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The Status of the Indian in Brazil After 1820*

  • Mathias C. Kiemen (a1)


Indian policy in Brazil, as in many countries, was and is a confused mixture of religion, humanitarianism, and greed. Almost every kind of system has been tried: open barter during the early years, undisguised slavery until 1570, lay administrators until 1624, missionary tutelage in some form from 1624 to 1759, with intermittent relapses into lay administration, secularization after 1755, with lay directors until 1798; military administration under civil judges until the end of the empire, and finally in 1910 the establishment of the Indian Service under General Rondón.



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This paper was originally delivered at the meeting of the Southern Historical Association, Asheville, North Carolina, November 7-9, 1963.



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1 For the earlier periods, see Kiemen, M. C., The Indian Policy of Portugal in the Amazon Region, 1614–1693 (Washington, 1954), and The Indian Policy of Portugal in America, with Special Reference to the Old State of Maranhāo, 1500–1755,The Americas, V (Oct., 1948, Apr., 1949), 130171, 439–461. For the 19th and 20th centuries, see works by Darcy Ribeiro and Antonio F. de Sousa Pitanga, cited in footnotes below.

2 This followed the norms of the law of September 12, 1663, which was now resurrected. See Kiemen, op. cit., pp. 118–120.

3 For the text of the Directorio dos Indios, see Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, MSS. Livraria, Livro 962, fls. 118–141v. It consists of 95 paragraphs which go into considerable detail concerning treatment of Indians. For the secret instructions to Governor Mendonça, see de Azevedo, J. Lúcio, Os Jesuítas no Grāo Pará (2nd ed.; Coimbra, 1930), Appendix F, pp. 416427.

4 Azevedo, Os Jesuitas, p. 340.

5 Ibid., pp. 340–342.

6 Ibid., pp. 323–325. See ANTT, Ministerio do Reino, Maço 598: Papeis Diversos Ultramar, Pará, 9 junho de 1757 for Bishop Bulhões’ letter to Pombal on the subject of the abandonment of the missions by the Jesuits.

7 A letter of Mendonça Furtado to the court (February 10, 1759) speaks of 53 marriages of Portuguese and Indians during that year. See Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino [AHU], Papeis Avulsos, Pará, Caixa 19 (1759-1760).

8 Azevedo, Os Jesuitas, p. 374.

9 Report of Desembargador Intendente Geral do Pará, Luiz Gómez de Faria e Souza, Nov. 3, 1762 (ANTT, Ministerio do Reino, Maço 597, Papeis Diversos Ultramar); Report of Episcopal Visitation of Pará by Bishop João de São José, 1762–1763 (Biblioteca Pública de Evora, Cod. CXV-1–18); Report of António José Pestana da Silva, ouvidor and intendente geral dos indios, 1772 (Azevedo, Os Jesuitas, pp. 372–374); “Considerações feitas ao Real Directorio dos Indios das Missões do Maranhão e Pará,” s. d., 118 pp. (Biblioteca Nacional, Rio de Janeiro [BNR], Col. MSS. I, 31, 28, 41, No. 10); “Diario da Viagem Philosophica pela capitania de São Joseph do Rio Negro … por Dr. Alexandre Rodrígues Ferreira,” (BNR, Col. MSS. I, 11, 1, 1, No. 1, 62 folhas); Diary of Pastoral Visitas made in 1785–1789 by Bishop Caetano Brandão (Biblioteca Pública Municipal, Pôrto, Cod. 492, 38 folhas); Report on Indian labor, written from Pará on March 22, 1791 (AHU, Avulsos, Pará, Caixa 22, doc. 22 março de 1791).

10 Pitanga, Antônio Sousa, “Tutela dos Indios. Sua Catechese,” Revista do Instituto Histórico e Geográfico Brasileio [RIHGB], Tomo Especial (1916) [Vol.III, Primeiro Congreso de História Nacional], pp. 503 f.

