The story

The Indians in Brazil

The Indians in Brazil



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Historians say that before the arrival of Europeans in America there were approximately 100 million Indians on the continent. In Brazil alone, this number reached 5 million natives, approximately.

These Brazilian Indians were divided into tribes, according to the linguistic trunk to which they belonged: tupi-guaranis (coastal region), macro-jê or tapuias (central plateau region), aruaques or aruak (amazon) and caribbean or karib ( Amazon).

Currently, it is estimated that only 800,000 Indians occupy the Brazilian territory, mainly in demarcated indigenous reserves and protected by the government. There are about 305 indigenous ethnic groups and 274 languages. However, many of them no longer live as before the arrival of the Portuguese. Contact with the white man caused many tribes to lose their cultural identity.


Xingu Tribe

Indigenous society at the time of the arrival of the Portuguese

The first contact between Indians and Portuguese in 1500 was very strange to both parties. The two cultures were very different and belonged to completely different worlds. We know a lot about the Indians living at that time, thanks to the Letter from Pero Vaz de Caminha (Pedro Alvarez Cabral's clerk of the expedition) and also to the documents left by the Jesuit priests.

The indigenous people who inhabited Brazil in 1500 lived by hunting, fishing and farming corn, peanuts, beans, squash, sweet potatoes and mainly cassava. This agriculture was practiced very rudimentary way, because they used the technique of coivara (clearing of the forest and burned to clear the soil for the planting).

The Indians domesticated small animals such as bush pig and capybara. They did not know the horse, the ox and the chicken. In the Carta de Caminha it is reported that the Indians were amazed when they first came in contact with a chicken.

Indigenous tribes had a relationship based on social, political and religious rules. Contact between the tribes took place at times of war, weddings, burial ceremonies and also at the time of establishing alliances against a common enemy.

The Indians made objects using the raw materials of nature. It is worth remembering that Indian respects the environment very much, removing only what is necessary for its survival. From this wood they built canoes, bows and arrows and their dwellings (hollow). Straw was used to make baskets, mats, nets and other objects. Pottery was also widely used to make pots, pans and household items in general. Feathers and animal skins were used to make clothes or ornaments for tribal ceremonies. Annatto was widely used for body painting.