Mapping indigenous peoples from Central Brazil between 1700-1900 AD

A Contribution to Nimuendaju's Ethno-Historical Map using IBGE's Database, and other sources


Abstract. This paper locates indigenous peoples who dwelt the Brazilian Central Plateau and surrounding areas during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It has used as main source the Curt Nimuendaju's ethno-historical map, made in 1944 and first published by IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statics) in 1981. As another source of information it has used the Čestmír Loukotka's ethno-linguistic map, published by the Association of American Geographers in 1967. Furthermore, this research also carried out an unprecedented mapping of the location of ethnic groups, as well as the first Luso-Brazilian villages, using the municipal historical descriptions within IBGE Cidades database. It is illustrated through temporal maps the successive occupations (and depopulation) of indigenous peoples in their territories at intervals of 50 to 50 years, since the year 1700 AD until the year 1900 AD. The conclusions are that there were at least 200 ethnic groups in the Brazilian Central Highlands and surrounding areas. Keywords. Central Brazil, Ethno-Geography, Ethno-Cartography, Ethnohistory.


Keywords: Central Brazil, Ethno-Geography, Ethno-Cartography, Ethnohistory

1.       Introduction

The first relevant study concerned on mapping the location of indigenous peoples in Brazil is due to the German naturalist Carl Martius (1867a). Said author has grouped all Brazilian indigenous language families that had news. It was the first time used the term to be named the language family now called in Brazil . His choice was based on the fact that most of the people speaking the languages of this family use the term Gê to call themselves, e.g. Apinagez and Crangez (Senna 1908: 14), among others as Kempokatagê, Piocobjê, Kemkatejé, Kanakatejé and Krengez (Santos 2013).

The language family covers most people who live (and lived) in the Brazilian savannas in the states of Goiás, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Maranhão and Piaui, called in this article as Gerais of Brazilian Central Plateau at the time of the Luso-Brazilian invasions. In addition to them, some Tupi, Kariri, Pimenteira among others, were also within in this area somehow (Santos 2013).

This paper will seek to present through maps and tables the multi-ethnicity which existed in the Brazilian Central Highlands and surrounding areas. In order to achieve this, information from ethno cartography made by Curt Nimuendaju (2002 [1944]) and Certmir Loukotka (1967) was collected. Historical maps produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, archived in libraries in Portugal and Brazil were also used. Besides, historical data extracted from IBGE Cidades (IBGE, 2012) were used to increase information that have never been mapped before

2.       Mapping Indians from Brazilian Central Plateau

Brazilian Central Plateau ethno-linguistic map around 1700 A.D. 

3.       Conclusion


This paper sought to present through maps and tables the multi-ethnicity which existed in the Brazilian Central Highlands and surrounding areas. In total 200 groups were identified living within the region, of whom 112 were already contained on the Nimuendaju's map. Among the 88 added, 61 were identified on the Loukotka's map, while 22 were identified from the IBGE Cidades database, and five were found in both sources.

This research identified 509 places where these ethnic groups were located, in which 208 were already shown on Nimuendaju's map. The other 301 sites were extracted as follows: 154 from Loukotka's map, 139 from IBGE Cidades database and eight taken from historical maps (archived in Portuguese and Brazilian libraries, such as Conselho Nacional Ultramarino and Sociedade Geográfica in Lisbon, Biblioteca Pública in Évora-Portugal, and Biblioteca Nacional in Rio de Janeiro).

This information about sites and ethnic groups has been showed on the five attached maps.

Currently, few indigenous peoples from Cerrado biome (Brazilian Savanna) are trapped in small native biome fragments that still remain. With the advance of monoculture (soy, eucalyptus and cattle) over these areas they will certainly disappear, and with them a knowledge that originates from over 10 000 years ago in this portion of the world. To avoid this, it is necessary conclude strategies to rescue and enhance the cultural and natural heritage of the Cerrado biome, creating protected areas and fostering projects of ethno-environmental recovery, including, therein, indigenous peoples both as sources of information and as agents in this conservation.


The education of our society is fundamental to reverse this process. It is necessary that our children know the past focused on the territory of their current addresses. People suffered and lost their lives and territory to make the society possible which now uses it. The past is part of the humanity's identity. The errors were ours and therefore we have to correct them.

workpaper sought to present through maps and tables the multi-ethnicity which existed in the Brazilian Central Highlands and surrounding areas. In total 200 groups were identified living within this region, of whom 112 were already contained on the Nimuendaju's map. Among the 88 added, 61 were identified on the Loukotka's map, 22 from the IBGE Cidades' municipal historical database, and five in both sources.




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