Foto: Márcio Ferreira, 1989


  • Autodenominação
  • Where they are How many

    MT, MG, SP350 (Funasa, 2010)
  • Linguistic family

History of the contact


The Botocudo original territory was the Atlantic Rain Forest in the Lower Recôncavo Baiano – the area around the Todos os Santos Bay, in the State of Bahia. They were expelled from the coast by the Tupi, and occupied a parallel stretch of forest between the Atlantic Rain Forest and the edge of the Brazilian Plateau. In the 19th Century they moved south, reaching the Doce River, in the States of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo.

Since their earliest contacts with the Europeans, in the 16th Century, the Botocudo were accused of being cannibals, which the existing documentation does not confirm. However, that was always the main pretext to justify the frequent declarations of “Just War” against them. It was also the argument used to convince the indigenous groups that were constantly in confrontation with the Botocudo – Tupi, Malalí, Makoní, Pataxó, Maxakalí, Pañâme, Kopoxó and Kamakã-Mongoió – to aldear (be put in villages), along with promises of protection and of access to goods of the dominating society, such as fire guns. Despite their tenacious resistance, the Botocudo groups were aldeados by military men, civilian directors and religious missionaries in different points of the then Captaincies of Bahia, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo after “Just War” was declared by the Colonial government in three Royal Letters, all of them issued in 1808. The first, dated of May 13, declared offensive war against the Botocudo of Minas Gerais because they were considered irreducible against civilization and because defensive war did not result in the desired effects regarding ensuring the expansion of the Conquest in the Captaincy.

The second, of August 24, gave permission to the Governor and Captain-General of Minas Gerais to create a troop specialized in the combat against Indians, in order to wage the war previously declared. The third, of December 2, established plans as to how to promote the religious education of the Indians and how to ensure effective control over them as a way to make possible the navigation of the rivers and the cultivation of the fields occupied by the Botocudo. The Portuguese regent, Prince João, also authorized the confiscation of the Botocudo lands, which were to be considered vacant and should be distributed as land grants, particularly among those who stood out in the war. To these new proprietors was assured also free access to the labor of the Indians who were captured in a hostile attitude, for a period that varied from twelve to twenty years, depending on the degree of rusticity and on the difficulty of the prisoners in learning their tasks. The creation of aldeamentos (villages) administered by regular citizens to educate the Indians who agreed to be submitted and showed "interest and good disposition" was also permitted. Although the three Royal Letters referred specifically to the Captaincy of Minas Gerais, in the same year of 1808 their determinations were extended to the Captaincies of Bahia and Espírito Santo, whose governors had demanded the same powers. The area currently belonging to the Krenak was given to them in 1920 by the SPI.

Nowadays the Botocudo do Leste are less than 200, and its population is comprised mostly by children and youngsters who descend from interethnic relations between the Krenak and other indigenous groups, such as the Guarani and the Kaingang, and with the regional population.

Several reasons explain this predominance of mixed bloods. For one, the invasion of the Krenak lands by non-Indians and the leasing by the SPI of the lands of the Krenak Indigenous Post. Also, the resettlements promoted by the SPI and by the organ that succeeded it, the Fundação Nacional do Índio – National Foundation for the Indian – (Funai): in 1953, the Krenak were removed to the Maxakalí Indigenous Post, from where they returned on foot in 1959, and in 1973, they were taken to the Fazenda Guarani. Last but not least, the contact with the so-called índios infratores (delinquent Indians), removed by the Funai from various parts of the country, starting in 1968, to the Reformatório Agrícola Indígena (Indian Agricultural Reformatory) or Centro de Reeducação Indígena Krenak (Krenak Center of Indigenous Re-education), built in the Krenak territory.