11 “E carecendo algum particular de homens para fazer as suas lavouras, deverá procural-os e ajustal-os e não os achando, posto que os haja no seu districto: Hei por bem conceder ao Ouvidor autoridade para mandar pelo tempo preciso o número de operarios de que necessite um tal particular.” Carta Regia of May 12, 1798, as quoted in Azevedo, Os Jesuitas, p. 378.

12 The principle followed was the much-abused one of just war. See Pitanga, “Tutela dos Indios,” p. 504.

13 See Sousa, Octavio Tarquinio de, Historia dos ftmdadores do Imperio do Brasil (10 vols.; Rio de Janeiro, 1957–1958), Vol. I: José Bonifacio, passim.

14 Boehrer, George C. A. in his “Variant Versions of José Bonifacio’s ‘Plan for the Civilization of the Brazilian Indians,”’ The Americas, XIV (Jan., 1958), 305n, mentions some other proposals on Indian affairs made in the Cortes in Lisbon before independence, but these do not seem to have been repeated by their authors after independence had been achieved.

15 See Annaes do Parlamento, Câmara, Tomo V, pp. 188–190, for the vitriolic debate in which regalistic deputies accused the recently arrived Capuchins of being Jesuits in disguise. See also BNR, Secção de MSS., II-34, 30, 2, for the “Representação do Padre Prefeito dos Barbadinhos Italianos do Rio, pedindo a S.M.I. morada para sua ordem e auxilio monetario,” March ?, 1825. They were given government help to the amount of 400 réis [later 500] a day, to enable them to live among the Indians without asking for assistance from them. See ibid., II-34, 30, 3, doc. of Oct. 22, 1827.

16 Pitanga, “Tutela dos indios,” pp. 504–507. The number of Capuchins never was large. In 1851 there were 47 for the entire country. See ANR, Col. Eccl., Caixa 913, doc. 35, pacote “Capuchinhos.” See also ibid., doc. 67, Feb. 25, 1854, for another report on their activities, written by Frei Fabiano, the Capuchin Commissary General; and ibid., caixa 946, doc. 6, June 14, 1854, where Brazilian chargé in Rome speaks of “large numbers” of Capuchins sent to Brazil. Between 1863–1874 government licenses were given to 240 foreign priests (secular and religious) to work in Brazil. See ANR, Secção Histórica, Cod. 254: Provisōes para sacerdotes estrangeiros, 1863–1874.

17 Pitanga, “Tutela dos Indios,” p. 506. See also by the same author, “O selvagem perante o direito,” RIHGB, T. 63 (1901–1902), Pte. 1, pp. 18–38, passim.

18 This was the inspiration for Positivist General Rondón’s “Morrer, se preciso fôr, matar, nunca.”

19 Taken from Ribeiro, Darcy, A Política Indigenista Brasileira (Rio de Janeiro: Ministerio da Agricultura, 1962), p. 19 . See also Boehrer, “Variant Versions,” p. 302; and Stauffer, David, “The Origins and Establishment of Brazil’s Indian Service, 1889–1910,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas , passim.

20 The Positivists, in making their own the policies of José Bonifacio, disregarded his strong insistence on the absolute necessity of missionary work among the Indians, work preferably to be given to the Oratorians. See Boehrer, loc. cit., p. 302.

21 General Couto de Magalhães, O Selvagem (4th ed., Paulo, São, 1940), pp. 283 f., as quoted in Darcy Ribeiro, A Política, p. 21.

22 Ibid., pp. 21 f.

23 Ibid., p. 23.

24 Ibid., pp. 9 ff.

25 Ibid., p. 15.

26 See Ribeiro, Darcy, O Indigenista Rondón (Rio de Janeiro, 1958).

27 Ribeiro, A Política, pp. 31–39.

* This paper was originally delivered at the meeting of the Southern Historical Association, Asheville, North Carolina, November 7-9, 1963.

The Status of the Indian in Brazil After 1820*

  • Mathias C. Kiemen (a1)


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