From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Joceny Pinheiro. Novembro 2005, Aratuba-CE


Where they are How many
CE 3623 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
Linguistic family

The name Pitaguarí refers to places in the high mountains, visible from the sea, which are territorial markers of the ancestors. From these places come medicinal plants, the raw material for plaitwork, adornments and festival attire, the stories of sacred beings and the memory of the times of slavery and freedom of the “people of the forests”.

Language, population and location

Maurício Pitaguary e filhos. Foto: Joceny Pinheiro, Setembro 2006, Fortaleza-CE
Maurício Pitaguary e filhos. Foto: Joceny Pinheiro, Setembro 2006, Fortaleza-CE

Pitaguarí is the self-denomination of the Indians who inhabit the mountain of the same name, located in the municipality of Maracanaú, Ceará. The term is a variant of Potiguara, the name of another ethnic group of the Northeast to whom they are historically related. Other variants found in the historical documents are Pitagoarí, Pitaguar, Pitavari and Pitiguarí.

The Pitaguarí were visited by the FUNAI in 1997 and await the demarcation of the Pitaguarí Indigenous Land, with an area of 1,735.60 hectares (now in the stage of identification) and which encompasses the settlements of Santo Antônio (including Aldeia Nova, Retiro and Ipioca), Pau Branco, Olho d'Água, Horto, Munguba and Jubaia, among others. Santo Antônio is the most populous. There are families dispersed on the top of the mountain and others who live in the midst of the non-indigenous urban population. Their population is 450 people living on the Indigenous Land and 300 in the surrounding areas.

They belong to the peoples of the Tupí-Guaraní language family which, in the 16th and 17th centuries, settled on the coasts of Ceará in successive migrations coming from Pernambuco, Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte. Today, the Pitaguarí speak only Portuguese.

History of contact

They have been in contact with the whites for nearly four hundred years. Between 1608 and 1613, when the Portuguese built the fort of São Sebastião, next to the Ceará River, which became the nucleus of the city of Fortaleza, they found several Potiguara villages in the surrounding areas and nearby mountains of Maranguape and Aratanha.

During the Dutch occupation, the Potiguara of the Ceará River rebelled against the Portuguese and became involved in disputes over the possession of the land, as allies of the Dutch (1637-1654). Later, many sought refuge with their kin on the mountain of Ibiapaba. Those who stayed were dominated by the colonizers, and were recruited in the military combats against the Payakú, their traditional enemies, in the second half of the 17th Century.

They began to be missionized by the Jesuits in 1656, initially in the village of Parangaba. In 1694 there were four Potiguara settlements in the proximities of Fortaleza: Caucaia, Parangaba, Paupina and Aldeia Nova de Pitaguarí, also called Parnamirim. In 1722 the Pitaguarí of Aldeia Nova obtained two sesmarias [plots of land from the Portuguese Crown] titles, one on Pitaguarí mountain and the other on the small mountain ridge of Ipioca. In 1854, 21 Indians registered in the parish of São Sebastião de Maranguape the collective ownership of the land called Santo Antonio de Pitagoary, a toponym derived from a chapel built by ranchers of the region. The joining of these lands is what came to form the present day Pitaguarí Indigenous Land.

Economic and social aspects

Their economy is based on the planting of manioc, corn and beans, small animal breeding, gathering of mangoes, caju and other fruits, fishing in the reservoir and hunting in the mountain forest. Several of them work as day-laborers and salaried workers in Maracanaú, where many young people study. They make baskets and hats of tucum fibre and vines, ceramics, as well as skirts of fibre and adornments of mucunã seeds, mulungu, dried fruits and bird feathers, which they use in the rituals of the Toré, in the festivals and meetings.

The mountain vegetation provides many herbs and roots used by the Pitaguari shamans in their cure of sicknesses.

Nearly all were born and grew up in the same place, constituting extended families, where marriages with non-Indians are not very frequent. With the growth of the population, the families are moving to new lands where they can plant, however, they avoid cutting down the forest, the source of their ways of life and their beliefs. In Aldeia Nova the lands are distributed according to the decisions of the Council of the Pitaguarí.

Many stories have been told about the beings that inhabit the mountains, like the Caipora, which regulates the hunt and guides the hunters. Every year, on June 13, there is a great festival in which everyone, with their guests, goes to the mango grove of the Pitaguarí, symbol of group unity and the land of the ancestors.

Note on the source

As a result of the project “Interethnic relations and regional history: a revised view of the disappearance of the indigenous peoples of the Northeast", coordinated by Maria Sylvia Porto Alegre, with support from the CNPq, there is in regard to the Pitaguarí, the census of Santo Antonio do Pitaguari, from 1997, unpublished but available, and a Bachelor’s monograph in the Social Science Course of the Federal University of Ceará, by Joceny de Deus Pinheiro, under the supervision of Maria Sylvia Porto Alegre, concluded in 1999.

