Foto: Kimiye Tommasino, 2000.


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    PR, RS, SC, SP45.620 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
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History of contact


The history of contact between the Kaingang and the European colonizers began back in the 16th century, when several groups who lived nearer to the Atlantic coast had contacts with the first Portuguese. However, the historical records of that time do not specify with any certainty the groups that were the ancestors of the present-day Kaingang.

Although the great majority of the Indians who were settled on ‘reductions’[mission settlements] in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Province of Guairá were of Guarani origin, it is known that several groups who were the ancestors of the present-day Kaingang were ‘reduced’ in Conceição dos Gualachos, on the banks of the Piquiri River, and in Encarnación, on the banks of the Tibagi. After having fled the attacks of the bandeirantes of São Paulo, the Jesuits founded new ‘reductions’ in the Province of Tape, between 1632 and 1636 (present state of Rio Grande do Sul). Based on several historical records, it is possible to state that the Kaingang may have been influenced by the Jesuit reduction of Santa Tereza, in the region of Passo Fundo.

From the writings of Montoya (1985 [1639; 1892]), it is evident that many reduced indigenous populations were affected by various epidemic diseases and that they suffered major demographic losses. Fathers Ruiz de Montoya and Dias Taño visited the Gualachos and the Guaianá on the upper Uruguai just as an epidemic swept the region. Mota (1997) recovered the record that the chief Kanha-fé, who was born in the fields of Kavarú-koyá (far southwest of the present state of Santa Catarina), and his ancestors were there before the arrival of the Jesuits and continued there after their expulsion.

As few Kaingang accepted living under the Jesuit command, the Kaingang lived free lives in the regions of the forests and fields of the South of the country until the 19th century when they were conquered.

The Kaingang in the 18th Century: the first attacks against their territories


In the period after the destruction of the Jesuit reductions, the expansion and presence of the Kaingang on the plateau lands in the South of the country can be observed, in areas of subtropical forests and pine groves, from the State of São Paulo to the states of the Southern region, when reconnaissance expeditions and the beginninjg of the first attacks against the indigenous territories caused violent reactions on the part of the Kaingang and Xokleng inhabitants.

In the 17th Century, Kaingang presence was recorded on the upper course of the Uruguay River and in the 18th century, they occupied the vast forests of the upper Uruguay, in an area that went from the Piratini River (in the far West) to the Caí River basin, to the east. Kaingang territories consisted of the West of São Paulo, the lands of the second and third plateaus of Paraná and Santa Catarina and the entire strip above the Piratini, Jacuí and Caí river basins in Rio Grande do Sul.


The first attempts at conquest and effective occupation of the fields and forests belonging to the Kaingang began in the province of Paraná (which included the greater part of the state of Santa Catarina), in the second half of the 18th Century, with the organization of conquest expeditions. There were eleven expeditions organized between 1768 and 1774, by Lieutenant Coronel Afonso Botelho which had the objective of surveying and taking possession of the natural pastures located in the interior of the Province. In 1770, the expedition led by Lieutenant Bruno Costa reached the fields of Koran-bang-rê (present-day Guarapuava). Two more expeditions reached these fields in 1771, one commanded by the backwoodsman Martins Lustosa and the other by the Lieutenant Cândido Xavier. Their weaponry included pieces of artillery and all the weapons of war of the time. The contacts with the Kaingang of Koran-bang-rê were initially friendly as a result of the distribution of presents. But the indigenous people did not delay in reacting, once they perceived that the friendship offered by the whites was not well-intentioned.

In this period the exploratory expeditions located several territories belonging to various indigenous groups — Kaingang, Guarani, Xokleng, Xetá —, leading to the first attempts at non-indigenous occupation in the lands of the interior of the Southern provinces. The Indians’ reactions were violent, and the conflicts were marked by attacks on both sides, despite the strategy of the Whites to try to win the confidence of the Indians by bringing them presents. All of the expeditions had to abandon the area of Campos Gerais and only 40 years later, they returned, achieving greater success in the 19th Century.

The Conquest of the Kaingang territories in the 19th Century

NIn the 19th Century, there were scores of territorial political units, each one of which was led by a main chief (põ’í-bang) and several subordinate chiefs (rekakê; põ’í) of the local groups which formed the socio-political unit. More exactly, the Kaingang territories in Rio Grande do Sul had the Piratini river as their northwest border, the Pelotas River to the northeast, the Caí, Taquari and Jacuí river basins to the south. As happened in the river basins of the present State of Paraná, several of these chiefs became allies of the Whites and collaborated in the conquest of the resistant groups. The põ’í who, at different moments, collaborated in the process of conquest became famous in the history of the region: in Paraná and Santa Catarina – Condá, Viri and Doble; in Rio Grande do Sul - Condá, Nonoai, Fongue, Nicafi (also written Nicaji, Nicofé, Nicafim), Braga and Doble.

One can relate the geographical expansion of the Kaingang to the mounting pressures of the conquest expeditions. Several chiefs decided to settle and become allies of the Whites, forcing the recalcitrant groups to withdraw to places that were further away from the expansionist route, where they remained until they were once again located and pressured into settling, freeing up part of their territories to the ranchers and national and foreign colonists.

On the conquest of Kaingang territories in Paraná, Mota (1994; 1998) is the researcher who has studied in greatest detail the historical events of contact and the strategies utilized by the indigenous political authorities who, through intense negotiations with the governments, succeeded in holding on to part of their territories until the present day. For the reconstruction of Kaingang history in Rio Grande do Sul, we have the research of Becker (1975) and de Simonian (1981; 1994a; 1994b; 1994c) and in Santa Catarina we have the contribution by D’Angelis (1984; 1994).

