Defining Indigenous People

Indigenous people are a group of people who live in a country or region for generations before the arrival of a foreign race, and they usually depend on nature for food and natural shelter, do not cultivate or graze, and live a nomadic life. There is no internationally accepted definition of indigenous peoples. International law, as well as United Nations agencies, generally use a number of common characteristics to identify indigenous peoples, including geographically distinct traditional habitats and ancestral territories and their natural resources, maintenance of cultural and social identity, economic, cultural and political systems that are separate from the dominant or mainstream society and culture; descendants of population groups living in a specific area, usually prior to the establishment of a modern state or territory and the delineation of current. The descendants of a population group live in a specific area, usually before the establishment of a modern state or territory and the delineation of current borders; and have their own distinctive identity as part of an indigenous cultural group with the expectation of preserving their unique culture.

Indigenous People in Brazil

Indigenous peoples in Brazil ( pt|povos indígenas no Brasil) or Indigenous Brazilians ( pt|indígenas brasileiros) once comprised an estimated 2000 tribes and nations inhabiting what is now the country of Brazil, prior to the European contact around 1500. The indigenous people of Brazil are referred to the Indians by the colonizers, who belong to yellow race. Christopher Columbus thought he had reached the East Indies, but Portuguese Vasco da Gama had already reached India via the Indian Ocean route, when Brazil was colonized by Portugal. Nevertheless, the word ("Indians") was by then established to designate the people of the New World and continues to be used in the Portuguese language to designate these people, while a person from India is called in order to distinguish the two. At the time of European contact, some of the Indigenous people were traditionally semi-nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering and migrant agriculture. Many tribes suffered extinction as a consequence of the European settlement and many were assimilated into the Brazilian population. As a result of immigration from other regions, especially Europe, and slave trade, there were changes in the cultural beliefs, which led to social problems such as racism and climate change. The Indigenous population was decimated by European diseases, declining from a pre-Columbian high of 2 to 3 million to some 300,000 , distributed among 200 tribes. By the 2010 IBGE census, 817,000 Brazilians classified themselves as Indigenous. A 1985 linguistic survey found 188 living indigenous languages with 155,000 total speakers. On January 18, 2007, FUNAI reported 67 remaining uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 known in 2005. With this addition Brazil passed New Guinea, becoming the country with the largest number of uncontacted peoples in the world.


Questions about the original settlement of the Americas has produced a number of hypothetical models. The origins of these Indigenous people are still a matter of dispute among archaeologists.

Migration into the continents

Anthropological and genetic evidence indicates that most Amerindian people descended from migrant people from North Asia (Siberia and Mongolia) who entered the Americas across the Bering Strait or along the western coast of North America in at least three separate waves. In Brazil, particularly, most native tribes who were living in the land by 1500 are thought to be descended from the first Siberian wave of migrants, who are believed to have crossed the Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last Ice Age, between 13,000 and 17,000 years before the present. A migrant wave would have taken some time after initial entry to reach present-day Brazil, probably entering the Amazon River basin from the Northwest. (The second and third migratory waves from Siberia, which are thought to have generated the Athabaskan, Aleut, Inuit, and Yupik people, apparently did not reach farther than the southern United States and Canada, respectively.)

Genetic studies

Y-chromosome DNA

An analysis of Amerindian Y-chromosome DNA indicates specific clustering of much of the South American population. The micro-satellite diversity and distributions of the Y lineage specific to South America indicates that certain Amerindian populations have been isolated since the initial colonization of the region.

Autosomal DNA

According to an autosomal DNA genetic study from 2012, Native Americans descend from at least three main migrant waves from Siberia. Most of it is traced back to a single ancestral population, called 'First Americans'. However, those who speak Inuit languages from the Arctic inherited almost half of their ancestry from a second Siberia migrant wave. And those who speak Na-dene, on the other hand, inherited a tenth of their ancestry from a third migrant wave. The initial settling of the Americas was followed by a rapid expansion southwards, by the coast, with little gene flow later, especially in South America. One exception to this are the Chibcha speakers, whose ancestry comes from both North and South America.


Another study, focused on the mtDNA (that which is inherited only through the maternal line), revealed that the Indigenous people of the Americas have their maternal ancestry traced back to a few founding lineages from Siberia, which would have arrived via the Bering strait. According to this study, it is probable that the ancestors of the Native Americans would have remained for a time in the region of the Bering Strait, after which there would have been a rapid movement of settling of the Americas, taking the founding lineages to South America. According to a 2016 study, focused on mtDNA lineages, "a small population entered the Americas via a coastal route around 16.0 ka, following previous isolation in eastern Beringia for ~2.4 to 9 thousand years after separation from eastern Siberian populations. Following a rapid movement throughout the Americas, limited gene flow in South America resulted in a marked phylogeographic structure of populations, which persisted through time. All of the ancient mitochondrial lineages detected in this study were absent from modern data sets, suggesting a high extinction rate. To investigate this further, we applied a novel principal components multiple logistic regression test to Bayesian serial coalescent simulations. The analysis supported a scenario in which European colonization caused a substantial loss of pre-Columbian lineages".

