Brazilian Indigenous Peoples

Brazil's rich cultural and ethnic history is a story of interaction between people of European, African, and indigenous descent. On April 22, 1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral set foot onto Brazilian territory for the first time, marking the beginning of five centuries of European-indigenous interaction, much of it marked by brutal and bloody warfare.
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Yanomami Villagers
The twelve ship caravan did not stay long, and it wasn't until 1531 that the first permanent settlers arrived in Brazil from Portugal. Initially, European settlers only had contact with coastal peoples, largely divided into three principal groups: the Guarani, the Tupinamba, and the Tapuia.

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Clash of Cultures
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Over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, as large numbers of Portuguese and other European settlers began to arrived, periods of bloody conflict ensued, with the indigenous, often termed indio, peoples. The bandeirantes, groups of wandering adventures, set to exploring Brazil's interior, pillaging and plundering indigenous settlements along the way. Many indigenous were killed in battle, but many more were cut down by infectious diseases to which they had no immunological resistance. Still others were forced into slavery on massive sugar plantations. And although the Jesuits tried to protect the indios from slavery and the murderous attacks of the bandeirantes, they also outlawed their cultural and religious traditions.

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Indigenous Populations of Brazil Today
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Guarani Settlement

In 1500 an estimated 2 to 4 million indios inhabited present day Brazil. Today there are an estimated 400,000 to 600,000, living in 200 different tribes. Government policy has aided their protection, and today more than one million square kilometers, or around 12% of Brazilian territory, is officially registered as indigenous land.
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However, this land grant has resulted in political controversy and even sporadic acts of violence between the indigenous communities and those seeking to economically exploit the resources therein, such as miners, loggers, and road builders.

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Additionally, it is estimated that there are still around 60 uncontacted tribes in Brazil, mostly in the Amazon. Most indios today still practice traditional lifestyles of hunting, gathering, and fishing, making homes out of natural materials, and making pottery, baskets, musical instruments, and tools with their hands. Today the largest tribes in Brazil are the Yanomami on the Brazil-Venezuela border, and the Guarani in southern Brazil, particularly on the borders with Paraguay and Argentina.
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