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date: 15 May 2021

Native Brazilians under the Monarchy in Brazillocked

  • Maria Regina Celestino de AlmeidaMaria Regina Celestino de AlmeidaUniversidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro

Summary

A variety of indigenous peoples active in the backlands and villages of monarchic Brazil presented challenges to the policy of building a national state. The implementation of an indigenist policy that sought to assimilate and incorporate indigenous people as citizens and workers for the Empire was widely debated by politicians and intellectuals who developed different images and political projects for indigenous peoples in accordance with their varying degrees of sociocultural insertion in the various provinces of the Empire. Natives in the backlands were portrayed as savages for whom just wars and enslavement were an appropriate response to any who resisted being assigned to settlements or military bases, while it was proposed that natives in the settled areas be assimilated and their collective lands and aldeias (indigenous villages) be dissolved. Abuse, irregularities, violence, ill-treatment, illegal enslavement, and intensive exploitation of Indian labor by colonists, public authorities, and priests were widely denounced throughout the various regions of the Empire. Indians acted and reacted in a variety of ways, ranging from confrontation to collaboration: they resorted to both legal battles and armed conflict to defend their rights and their land. They fought vigorously in the non-Indians’ wars, both on the frontiers and in the political movements of the Empire, seeking to extract their own advantages from the alliances they formed. There was intense interaction among backlands Indians, aldeia Indians, and non-Indians, including African-descended slaves and quilombolas, and they circulated among both physical spaces and social categorizations, often crossing borders that separated one from another. Many settled Indians remained in their established aldeias, fighting to preserve them. They resorted to the courts in defense of their communal lives and land, affirming their indigenous identities and contradicting the discourse of politicians and intellectuals who considered them assimilated into the general population and civilized, and thus subject to having their aldeias legally abolished. Current ethnogenesis movements have revealed the fallacy of the belief that Indians disappeared in the 19th century.

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