Linguistic comparison with Siberia

Linguistic studies have backed up genetic studies, with ancient patterns having been found between the languages spoken in Siberia and those spoken in the Americas.

Oceanic component in the Amazon region

Two 2015 autosomal DNA genetic studies confirmed the Siberian origins of the Natives of the Americas. However an ancient signal of shared ancestry with the Natives of Australia and Melanesia was detected among the Natives of the Amazon region. The migration coming out of Siberia would have happened 23,000 years ago.

Archaeological remains

Brazilian native people, unlike those in Mesoamerica and the central Andes, did not keep written records or erect stone monuments, and the humid climate and acidic soil have destroyed almost all traces of their material culture, including wood and bones. Therefore, what is known about the region's history before 1500 has been inferred and reconstructed from small-scale archaeological evidence, such as ceramics and stone arrowheads. The most conspicuous remains of these societies are very large mounds of discarded shellfish (''sambaquis'') found in some coastal sites which were continuously inhabited for over 5,000 years; and the substantial "black earth" (''terra preta'') deposits in several places along the Amazon, which are believed to be ancient garbage dumps (middens). Recent excavations of such deposits in the middle and upper course of the Amazon have uncovered remains of some very large settlements, containing tens of thousands of homes, indicating a complex social and economic structure. Studies of the wear patterns of the prehistoric inhabitants of coastal Brazil found that the surfaces of anterior teeth facing the tongue were more worn than surfaces facing the lips, which researchers believe was caused by using teeth to peel and shred abrasive plants.

Marajoara culture

Marajoara culture flourished on Marajó island at the mouth of the Amazon River. Archeologists have found sophisticated pottery in their excavations on the island. These pieces are large, and elaborately painted and incised with representations of plants and animals. These provided the first evidence that a complex society had existed on Marajó. Evidence of mound building further suggests that well-populated, complex and sophisticated settlements developed on this island, as only such settlements were believed capable of such extended projects as major earthworks. The extent, level of complexity, and resource interactions of the Marajoara culture have been disputed. Working in the 1950s in some of her earliest research, American Betty Meggers suggested that the society migrated from the Andes and settled on the island. Many researchers believed that the Andes were populated by Paleoindian migrants from North America who gradually moved south after being hunters on the plains. In the 1980s, another American archeologist, Anna Curtenius Roosevelt, led excavations and geophysical surveys of the mound Teso dos Bichos. She concluded that the society that constructed the mounds originated on the island itself. The pre-Columbian culture of Marajó may have developed social stratification and supported a population as large as 100,000 people. The Native Americans of the Amazon rain forest may have used their method of developing and working in Terra preta to make the land suitable for the large-scale agriculture needed to support large populations and complex social formations such as chiefdoms.

Xinguano Civilisation

The Xingu peoples built large settlements connected by roads and bridges, often bearing moats. The apex of their development was between 1200 CE to 1600 CE, their population inflating to the tens of thousands.