Recent works, like “Indigenous villages and the peopling of the Northeast at the end of the 18th Century”, by Maria Sylvia Porto Alegre and Documents for the Indigenous History of the Northeast, by the same author in collaboration with Marlene Mariz and Beatriz Góis Dantas, include information on the Potiguara in Ceará. Other older works also make references, such as the books The Aborigines of Ceará, by Carlos Studart Filho, History of the Company of Jesus in Brazil by Serafim Leite, Some Origins of Ceará by Antônio Bezerra and Dates and Facts for the History of Ceará, by Guilherme Studart and the article "Indigenous Toponyms of the 16th and 17th centuries on the Ceará coast", by Pompeu Sobrinho.

Sources of information

  • ASSIS, Soraya Campos de Almeida. Abordagem Histórica com finalidade para suporte ao reconhecimento étnico do Grupo Indígena Pitaguary. Brasília: FUNAI/DAF/DEID, 1998.


  • BRITO, Maria de Fátima. Relatório de reconhecimento étnico dos índios Pitaguary e de identificação, delimitação e levantamento fundiário da terra indígena Pitaguary, 1999. GT PORT. 1093 / PRS / FUNAI / 97.


  • CARDIM, Fernão. Tratados da Terra e Gente do Brasil. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1939.


  • FIGUEREDO, José de Lima. Índios do Brasil. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1939


  • NOLETO, Juliana et al. Estudo Etno-Ecológico Pitaguary. FUNAI, 2004.


  • PINHEIRO, Joceny de Deus. Índios Pitaguary: um estudo sobre história, cultura e identidade. Fortaleza: UFC, 1999 (Monografia de Bacharelado).


  • _____. História, Memória e Identidade entre os Índios Pitaguary. In: Luiz Sávio de Almeida; Marcos Galindo. (Org.). Índios do Nordeste: Temas e Problemas. 1 ed. Maceió: EDUFAL, 2002, v. III, p. 229-271.


  • _____. Arte de contar, exercício de rememorar: as narrativas dos índios Pitaguary. Fortaleza: PPGS da UFC, 2002 (Dissertação de Mestrado).


  • _____. Memória e Narração: Entre a Continência e a Duração. Revista Anima da Faculdade Integrada do Ceara, Fortaleza: FIC, 2002, v. 1, n. 3, p. 25-33.


  • _____. Da Arte para o Exercício: Uma Introdução às Narrativas Pitaguary. In: Joceny de Deus Pinheiro. (Org.). Ceará: Terra da Luz, Terra dos Índios. Fortaleza: Ministério Público Federal / FUNAI / IPHAN, 2002, p. 81-102.


  • _____. Authors of Authenticity: Indigenous Leaders and the Politics of Identity in the Brazilian Northeast. Manchester, 2005 (Projeto de Tese de Doutorado).


  • POMPEU SOBRINHO, Thomaz. "O Povoamento do Nordeste Brasileiro". In: Revista do Instituto do Ceará, t.51. Fortaleza: Instituto do Ceará, 1937.


  • PORTO ALEGRE, Maria Sylvia. Projeto Relações Interétnicas e História Regional: uma Revisão do "Desaparecimento" das Populações Indígenas do Nordeste. Fortaleza, 1992.


  • _____. Cultura e história: sobre o desaparecimento dos povos indígenas. In: Revista de Ciências Sociais. V.23/24. Fortaleza: UFC, 1992/1993.


  • _____. Aldeias indígenas e povoamento do Nordeste no final do século XVIII: aspectos demográficos da "cultura de contato. In: Ciências Sociais Hoje. São Paulo: Hucitec / ANPOCS, 1993.


  • RIBEIRO, M. Diagnóstico Ambiental Preliminar da Terra Indígena Pitaguary. FUNAI. Brasília, 2003.


  • STUDART FILHO, Carlos. Os Aborígenes do Ceará. Revista do Instituto do Ceará, tomo LXXVII. Fortaleza: Instituto do Ceará, 1963.


Land records and other sources

  • Data: 20/04/1722 Página: 21 – Conjunto CE1.8: Datas de Sesmarias do Ceará. Livro: V.2 Sesmarias Cearenses Departamento de Imprensa Oficial – Fortaleza – Ceará 1971., 1682-1824.


  • Data: 13/12/1842 Página: 324 – Conjunto CE1.5: Compilação das Leis Provinciais do Ceará. Livro: T.1 Compilação das Leis Provinciais do Ceará, 1835-1846.


  • Data: 04/09/1854 – Livro; Registro de Terras da Freguezia de São Sebastião de Maranguape, 1854-1858.


  • Data: 04/07/1863 – Conjunto CE1.9: Ministério da Agricultura. Livro: L3 Correspondências dos Ministérios do Império ao Presidente da Província, 1863-1864.


  • Data: 02/01/1864 Página: 63-65 – Conjunto CE1.18: Secretaria do Governo da Província do Ceará – Ofícios ao Ministério da Agricultura, Comércio e Obras Públicas. Livro: L144


  • Registro dos Ofícios da Presidência da Província dirigidos ao Ministério da Agricultura, Comércio e Obras Públicas, 1861-1872.