Logic of myth and action: The Canela Messianic Movement of 1963

Manuela Carneiro da Cunha


The first White man, so runs the Ramkokamekra Canela myth, was Aukê, a miraculous Indigenous boy who ends up killed by his kin. He reappears as a farmer and offers the Canela access to shotguns and proper dishware. Yet infelicitous choices made by the Indigenous people themselves deprive them from obtaining wealth and power. A messianic movement arising in 1963 was predicated on a promise to reverse this inequality. White people would end up having to hunt in the forest while all kinds of commodities would be imparted to the Canela. The article argues that, in order to achieve such reversal of fortune, the messianic movement followed a script that can be shown to be a structural inversion of the myth of the origin of the White man. Thus, historical events could be fashioned by myth.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/727778