Indigenous People during and after the European colonization


On the eve of the Portuguese arrival in 1500, the coastal areas of Brazil had two major mega-groups - the ''Tupi'' (speakers of Tupi–Guarani languages), who dominated practically the entire length of the Brazilian coast, and the ''Tapuia'' (a catch-all term for non-Tupis, usually Jê language people), who resided primarily in the interior. The Portuguese arrived in the final days of a long pre-colonial struggle between Tupis and Tapuias, which had resulted in the defeat and expulsion of the Tapuias from most coastal areas. Although the coastal Tupi were broken down into sub-tribes, frequently hostile to each other, they were culturally and linguistically homogeneous. The fact that the early Europeans encountered practically the same people and language all along the Brazilian coast greatly simplified early communication and interaction. Coastal Sequence c. 1500 (north to south): # Tupinambá (Tupi, from the Amazon delta to Maranhão) # Tremembé (Tapuia, coastal tribe, ranged from São Luis Island (south Maranhão) to the mouth of the Acaraú River in north Ceará; French traders cultivated an alliance with them) # Potiguara (Tupi, literally "shrimp-eaters"; they had a reputation as great canoeists and aggressively expansionist, inhabited a great coastal stretch from Acaraú River to Itamaracá island, covering the modern states of southern Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba.) # Tabajara (tiny Tupi tribe between Itamaracá island and Paraíba River; neighbors and frequent victims of the Potiguara) # Caeté (Tupi group in Pernambuco and Alagoas, ranged from Paraíba River to the São Francisco River; after killing and eating a Portuguese bishop, they were subjected to Portuguese extermination raids and the remnant pushed into the Pará interior) # Tupinambá again (Tupi par excellence, ranged from the São Francisco River to the Bay of All Saints, population estimated as high as 100,000; hosted Portuguese castaway Caramuru) # Tupiniquim (Tupi, covered Bahian discovery coast, from around Camamu to São Mateus River; these were the first indigenous people encountered by the Portuguese, having met the landing of captain Pedro Álvares Cabral in April 1500) # Aimoré (Tapuia (Jê) tribe; concentrated on a sliver of coast in modern Espírito Santo state) # Goitacá (Tapuia tribe; once dominated the coast from São Mateus River (in Espírito Santo state) down to the Paraíba do Sul river (in Rio de Janeiro state); hunter-gatherers and fishermen, they were a shy people that avoided all contact with foreigners; estimated at 12,000; they had a fearsome reputation and were eventually annihilated by European colonists) # Temiminó (small Tupi tribe, centered on Governador Island in Guanabara Bay; frequently at war with the Tamoio around them) # Tamoio (Tupi, old branch of the Tupinambá, ranged from the western edge of Guanabara bay to Ilha Grande) # Tupinambá again (Tupi, indistinct from the Tamoio. Inhabited the coast of São Paulo, from Ilha Grande to Santos; main enemies of the Tupiniquim to their west. Numbered between six and ten thousand). # Tupiniquim again (Tupi, on the São Paulo coast from Santos/Bertioga down to Cananéia; aggressively expansionist, they were recent arrivals imposing themselves on the coast of São Paulo and the Piratininga plateau at the expense of older Tupinambá and Carijó neighbors; hosted Portuguese castaways João Ramalho ('Tamarutaca') and António Rodrigues in the early 1500s; the Tupiniquim were the first formal allies of the Portuguese colonists, helped establish the Portuguese Captaincy of São Vicente in the 1530s; sometimes called "Guaianá" in old Portuguese chronicles, a Tupi term meaning "friendly" or "allied") # Carijó (Guarani (Tupi) tribe, ranged from Cananeia all the way down to the Lagoa dos Patos (in Rio Grande do Sul state); victims of the Tupiniquim and early European slavers; they hosted the mysterious ''degredado'' known as the 'Bachelor of Cananeia') # Charrúa (Tapuia (Jê) tribe in modern Uruguay coast, with an aggressive reputation against intruders; killed Juan Díaz de Solís in 1516) With the exception of the hunter-gatherer Goitacases, the coastal Tupi and Tapuia tribes were primarily agriculturalists. The subtropical Guarani cultivated maize, tropical Tupi cultivated manioc (cassava), highland Jês cultivated peanut, as the staple of their diet. Supplementary crops included beans, sweet potatoes, cará (yam), ''jerimum'' (pumpkin), and ''cumari'' (capsicum pepper). Behind these coasts, the interior of Brazil was dominated primarily by Tapuia (Jê) people, although significant sections of the interior (notably the upper reaches of the Xingu, Teles Pires and Juruena Rivers - the area now covered roughly by modern Mato Grosso state) were the original pre-migration Tupi-Guarani homelands. Besides the Tupi and Tapuia, it is common to identify two other indigenous mega-groups in the interior: the Caribs, who inhabited much of what is now northwestern Brazil, including both shores of the Amazon River up to the delta and the Nuaraque group, whose constituent tribes inhabited several areas, including most of the upper Amazon (west of what is now Manaus) and also significant pockets in modern Amapá and Roraima states. The names by which the different Tupi tribes were recorded by Portuguese and French authors of the 16th century are poorly understood. Most do not seem to be proper names, but descriptions of relationship, usually familial - e.g. ''tupi'' means "first father", ''tupinambá'' means "relatives of the ancestors", ''tupiniquim'' means "side-neighbors", ''tamoio'' means "grandfather", ''temiminó'' means "grandson", ''tabajara'' means "in-laws" and so on. Some etymologists believe these names reflect the ordering of the migration waves of Tupi people from the interior to the coasts, e.g. first Tupi wave to reach the coast being the "grandfathers" (Tamoio), soon joined by the "relatives of the ancients" (Tupinamba), by which it could mean relatives of the Tamoio, or a Tamoio term to refer to relatives of the old Tupi back in the upper Amazon basin. The "grandsons" (Temiminó) might be a splinter. The "side-neighbors" (Tupiniquim) meant perhaps recent arrivals, still trying to jostle their way in. However, by 1870 the Tupi tribes population had declined to 250,000 indigenous people and by 1890 had diminished to an approximate 100,000.

