Foto: José Cordeiro, 1985

Tapeba

  • Other names
    Tapebano, Perna-de-pau
  • Where they are How many

    CE6.600 (Funasa, 2010)
  • Linguistic family

Elements of local indigenous history

The history of the local groups and places where the Tapeba live is related to the recent changes in the forms of landholding appropriation previously existing in Tapeba and in Paumirim - considered as traditional places of their habitation. The Tapeba had more than one mode of landholding appropriation and use of available natural resources. Based on the historiographical data available, which describes a situation of instability in the last century, as far as the fate of the lands of the extinct indigenous settlements, one could characterize the situation of the Tapeba as the product of two distinct historical results, generally found in areas of early colonization: (1) the dismemberment of territorial domains which belonged to the Church, where forms of common use may have been prevalent, where the "saint" (Na Sa dos Prazeres) appeared as land-owner; and (2) the loss of possession of occasional titled domains, which had been formally given to indigenous groups in the form of a donation or in payment for services rendered to the State.This was the case in Caucaia. The available sources mention that the municipality of Caucaia had its origins in the Village of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres de Caucaia, regularly administered by the Jesuits between 1741 and 1759, but whose origins go back to an uncertain date in the 17th Century, between 1603 and 1666. The nature of the sources does not allow us to determine with any great certainty the origin and composition of the indigenous population brought together there: whether they were the Potiguara who were found there trading with the French at the time of Pero Coelho's expedition em 1603 (Potiguara who, in returning from their defeats at the hands of the Portuguese, were responsible for the Cariris' and Tremembes' moving to the interior - "original lords of the Ceará backlands" -, according to Carlos Pereira Studart); or the 200 or 800 Potiguara who made up the same army recruited by Pero Coelho; or they were the Potiguara and Tabajara that Father Luís Figueira duped into making them accompany him on his return to his first mission in the Ibiapaba mountains; or whether they were all of these alternatives.Carlos Studart Fo informs us that the Potiguara obtained from the Portuguese government various land grants possibly in retribution for their collaboration in suppressing the "tapuio" uprisings. The missions, in turn, were benefitted by the combination of expansion and consolidation of the religious administration of the settlements. Baron Studart records that, on November 23rd, 1700, a Charter in the form of law conceded to each mission one square league of land for the sustenance of the Indians and missionaries. There are records of concessions of pieces of land and allotments to colonists and Indians, in Caucaia, for the first half of the 18th Century. On March 31st, 1723, João Brigido recorded a concession made by the Captain-Major of the Captaincy "to the chief of the village of Caucaia João Paiva and more officials and Indians, for them and their inheritors, of three leagues of land with one in width, half a league on each side, around the waterhole called Taboca".

With the implementation of the Directorate system of the Marquês do Pombal, the Jesuits were expelled from the country and the Village of Caucaia was rebuilt into the New Village of Soure, in 1759. It may be that groups of Cariri, Tremembé, and Jucá, coming from the forced relocations of settlements of the interior to the settlements of the coast, joined the Potiguara who were already settled there (for the purpose of facilitating their administration) or from requests by the Indians themselves - as can be deduced from correspondence between the Directors of the Indians and the Captain-Major of the Captaincy.With the extinction of the Pombal Directorate system in 1798, there are reports from Presidents of the Province of Ceará that reveal a peculiar situation in which, in the middle of the 19th Century, there still were Indians demanding the restitution of the Directorate system and of the expropriated goods, not to mention the proposal for re-establishing the villages of Soure e Vila Viçosa presented by the Provincial Assembly. Vila Nova de Soure is mentioned as a "town of Indians", from its foundation until the second third of the past century. In 1863, on the occasion of the installation of the Provincial Legislative Assembly, the President of the Province of Ceará declares the indigenous population of the province to be extinct and the territorial estates of the Villages "were ordered incorporated to the Treasury by imperial order", but with the contradictory exception of : "respecting the territorial possessions of some Indians". At the same time, Alfredo Moreira Pinto reproduces the content of an official record of a donation of lands made by Francisco Barros de Souza Cordeiro and his wife to "Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres desta Real Villa de Soure", in which mention is made of "Indian owners of this same town".

The references, thus, make it clear that the history of the area in which the municipality of Caucaia is situated today and where the Tapeba live, is related to the traffic of the aboriginal populations who lived there before and after the arrival of the first colonizers, and to the conquest and settlement by the Europeans (French, Dutch and Portuguese) of what today is the Ceará coast. This means that it is possible to defend the argument that the Tapeba are the result of a slow process of ethnic emergence deriving from several of the original indigenous groups (Potiguara, Tremembé, Cariri and Jucá) who were brought together under the authority of the colonial administration.