The Indians of Brazil
At the time of discovery, when the Portuguese arrived on the Brazilian coast, beginning the process of occupation, they realized that the region was occupied by native peoples.
These natives, the Portuguese gave the name of indiansbecause they believed they had reached the Indies.
Even after the discovery that they were not in Indiesbut rather in unfamiliar territory, Europeans continued to call them that, purposely ignoring linguistic-cultural differences. In this way, it was easier to make all natives equal and treat them equally, since the purpose was political, economic and religious domination.
Although there is no exact knowledge as to the number of indigenous societies in Brazil at the time of the arrival of Europeans, there are estimates on the number of native inhabitants at that time, around 5 million individuals.
The colonization process led to the extinction of many indigenous societies that lived in the dominated territory, either through wars, or as a result of contagion from diseases brought from distant countries such as influenza, measles and smallpox, which often victimized. whole indigenous societies, because Indians do not have natural immunity to these evils, or even by imposing on the Indians the new way of life.
Unable to face the Portuguese in the war and not wanting to live peacefully with them, many indigenous people decided to flee to the interior of the territory in an attempt to keep their way of life away from the invaders. Nevertheless, many of these Indians were eventually imprisoned and turned into slaves.
The indigenous classification
The Portuguese first knew the people who lived on the coast. Because they had similar cultural traits, they received from the colonizers a general denomination: Tupi or Tubinambá. The other groups that had less contact, as the people who inhabited the interior of the territory and who did not speak the language that the Jesuits gave the name of "general language" or "language most used on the coast of Brazil", the Portuguese gave the name Tapuia.
This classification was extremely important for the recording of information about the Indians produced by the Portuguese, French and other Europeans. Without the documents produced by the colonizers, the traveller's chronicles, the Jesuit correspondence, and the grammars of the "general language" and other languages, we would have no way of knowing about the natives, their culture, and their history.
As the colonizers explored the territory, they realized that these populations were divided into hundreds of people who spoke different languages, had different customs and habits.
It is estimated that around 1,300 different indigenous languages were spoken at the time.
To study the indigenous peoples, they were grouped according to the similarities between their languages. In this way peoples with common cultural characteristics are brought together.
The language classification recognizes the existence of two main trunks (tupi and macro-jê) and six other significant language families (aruak, arawá, karib, maku, tukano and yanomami), as well as many unclassified, unclassified languages. or isolated.
Currently this population is distributed in approximately 215 ethnic groups, who speak about 170 different languages, excluding isolated Indians. Many Indians speak only their language, unaware of Portuguese and others speak Portuguese as their second language.
Approximately 60% of the Brazilian indigenous population lives in the region designated as Legal Amazon, an area that encompasses nine Brazilian states belonging to the Amazon Basin, which have parts of the Amazon Forest in their territory, however there is a presence of indigenous groups in virtually all of them. the Brazilian states. Only in Rio Grande do Norte, Piauí and the Federal District there are no indigenous groups.
The main Brazilian indigenous groups in demographic expression are: Tikuna, Tukano, Macuxi, Yanomami, Guajajara, Terena, Pankaruru, Kayapó, Kaingang, Guarani, Xavante, Xerente, Nambikwara, Munduruku, Mura, Sateré-Maué, among others.