First contacts

When the Portuguese explorers first arrived in Brazil in April 1500, they found, to their astonishment, a wide coastline rich in resources, teeming with hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people living in a "paradise" of natural riches. Pêro Vaz de Caminha, the official scribe of Pedro Álvares Cabral, the commander of the discovery fleet which landed in the present state of Bahia, wrote a letter to the King of Portugal describing in glowing terms the beauty of the land. In “Histoire des découvertes et conquestes des Portugais dans le Nouveau Monde,” Lafiatau described the natives as people who wore no clothing but rather painted their whole bodies with red. Their ears noses, lips and cheeks were pierced. The men would shave the front, the top of the head and over the ears, while the women would typically wear their hair loose or in braids. Both men and women would accessorize themselves with noisy porcelain collars and bracelets, feathers dried fruits. He describes the ritualistic nature of how they practiced cannibalism, and he even mentions the importance of the role of the women in a household. At the time of European arrival, the territory of current day Brazil had as many as 2,000 nations and tribes. The indigenous people were traditionally mostly semi-nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and migrant agriculture. For hundreds of years, the indigenous people of Brazil lived a semi-nomadic life, managing the forests to meet their needs. When the Portuguese arrived in 1500, the natives were living mainly on the coast and along the banks of major rivers. Initially, the Europeans saw native people as noble savages, and miscegenation of the population began right away. Portuguese claims of tribal warfare, cannibalism, and the pursuit of Amazonian brazilwood for its treasured red dye convinced the Portuguese that they should "civilize" the natives (originally, colonists called Brazil Terra de Santa Cruz, until later it acquired its name (see List of meanings of countries' names) from brazilwood). But the Portuguese, like the Spanish in their North American territories, had brought diseases with them against which many Indians were helpless due to lack of immunity. Measles, smallpox, tuberculosis, and influenza killed tens of thousands. The diseases spread quickly along the indigenous trade routes, and it is likely that whole tribes were annihilated without ever coming in direct contact with Europeans.

Challenges Brought by Slavery and the Bandeiras

Brazil was a Portuguese colony after colonizers discovered them in 1500, which brought disaster to the indigenous people. After the conquest of Brazil, the Portuguese colonists forced the Indians to work intensively and many of them died as a result of intensive labor under the establishment of many feudal states. By taking advantage of the indigenous population for labor, Portuguese colonizers benefited from planting sugar cane and opening many mines after the discovery of gold mines. This increased the work load for the indigenous people, which led to more deaths and population decrease. Besides living under an oppressive environment as slaves, many of the indigenous tribes faced the killing of advanced weapons and plagues by the European colonizers, resulting in a massive decline in population. The Europeans came to the Americas and inadvertently brought some of the European plagues such as smallpox, measles, influenza, typhus, and plague to the Americas. Indigenous people dying of infections diseases exceeded the number of those who died of war. Moreover, making the Indian cultural beliefs completely destroyed and led to the European culture and language becoming the dominant culture in Latin America. The mutual feeling of wonderment and good relationship was to end in the succeeding years. The Portuguese colonists, all males, started to have children with female Amerindians, creating a new generation of mixed-race people who spoke Indian languages (a Tupi language called Nheengatu). The children of these Portuguese men and Indian women formed the majority of the population. Groups of fierce pathfinders organized expeditions called "bandeiras" (flags) into the backlands to claim them for the Portuguese crown and to look for gold and precious stones.

The Jesuits

Jesuit priests arrived with the first Governor General as clerical assistants to the colonists, with the intention of converting the indigenous people to Catholicism. They presented arguments in support of the notion that the indigenous people should be considered human, and extracted a Papal bull (''Sublimis Deus'') proclaiming that, irrespective of their beliefs, they should be considered fully rational human beings, with rights to freedom and private property, who must not be enslaved. Jesuit priests such as fathers José de Anchieta and Manuel da Nóbrega studied and recorded their language and founded mixed settlements, such as São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, where colonists and Indians lived side by side, speaking the same ''Língua Geral'' (common language), and freely intermarried. They began also to establish more remote villages peopled only by "civilized" Indians, called ''Missions'', or reductions (see the article on the Guarani people for more details). By the middle of the 16th century, Catholic Jesuit priests, at the behest of Portugal's monarchy, had established missions throughout the country's colonies. They worked to both Europeanize them and convert them to Catholicism. The Jesuits provided a period of relative stability for the Indians. In the mid-1770s, the indigenous peoples' fragile co-existence with the colonists was again threatened. Because of a complex diplomatic web between Portugal, Spain and the Vatican, the Jesuits were expelled from Brazil and the missions confiscated and sold. By 1800, the population of Colonial Brazil had reached approximately 3.25 million, among whom only about 250,000 were indigenous. For the next four decades, they were largely left alone.


