Mapping Indigenous from Central Brazil between 1700 and 1900 AD

A Contribution to Nimuendaju's Ethno-Historical Map using IBGE's Database, and another maps


Abstract. This workpaper locates indigenous people who dwelt the Brazilian Central Plateu and surroundings areas during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It has used as main source the Curt Nimuendaju's ethnohistorical 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 ethnolinguistic 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 Luso-Brazilian settles, using the municipal historical descriptions within IBGE Cidades database. Are illustrated through temporal maps the successive occupations (and depopulation) of the indigenous region at intervals of 50 to 50 years, from the year 1700 until the year 1900. The conclusions are that there were at least 200 ethnic groups in the Brazilian Central Highlands and surrounding areas.


Keywords: Ethnogeography, Indigenous Cartography, Central Brazil

1.       Introduction

The first relevant study concerned to map the location of indigenous people in Brazil is due to 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 to call yourself as Apinagez, Crangez (Senna 1908: 14), among others as Kempokatagê, Piocobjê, Kemkatejé, Kanakatejé, Krengez etc.

The language family covers most people who live (and lived) into the 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. Besides them, some Tupi, Kariris, Pimenteiras among others, were also present at this area somehow (Santos 2013).

This workpaper will seek to present through maps and tables the multi-ethnicity which existed in the Brazilian Central Highlands and surrounding areas. To do that, it was collected information from ethno cartography made by Curt Nimuendaju (2001 [1944]), Certmir Loukotka (1967), and historical maps produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, actually archived in libraries in Portugal and Brazil. In addition, it was used the IBGE Cidades' municipal historical database to increase information that has never been mapped before.

2.       Mapping Indians from Brazilian Central Plateau

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

3.       Conclusion


This 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.



In regards to the places where these ethnic people were located, this research identified 509 places, in which 208 were already contained in the Nimuendaju's map. The others 301 sites were extracted as follows: 154 in the Loukotka's map, 139 from IBGE Cidades' database and eight taken from historical cartography (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 ethics groups have been showed on the five attached maps.

Currently few indigenous people 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, certainly they will disappear, and with them a knowledge that comes from over 10,000 years on this portion of the planet Earth. To avoid this it is necessary strategies to rescue and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage of the Cerrado biome, creating protected areas and fostering projects of ethno-environmental recovery including therein the indigenous people 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 possible the society which now uses it. The past is part of the humanity's identity. The errors were ours and therefore we have to correct them.


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Text presented at Pre-Conference Symposium on Atlases, Toponymy and the History of Cartography, of 27th International Cartographic Conference, organized by International Cartographic Association; and was hosted by Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, in Rio de Janeiro, 2015.

Click here to download the presentation showed at the conference.


Click here to see the thesis which had originated the paper.