Arawakan language, in addition to Portuguese, and reside in the Xingu Indigenous Territory in the state of Mato Grosso, in Central Brazil. Tukupe has completed training as an Indigenous Health Agent, and in local administration, and serves in those capacities.
In 2016, thanks to funding from the Smithsonian Institution Recovering Voices Program and the Americas Research Network, he was one of a team of Wauja elders and young scholars who visited the Smithsonian to exhaustively document a large collection made of their material culture a generation ago. Over a period of six weeks, they produced over 350 short videos in their own Indigenous language, describing each of these objects in detail.
In 2018, he was chosen to be Coordinator for Piyulewene village in the Wauja Language Documentation Project funded by the Americas Research Network ( As coordinator, he passed onto local scholars the training he had received, and guided them as they transcribed video-recorded oral commentary into written text, and then translated the written Wauja into written Portuguese.
In addition, he has numerous responsibilities in his community: Indigenous Health Agent; Indigenous Administrator, representing his community in negotiations with the local municipality’s school system; President of AISA, (Associação Indígena Sapukuyawa-Arakuni), the legal entity of his village, which also is charged with monitoring community finances. Finally, he is coordinator of AIC (Associação Indígena Comunitária), a community project that teaches youth how to make traditional hand-made Wauja objects, such as baskets and hammocks. Tukupe was inspired to develop this project after researching traditional Wauja material culture, including finely crafted baskets and hammocks, when he visited the Smithsonian in 2016.

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