A number of wars between several tribes, such as the Tamoio Confederation, and the Portuguese ensued, sometimes with the Indians siding with enemies of Portugal, such as the French, in the famous episode of France Antarctique in Rio de Janeiro, sometimes allying themselves to Portugal in their fight against other tribes. At approximately the same period, a German soldier, Hans Staden, was captured by the Tupinambá and released after a while. He described it in a famous book, ''Warhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen'' (True Story and Description of a Country of Wild, Naked, Grim, Man-eating People in the New World, America) (1557) There are various documented accounts of smallpox being knowingly used as a biological weapon by New Brazilian villagers that wanted to get rid of nearby Indian tribes (not always aggressive ones). The most "classical", according to Anthropologist, Mércio Pereira Gomes, happened in Caxias, in south Maranhão, where local farmers, wanting more land to extend their cattle farms, gave clothing owned by ill villagers (that normally would be burned to prevent further infection) to the Timbira. The clothing infected the entire tribe, and they had neither immunity nor cure. Similar things happened in other villages throughout South America.

The rubber trade

The 1840s brought trade and wealth to the Amazon. The process for vulcanizing rubber was developed, and worldwide demand for the product skyrocketed. The best rubber trees in the world grew in the Amazon, and thousands of rubber tappers began to work the plantations. When the Indians proved to be a difficult labor force, peasants from surrounding areas were brought into the region. In a dynamic that continues to this day, the indigenous population was at constant odds with the peasants, who the Indians felt had invaded their lands in search of treasure.

The legacy of Cândido Rondon

In the 20th century, the Brazilian Government adopted a more humanitarian attitude and offered official protection to the indigenous people, including the establishment of the first indigenous reserves. Fortune brightened for the Indians around the turn of the 20th century when Cândido Rondon, a man of both Portuguese and Bororo ancestry, and an explorer and progressive officer in the Brazilian army, began working to gain the Indians' trust and establish peace. Rondon, who had been assigned to help bring telegraph communications into the Amazon, was a curious and natural explorer. In 1910, he helped found the ''Serviço de Proteção aos Índios - SPI'' (Service for the Protection of Indians, today the FUNAI, or ''Fundação Nacional do Índio'', National Foundation for Indians). SPI was the first federal agency charged with protecting Indians and preserving their culture. In 1914, Rondon accompanied Theodore Roosevelt on Roosevelt's famous expedition to map the Amazon and discover new species. During these travels, Rondon was appalled to see how settlers and developers treated the indigenes, and he became their lifelong friend and protector. Rondon, who died in 1958, is a national hero in Brazil. The Brazilian state of Rondônia is named after him.

SPI failure and FUNAI

After Rondon's pioneering work, the SPI was turned over to bureaucrats and military officers and its work declined after 1957. The new officials did not share Rondon's deep commitment to the Indians. SPI sought to address tribal issues by transforming the tribes into mainstream Brazilian society. The lure of reservation riches enticed cattle ranchers and settlers to continue their assault on Indians lands – and the SPI eased the way. Between 1900 and 1967, an estimated 98 indigenous tribes were wiped out. Mostly due to the efforts of the Villas-Bôas brothers, Brazil's first Indian reserve, the Xingu National Park, was established by the Federal Government in 1961. During the social and political upheaval in the 1960s, reports of mistreatment of Indians increasingly reached Brazil's urban centers and began to affect Brazilian thinking. In 1967, following the publication of the ''Figueiredo Report'', commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior, the military government launched an investigation into SPI. It soon came to light that the SPI was corrupt and failing to protect natives, their lands, and, culture. The 5,000-page report catalogued atrocities including slavery, sexual abuse, torture, and mass murder. It has been charged that agency officials, in collaboration with land speculators, were systematically slaughtering the Indians by intentionally circulating disease-laced clothes. Criminal prosecutions followed, and the SPI was disbanded. The same year the government established Fundação Nacional do Índio (''National Indian Foundation''), known as FUNAI which is responsible for protecting the interests, cultures, and rights of the Brazilian indigenous populations. Some tribes have become significantly integrated into Brazilian society. The unacculturated tribes which have been contacted by FUNAI, are supposed to be protected and accommodated within Brazilian society in varying degrees. By 1987 it was recognized that unessential contact with the tribes was causing illness and social disintegration. The uncontacted tribes are now supposed to be protected from intrusion and interference in their life style and territory. However, the exploitation of rubber and other Amazonic natural resources has led to a new cycle of invasion, expulsion, massacres and death, which continues to this day.

