The portuguese, people responsible for Brazil's colonization process, arrived in
South America in 1500. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geographic and Statistics (IBGE),
4 million natives lived in Brazil that time. Today's population is not more than 400.000.
Brazilian natives are named "indios" and received such denomination because when Portuguese
arrived in Brazilian lands, they first believed they had boarded in India, so the people should
be called "indios". Because of this mistake the current portuguese has another noun to refer
to people born in India, that is "indiano" During the first 80 years of colony times the natives
were persecuted and enslaved to be used as workforce. They were responsible to cut and bring until
the ships a tree called "Pau Brazil," which gave rise to the name of the country.
After these years, the Portuguese started to bring Africans to work as slaves in the country because
as the economy of the colony was changing and the production of sugar cane started to grow, they
believed the natives wouldn't be able to stand the very hard work whether in the plantations of cane
or inside the Sugar production plants. Although they were not working as slaves anymore, bunches of
indios died during the following decades, mainly for two reasons: 1- The Europeans had diseases for
which The indios' immune system was not prepared. 2 - They were not welcome anymore in the country
so the white men were used to kill an indio if he or she was seen next to a town.
Indio National Foundation
In the last century, as Brazil was challenging several problems because of land dispute between indios
and non-natives, the government created a foundation in charge to protect indios and its rights. During
the last 40 years, Funai delimited more than 20 areas in the country, and transformed them in forest
reserves for indios, what means that there the natives can live in peace because the area can't be
commercially exploited by others. In today's Brazil, most part of the Brazilian natives live in these
areas. Just a few of them go to the cities, and for those who decide to go, cities might hold a very
Less than 10 years ago, an approved law project stated that there should be reserved places for indios in the federal universities, however you hardly will be able to see an “indio” studying in a university.
Indian Day or Native Day, in Portuguese: Dia Nacional do Índio
In Brazil, there is a special date to celebrate the culture and the importance of the natives for the
country. The Indian Day, April 19, was created by President Getúlio Vargas by ordinance 5540, 1943, and
recalls the day in 1940 in which several leaders of the continent decided to attend the First Inter-American Indian Congress, held in Mexico. Actually, most part of the cities does not really celebrate the date, however is very common to see people celebrating the Indian day in the states where the population of indios is a little bit bigger, such as Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Goiás, Pará, Rondônia e Amazonas.
Oca: the houses where indios used to live is called “Oca” and it was made of straw.
Indian Women wearing a traditional hat called “cocar” made of bird feathers.
Bastão da chuva, rain stick in English, is the name of the most popular musical
instrument played by the indios and that mimics the sound of large tropical storms.
Brazil’s map and current Indian reserves.