From shifting cultivation to coffee farming: The impact of change on the health and ecology of the Surui Indians in the Brazilian Amazon

Alternative Title
Indiana University. Bloomington, Indiana, EUA
Committee Member
Institutional author
To date, no major attempt at discussing sociocultural change among Amazonian Indians from the perspective of medical anthropology and epidemiology has been undertaken. With the rapid occupation of Amazonia by national societies, pressure is being exerted upon indigenous populations, leading to changes in these societies. Such changes create different ecological and biological conditions that are followed by epidemiological changes. The extent to which the Surui Indians are managing to adapt to new socio-economic and ecological settings is the focus of this research. This study is based on field work conducted aiuong the Surui Indians of the Aripuana Indian Park, Brazil. It is based on data collected between 1979 and 1988. Ethnographic, demographic, anthropometric, and epidemiological data were collected. Contrary to previous studies, which emphasized isolated societies, this research deals with human adaptation under conditions of sociocultural, economic, and ecological change. It proposes that, under these circumstances, human adaptation should be assessed in terms of demographic and epidemiological indicators. These indicators permit comparisons through time of a population's adaptation to changing circumstances. The analysis of Surui demographic structure show that the society was resilient and able to overcome twz initial threat of biological extinction brought about by epidemic diseases. The Surui appear to have the highest rates of fertility recorded to dite in Amazonia. The indicators of fertility observed support tils conclusion and reflect a decline in sociocultural practices of fertility control. An imbalanced sex ratio in favor of males is the m.ajor structural problem faced by the group, further aggravated by the practice of polygyny. The imbalance of the sex ratio persists in the younger age cohorts. The nutritional consequences of the demographic response to tie threat of biological extinction have been less favorable — particularly due to the decline in subsistence agriculture and the monetization of the economy. Surui children are stunted, anemic, and have high parasite loads. Infant mortality is very high. At the sociocultural level, these shifts are leading a ripid co:nmunity economic differentiation. The multivariate regression analysis indicated that the socioeconomic index is an isportan~ variable accounting for the overall nutritional status of Surui children. The socioeconomic index was positively correlated with the nutritional status. The study also addresses the issue of the delivery of health services to Amazonia native societies undergoing sociocultural changes
Abstract in Spanish
Abstract in French
Keywords in Portuguese
Suruí, Amazonas, Região Amazônica, Região Norte
Brazil, Health of Indigenous Peoples, Indians, South American, Epidemiology, Anthropology, Cultural
Keywords in Spanish
Keywords in French
Brasil, Saúde de Populações Indígenas, Índios Sul-Americanos, Demografia, Epidemiologia, Antropologia da Saúde, Anthropology, Cultural, Ecossistema Amazônico
Event Date
Previous version
Related Document
Means of dissemination
Original color system
Target audience context
Audience occupation
Educational Description
Peer Reviewed
Publication Status
Latest version
Event Location
Event title
Event Type
COIMBRA JUNIOR, Carlos Everaldo Alvares. From shifting cultivation to coffee farming: The impact of change on the health and ecology of the Surui Indians in the Brazilian Amazon. 1989. 392 f. Tese (Doutorado) - Indiana University, Bloomington, 1989
Defense Institution
Indiana University
Degree date
Defense location
Programa de Pós-Graduação em Antropologia