The military government

Also in 1964, in a seismic political shift, the Brazilian military took control of the government and abolished all existing political parties, creating a two-party system. For the next two decades, Brazil was ruled by a series of generals. The country's mantra was "Brazil, the Country of the Future," which the military government used as justification for a giant push into the Amazon to exploit its resources, thereby beginning to transform Brazil into one of the leading economies of the world. Construction began on a transcontinental highway across the Amazon basin, aimed to encourage migration to the Amazon and to open up the region to more trade. With funding from World Bank, thousands of square miles of forest were cleared without regard for reservation status. After the highway projects came giant hydroelectric projects, then swaths of forest were cleared for cattle ranches. As a result, reservation lands suffered massive deforestation and flooding. The public works projects attracted very few migrants, but those few – and largely poor - settlers brought new diseases that further devastated the Indians population.

Contemporary situation

The 1988 Brazilian Constitution recognizes indigenous people' right to pursue their traditional ways of life and to the permanent and exclusive possession of their "traditional lands", which are demarcated as Indigenous Territories.Federal Constitution of Brazil
Chapter VII Article 231
In practice, however, Brazil's indigenous people still face a number of external threats and challenges to their continued existence and cultural heritage. The process of demarcation is slow—often involving protracted legal battles—and FUNAI do not have sufficient resources to enforce the legal protection on indigenous land. Since the 1980s there has been a boom in the exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest for mining, logging and cattle ranching, posing a severe threat to the region's indigenous population. Settlers illegally encroaching on indigenous land continue to destroy the environment necessary for indigenous people' traditional ways of life, provoke violent confrontations and spread disease. people such as the Akuntsu and Kanoê have been brought to the brink of extinction within the last three decades. Deforestation for mining also affects the daily lives of indigenous tribes in Brazil. For instance, the Munduruku Indians have higher levels of mercury poisoning due to gold production in the area. On 13 November 2012, the national indigenous people association from Brazil APIB submitted to the United Nation a human rights document that complaints about new proposed laws in Brazil that would further undermine their rights if approved. Much of the language has been incorporated into the official Brazilian Portuguese language. For example, 'Carioca' the word used to describe people born in the city of Rio de Janeiro, is from the indigenous word for 'house of the white (people)'. Within hours of taking office in January 2019, Bolsonaro made two major changes to FUNAI, affecting its responsibility to identify and demarcate indigenous lands: He moved FUNAI from under the Ministry of Justice to be under the newly created ''Ministry of Human Rights, Family and Women,'' and he delegated the identification of the traditional habitats of indigenous people and their designation as inviolable protected territories − a task attributed to FUNAI by the constitution – to the Agriculture Ministry. He argued that those territories have tiny isolated populations and proposed to integrate them into the larger Brazilian society. Critics feared that such integration would lead the Brazilian natives to suffer cultural assimilation. Several months later, Brazil's National Congress overturned these changes. The European Union–Mercosur free trade agreement, which would form one of the world's largest free trade areas, has been denounced by environmental activists and indigenous rights campaigners. The fear is that the deal could lead to more deforestation of the Amazon rainforest as it expands market access to Brazilian beef. A 2019 report by the Indigenous Missionary Council o
Violence against Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
documented an increase in the number of invasions of indigenous lands by loggers, miners and land grabbers, recording 160 cases in the first nine months of 2019, up from 96 cases in the entirety of 2017. The number of reported killings in 2018, 135, had also increased from 110 recorded in 2017. On May 5, 2020, post HRW's investigation, Brazilian lawmakers released a report examining the violence against Indigenous people, Afro-Brazilian rural communities and others engaged in illegal logging, mining, and land grabbing.

Effort to Preserve Culture

Cultural heritage is essential in ensuring the Brazilian identity, which acts as the best social and economic empowerment.

Indigenous Rights Movements

Fighting Against Racism

In Brazil, racism has been a huge social problem, which has created tensions amongst different racial and ethnic groups. For example, White Brazilians are seen as more superior than Afro-Brazilians. White Brazilians are less likely to be associated with criminality and drug dealing while Afro-Brazilians are more likely to be punished by the police. The Brazilian government in a racial democracy society is trying to address the problem of racism. Addressing racism against indigenous people has become another challenge for the Brazilian government to create when trying to create a more harmonious society.

