XAVANTE-Log Race

For the Xavante people of central Brazil, one of their most important ritual events is a log race, but it’s a race without winners or losers. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

David Maybury-Lewis is a professor of anthropology at Harvard University and the co-founder of Cultural Survival. He’s studied and lived amongst the Xavante over the past 40 years.

“All the participants are divided up into two teams. People go out from the village, and then they cut a length of palm tree in a big log. And when two logs are ready, they’re heaved up onto the shoulders of the two lead runners, who then set off staggering down the trail with this great log across their shoulders. And each team is running along, dancing through the bushes, whooping and encouraging the person who’s carrying the log. And as soon as they see that person to be tiring, or even before that person is tiring and they think they want to go a little bit faster, one man will come up and offer his shoulder. And then you roll the log from the shoulder of the carrier onto the shoulder of the would-be carrier who then carries on. And this way the two logs are brought back to the village and thumped down in the middle of the village where they then form the furniture for the men’s meetings in the evenings. Now the interesting thing about these log races is that they are not competitions. Although the Xavante are fiercely competitive and very good runners, what they really prize is the old Olympic ideal of taking part rather than who wins. You never hear anybody discussing who wins, but a lot of discussion after each run is who ran well. And you can run well even though you come in last. For example, if you happen to be running a slight fever, and you show up never the less and run well and come in last, there will be a lot of discussion about how well he did, how tightly he ran, in spite of the fact his head was aching and so on and so forth. ”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

XAVANTE-Log Race

One of the most important rituals for the Xavante of Central Brazil is a log race, but it's pure competition without a winner or loser.
Air Date:02/22/2000
Scientist:
Transcript:

For the Xavante people of central Brazil, one of their most important ritual events is a log race, but it's a race without winners or losers. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.

David Maybury-Lewis is a professor of anthropology at Harvard University and the co-founder of Cultural Survival. He's studied and lived amongst the Xavante over the past 40 years.

"All the participants are divided up into two teams. People go out from the village, and then they cut a length of palm tree in a big log. And when two logs are ready, they're heaved up onto the shoulders of the two lead runners, who then set off staggering down the trail with this great log across their shoulders. And each team is running along, dancing through the bushes, whooping and encouraging the person who's carrying the log. And as soon as they see that person to be tiring, or even before that person is tiring and they think they want to go a little bit faster, one man will come up and offer his shoulder. And then you roll the log from the shoulder of the carrier onto the shoulder of the would-be carrier who then carries on. And this way the two logs are brought back to the village and thumped down in the middle of the village where they then form the furniture for the men's meetings in the evenings. Now the interesting thing about these log races is that they are not competitions. Although the Xavante are fiercely competitive and very good runners, what they really prize is the old Olympic ideal of taking part rather than who wins. You never hear anybody discussing who wins, but a lot of discussion after each run is who ran well. And you can run well even though you come in last. For example, if you happen to be running a slight fever, and you show up never the less and run well and come in last, there will be a lot of discussion about how well he did, how tightly he ran, in spite of the fact his head was aching and so on and so forth. "

Pulse of the Planet is presented by DuPont, bringing you the miracles of science, with additional support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.