From Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Photo: Raïsa Miriam Nascimento Guerra, 1998


Where they are How many
AM 330 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
Linguistic family

The Torá, a people that lives today in the vicinity of the mouth of the Marmelos River, in the State of Amazonas, were given many denominations along history: Torá, Tora, Toré, Torerizes, Turá. Never, however, were in the documentation precise definitions of those names. Their language, which is believed to belong to the Txapakura family, was never studied. The Torá lost it and now speak just Portuguese. This is attributed to the fact that the Torá were victims of what was called in the 18th Century ‘punitive expeditions’. Because they fought against the invasion of their territory, they were harshly repressed and came close to extinction.

Historical information

The earliest records regarding the Torá place them on a territorial space that encompassed the entire Madeira River and some of its tributaries. They were among the first peoples to resist the efforts of the Colonial administration to occupy the region, and thus they were also among the first Indians to suffer significantly for their resistance. Mentioned in the historical documentation for attacking regatões (merchants who ply the rivers of the Amazon Region selling processed goods and buying raw material) along the Madeira, the Torá ended up occupying just the small portion of their former territory in the vicinity of the mouth of the Marmelos River, in the State of Amazonas.

In 1690, father João Betendorf wrote about the "nation of the Irurizes", comprised by the Onikoré, the Aripuaná, the Parapixana and the Torerizes, the latter living in the North and the South of the right banks of the Madeira River (Menéndez,1981/82:313). However, given the dominance of the Tapajó and the Tupinambá in the region, data regarding other peoples have always been scarce.

In fact, effective information on the Torá was registered only when punitive expeditions were organized with the objective of exterminating them. In the 18th Century, they attacked the missions of Canumã and Abacaxis, at the mouth of the Madeira River, but were recognized, according to Nimuendajú ([1925] 1982), as inhabitants of the Marmelos River, from the mouth to the headwaters, and of the Machado River. A group of Torá, found on the Maici River, a tributary of the Marmelos, was violently attacked and the survivors were forced to move to the Abacaxis mission. The atrocities committed against this people were so great that they are mentioned in various documental sources.

Part of the group, however, remained isolated, protected in the interior of the igarapés (small Amazon waterways) still not penetrated by colonization. Many attacks on the Torá followed, forcing the last members to move to the missions, to villages as slaves or as soldiers fighting against the Mura.

Towards the end of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th, the Torá were described as sedentary, living on agriculture on the banks of the Marmelos River.

Around the 1920s, with the so-called ‘pacification’ of the Parintintin, the region of the Madeira River was gradually taken by seringueiros (rubber-tapers), caucheiros (gatherer of wild rubber) and extractors of native products. The local indigenous populations, among them the Torá, were involved in the process, adopting a system similar to that of the local non-Indian population, called aviamento. However, they were able to maintain the survival of their social organization, and fought arduously for their lands.

Brazil nut and the regatões

The Torá live on hunting, fishing and fundamentally from the gathering of brazil nut for commercialization. Focal point of the area’s economic questions, the extraction of brazil nut transforms a productive activity into a complex system involving Indians and regionals.

When the brazil nut harvest starts, the regatões supply the Torá with products, called ranchos, comprised of basic and industrialized foodstuffs. Thus when the Indians begin to work they already are in debt with the regatão, who postpones the payment of the first rancho until the first nuts are ready to be shipped. So when they start to deliver their production to the regatão it is already time to buy a new rancho. In consequence, the Torá are always in debt with these merchants, whom they call patrão (boss). In addition to basic items, it is not uncommon for an Indian to buy a more expensive product, which may take more than one brazil nut harvest season to be paid for.

The patrões, in general, have an ambiguous relationship with the Torá. They are considered benefactors and good; the bad ones are only those with whom one does not deal with. A Torá or a family group may relate to more than one patrão; most common, however, is to relate to just one. It is these relations that determine the economy of this people.

The patrões participate in the group’s ritual moments as well. When there is a traditional celebration in Fortaleza, the regatões are always present, supplying merchandise and taking part as guests. It is important to highlight the profile of such celebrations, in which the agents in the region gather, giving to their differences a ritual character. Instead of seeking the solution of the conflicts, the ritual expiates them while at the same time perpetuating them within the limits of what is bearable.


The religious kinship, the compadrio (compaternity), is part of the complex regional relations network, establishing a tie among adults through children. Thus when a man wants to have closer ties with another, he invites him to be one of his son’s godfather. In spite of the relationship between godfather and godson, the important one is really that between the compadres (that is, father and godfather). Involved in this system are the regatões, the Torá and the Apurinã, all of them relating to each other.

The Torá today have reinforced their struggle for the demarcation of their lands and for the training of Indian professionals. With such expectation, they organize themselves taking formation courses with the support of NGOs and trying to bring back the individuals who moved to cities such as Porto Velho, Humaitá and Manicoré. In their perspective, the effective demarcation of their lands and the presence in the area of Torá teachers and health agents may be the determinant factors for their survival into the future generations.

Note on the sources

Up to the present there are no deep studies on the Torá society. The main references regarding them are the historical documents about the region of the Madeira River. In the 18th Century, they appear as the victims of a great massacre perpetrated against them, and, in the 19th Century, they are portrayed as a few remainders living on agriculture along the Marmelos and Madeira rivers. They are mentioned with more detail in Curt Nimuendajú’s article "As Tribos do Alto Madeira" (The Tribes of the Upper Madeira), published in 1925, and in a chapter of the book A Cruz Indígena (The Indigenous Affliction), by Alípio Bandeira, of 1926. In recent decades, they appear in the report Levantamento das Populações Indígenas do Médio Madeira (Survey of the Indigenous Populations of the Mid Madeira) (1981), by Ezequias Heringer and Ana Lange, and in the article "Agora todo mundo quer ser caboclo" (Now everyone wants to be a caboclo), by Rosa Cartagenes and João Carlos Lobato, published in Povos Indígenas no Brasil 1987/88/89/90 (Indigenous Peoples in Brazil 1987/88/89/90). They are also the subject of two reports of identification of Indigenous Land, by José Carlos Levinho (1988) and Edmundo Antonio Peggion (1998).

Sources of information

  • BANDEIRA, Alípio. A cruz indígena. porto Alegre : Livraria Globo, 1926.


  • CARTAGENES, Rosa; LOBATO, João Carlos. Agora todo mundo quer ser caboclo. In: RICARDO, Carlos Alberto (Ed.). Povos Indígenas no Brasil : 1987/88/89/90. São Paulo : Cedi, 1991. p. 296-8. (Aconteceu Especial, 18)


  • COUTINHO, João M. da Silva. Relatório sobre alguns lugares da Província do Amazonas, expecialmente o rio Madeira. Manaus : Codeama/IGHA, [1861], 1986.


  • HUGO, Vitor. Desbravadores. 2 v. Humaitá : Missão Salesiana, 1959.


  • MENÉNDEZ, Miguel A. Contribuição ao estudo das relações tribais na área Tapajós-Madeira. Rev. de Antropologia, São Paulo : USP, n. 27/28, p. 271-86, 1984/1985.


  • --------. Uma contribuição para a etno-história da área Tapajós-Madeira. Rev. do Museu Paulista, São Paulo : Museu Paulista, n. 28, p. 289-388, 1981/1982.


  • NIMUENDAJÚ, Curt. As tribos do Alto Madeira. In: --------. Textos Indigenistas. São Paulo : Loyola, 1982. p. 111-22.