Urban Rights Movement

The Urban Rights Movement is a recent development in the rights of indigenous peoples. Brazil has one of the highest income inequalities in the world, and much of the low-income population includes indigenous tribes migrating toward urban areas both by choice and by displacement. Beyond the urban rights movement, studies have shown that the suicide risk among the indigenous population is 8.1 times higher than the non-indigenous population. Many indigenous rights movements have been created through the meeting of indigenous tribes in urban areas. For example, in Barcelos, an indigenous rights movement arose because of "local migratory circulation." This is how many alliances form to create a stronger network for mobilization. Indigenous populations also living in urban areas have struggles regarding work. They are pressured into doing cheap labor. Programs like Oxfam have been used to help indigenous people gain partnerships to begin grassroots movements. Some of their projects overlap with environmental activism as well. Many Brazilian youths are mobilizing through increased social contact, since some indigenous tribes stay isolated while others adapt to the change. Access to education also affects these youths, and therefore, more groups are mobilizing to fight for indigenous rights.

Environmental and Territorial Rights Movement

Culture is still the most important social ties that hold people together. Indigenous people are still trying to preserve their culture. However, industrialization and population growth have become challenges because they are unable to continue the traditional way of living. Moreover, deforestation and climatic conditions have made the lands harder to live. Indigenous people in Brazil depend on agriculture as the main economic activity, and therefore, the climatic condition is a critical determinant of their success. The indigenous people have been trying to ensure that forests are conserved since they play a role in regulating the climate. Proper conservation helps them because it boosts agricultural productivity. Through conservation of the environment to create a conducive environment for agricultural activities, it’s evident that indigenous people in Brazil have a role in promoting agricultural activity as their main economic activity to boost their living standards. Pollution of the environment is done by the locals living within the community. Therefore, the indigenous people within the community have the role of ensuring that the environment is clean. The polluted environment is risky and unhealthy for human beings, which causes various diseases that result in an increase in living cost where locals have to incur education cost. Considering that the environmental population's negative impact affects the locals, they have the obligation of ensuring that all measures are put in place to protect the environment for their well-being. Other agencies and governments need to support by providing policies and guidelines and sponsoring campaigns and other activities aimed at concerning the environment. Still, the final success depends on the indigenous people who interact with the environment daily. Social norms are essential within the society because they provide rules and guidelines on how indigenous people conduct themselves and deal with the surrounding environment coming up with the best strategy in which the environment is conserved and the coexistence of members of the society. Cultural heritage is essential in ensuring the Brazilian identity, which acts as the best social and economic empowerment. Cultural norms promote equality and fair treatment of all, which act as the best way of promoting unity in the country. Therefore, indigenous people have a role in promoting unity by preserving and observing their cultural heritage. Without strict observation of cultural norms result in coexistence without rules and regulation, which increases interpersonal conflict among society members. The people need to play a significant role in promoting peace and harmony by preserving cultural norms.

Dynamics favoring recognition

Many of the indigenous tribes' rights and rights claims parallel the environmental and territorial rights movement. Although indigenous people have gained 21% of the Brazilian Amazon as part of indigenous land, many issues still affect the sustainability of Indigenous territories today. Climate change is one issue that indigenous tribes attribute as a reason to keep their territory. Some indigenous peoples and conservation organizations in the Brazilian Amazon have formed alliances, such as the alliance of the A'ukre Kayapo village and the Instituto SocioAmbiental (ISA) environmental organization. They focus on environmental, education and developmental rights. For example, Amazon Watch collaborates with various indigenous organizations in Brazil to fight for both territorial and environmental rights. "Access to natural resources by indigenous and peasant communities in Brazil has been considerably less and much more insecure," so activists focus on more traditional conservation efforts, and expanding territorial rights for indigenous people. Territorial rights for the indigenous populations of Brazil largely fall under socio-economic issues. There have been violent conflicts regarding rights to land between the government and the indigenous population, and political rights have done little to stop them. There have been movements of the landless (MST) that help keep land away from the elite living in Brazil.

Dynamics opposing recognition

Environmentalists and indigenous peoples have been viewed as opponents to economic growth and barriers to development due to the fact that much of the land that indigenous tribes live on could be used for development projects, including dams, and more industrialization. Groups self-identifying as indigenous may lack intersubjective recognition, thus claims to TIs, which can involve the demarcation of large areas of territory and threaten to dispossess established local communities, can be challenged by others, even neighbouring kinship groups, on the grounds that those making the claims are not 'real Indians', due to factors such as historical intermarriage (miscegenation), cultural assimilation, and stigma against self-identifying as indigenous. Claims to TIs can also be opposed by major landowning families from the rubber era, or by the peasants that work the land, who may instead prefer to support the concept of the extractive reserve.


The Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous History and Culture Law (Law No. 11.645/2008) is a Brazilian law mandating the teaching of Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous History and Culture which was passed and entered into effectiveness on March 10, 2008. It amends Law No. 9.394, of December 20, 1996, modified by Law No. 10.639, of January 9, 2003, which established the guidelines and bases of Brazilian national education, to include in the official curriculum of the education system the mandatory theme of Afro-Brazilian and Indigenous History and Culture.

Indigenous Language and Policy

Brazil has a large number of indigenous Indian languages, and according to the census in 2010, there are 305 Indian nations with 274 languages spoken in Brazil. However, due to the limited size of the Indian population, the number of speakers of each language is not very large. The largest language, Tikún, is spoken by only 34,100 people. More than 76% of the languages are spoken by less than 1,000 people. Some languages are even spoken by only one or two people. As a result, Brazil is listed by UNESCO as one of the countries with the highest number of endangered languages in the world. The Brazilian government has adopted a number of policies and measures to protect indigenous languages for the sake of the continuity of human cultural diversity. 1.     Institutional development: The first law enacted by the Brazilian government for the education of indigenous peoples' colleges was Decree No. 26, issued by the Brazilian Federal President on February 4, 1991. By this decree, the Ministry of Education replaced the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) to coordinate indigenous peoples' school education nationwide, thus integrating indigenous peoples' school education into the national regulatory education system.Shelton, Dinah, Alejandro Parellada, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, and Colectivo IPES, eds. ''Pueblos Indígenas En Aislamiento Voluntario y Contacto Inicial''. Peru: IWGIA , Grupo Internacional de Trabajo sobre Asuntos Indígenas ; IPES, Instituto de Promocíon de Estudios Sociales, 2012 2.     Principles of education and protection measures for their realization: In November 1993, the Brazilian Education issued guidelines for the National Policy on Indigenous School Education, it named as “Diretrizespara a Politica Nacional de Educacao Escolar Indigena”.  It was determined that indigenous school education needs to follow the principles of specialized and differentiated intercultural bilingual education. In December 1996, the Ministry of Education issued the National Education Guidelines and Basic Law, named as “Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educacao Nacional”.  In November 1999, the Brazilian National Education Council issued Resolution No. 3, which called for the creation of indigenous schools and the establishment of specific regulations to guarantee the autonomy of schools and curricula. 3.     In 1998, the Ministry of Education issued the National Curriculum for Indigenous Schools, which provides guidance on the objectives of each subject offered in indigenous schools, the curriculum, the assessment of teaching, and teacher qualification training. It also regulates the administrative structure and operating rules of indigenous schools.

COVID-19 Impacting the Population

By 2021, Brazil currently has about 800,000 indigenous people belonging to more than 300 tribes. These indigenous people have little contact with the outside world and have very weak resistance to viruses and epidemics. Data from the Special Secretary for Indigenous Health of the Brazilian Ministry of Health show that the COVID-19 outbreak has now spread to 127 indigenous tribes, with a cumulative total of more than 9,000 indigenous people infected and more than 190 cumulative deaths, counting only indigenous people living in villages. The burden of COVID-19 on indigenous people can lead to a risk that indigenous languages and traditions will not be passed on.

Major ethnic groups

For complete list see List of Indigenous peoples in Brazil * Amanyé * Atikum * Awá-Guajá * Baniwa * Botocudo * Bará * Enawene Nawe * Guaraní * Kadiwéu * Kaingang * Kamayurá (Kamaiurá) * Karajá * Kayapo * Kubeo * Kaxinawá * Kokama * Korubo * Kulina Madihá * Mbya * Makuxi * Matsés * Mayoruna * Munduruku * Mura people * Nambikwara * Ofayé * Pai Tavytera * Panará * Pankararu * Pataxó * Pirahã * Paiter * Potiguara * Sateré Mawé * Suruí do Pará * Tapirape * Terena * Ticuna * Tremembé * Tupi * Waorani * Wapixana * Wauja * Witoto * Xakriabá * Xavante * Xukuru * Yanomami

See also

* Amazon Watch * Amerindians * Archaeology of the Americas * Bandeirantes * Belo Monte Dam * Bering Land Bridge * Darcy Ribeiro * Encyclopedia of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil * Chief Raoni * COIAB * Brazilians * Fundação Nacional do Índio * Indian Day * Indigenous peoples of South America * Man of the Hole * Museu do Índio * Uncontacted peoples * Percy Fawcett * Sydney Possuelo * Villas Boas brothers


External links

Fundação Nacional do Índio, National Foundation of the Native AmericanEncyclopedia of Indigenous people in Brazil. Instituto SocioambientalEtnolinguistica.Org: discussion list on South American languagesIndigenous people Issues and Resources: BrazilIndigenous people in Brazil
at Google Videos
New photos of Uncontacted Brazilian tribeGoogle Video on Indigenous People of BrazilChildren of the Amazon, a documentary on indigenous people in Brazil
by ''The Washington Post'' {{DEFAULTSORT:Indigenous Peoples In Brazil Brazil Category:Ethnic groups in Brazil Category:Race in Brazil