The forest road was the initial axis for the occupation of the indigenous territories of the south, which intensified with the commerce from mule and cattle trains brought from Rio Grande do Sul to Sorocaba by way of the Campos Gerais in Paraná. The route of the troops was what would in reality become a national occupation and exploitation front on indigenous lands, especially with the implantation of sesmarias [land grants] from Campos Gerais in Paraná, not only towards the south, but also to the west and north. The expansion of colonists from São Paulo was the spearhead for the conquest of the indigenous lands of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. The expansion to the north and west of the Campos Gerais is related to the search for an overland connection between the coast of Paranaguá and Mato Grosso, which was of crucial importance for the imperial government in the consolidation of the lands beyond the Paraná River. Another road, connecting Palmas to Corrientes, in Argentina, was begun in 1857 under the responsibility of the engineer Hégrèville.

All of these roads and trails cut through scores of Kaingang territories. The Indians attacked the troops, workers and colonists who would set up camp at the stopping and resting places, which over time became towns such as Castro, Ponta Grossa, Lapa and Palmeiras, in Paraná; Lajes, Curitibanos, Campos Novos and São Joaquim, in Santa Catarina; Vacaria and Cruz Alta in Rio Grande do Sul.

The occupation of the Campos Gerais was renewed in 1810, when a new expedition returned to the fields of Koran-bang-rê, with the clear objective of defeating the Indians. There was no question anymore of enslaving Indians or selling them as slaves, but rather of conquering their lands, first the areas of fields which could immediately be used as pastures for the herds that accompanied the expeditions. After three months of bloody battles and wars, the Kaingang of the Koran-bang-rê were defeated by the troops commanded by Diogo Pinto de Azevedo.

Once their victory was consolidated, ranches were installed in the territories of Koran-bang-rê and from the time of the contacts established with the conquered Indians, the Indians informed the ranchers of the existence of other fields to the west and southwest. Thus, in 1839, the ranchers conquered and occupied the fields of Kreie-bang-rê. In the center of Koran-bang-rê the city of Guarapuava arose, and in Kreie-bang-rê, the city of Palmas emerged, practically and symbolically smothering the Kaingang territories.

Several roads were being opened in the direction of São Pedro do Rio Grande do Sul (today, the state of Rio Grande do Sul). In the 1830s, a connection was sought between the towns of Guarapuava (in Koran-bang-rê) and Palmas (in Kreie-bang-rê) and, in 1842, a way connecting Palmas to Curitiba. In 1860 the government authorized the opening of a road between Kreie-bang-rê and Corrientes, Argentina, which passed through several Kaingang territories such as Kampo-rê and Kavarú-koyá. At that time, the lands of Kavarú-koyá were inhabited by the group of the chief Fracrân (also known as Endjotoi). In 1865, this group was contacted by the expedition of the engineer Morais Jardim and, despite the resistance to occupation, it was defeated by the group of Kondá, which was working for the whites.

Kondá also helped in the conquest of Kampo-rê (SC) and Nonoai (RS). After his split with Virí, his subordinate, he went to live in the fields of Chopim. Later, he became the leader of the Kaingang of Nonoai and made an alliance with the government of Rio Grande do Sul, settling in the fields of Goio-en. In his position as government employee (he received military remuneration from the government), he assisted in the opening up of a road connecting Kampo-rê (Campo-erê) to Kreie-bang-rê (Palmas) and, together with the engineer Hegrévillè, he assisted in opening up the road connecting Palmas to Corrientes, in the North of Argentina.

In the direction of Rio Grande do Sul, the conquest expeditions located and occupied the fields of Xaxerê, which separated the valleys of the Chapecó and Uruguai rivers. There, they founded the military colony of Chapecó, which is today the city of Xanxerê (SC). Since several groups wanted to be settled near the military colony, it was founded in the vicinity of Toldo Formigas, whose chief was Kondá.

Virí was another Kaingang who worked as an ally for the whites. He was chief of the Kaingang who lived in Covó and came in contact with the whites around 1839. He moved permanently to the settlement in Palmas in 1850. From subordinate chief of the groups led by Kondá, he became a dissident and worked in an independent way, his group constituting a paramilitary force for the Whites. He defended Palmas from the attack by the Indians led by Vaiton and by many other groups who attacked the town in 1854. He organized the attack on the Kaingang of Paikerê in 1855, bringing back 17 prisoners whom he tried to sell to the ranchers of Palmas. A part of the Indians from Paikerê, after Virí’s attack, gave themselves up spontaneously in the military colony of Jataí, in 1858. In 1864, Virí began receiving military remuneration from the government, which lasted until 1873, when he died.

Other Kaingang chiefs who received salary from the provincial government in exchange for their protecting the new towns and cities were: Bandeira, Henrique, Gregório and Doble. Bandeira was chief of the indigenous settlements of the forests between the Corumbataí and Ivaí rivers. The chiefs Henrique and Gregório lived in the indigenous settlements of Campo Mourão, near the old Vila Rica do Espírito Santo, on the left bank of the Ivaí River. In 1896 they were chiefs of the settlements of Ranchinho and Bufadeira. All of them had been invited by Luiz Cleve to live in the village of Marrecas.

The chief Paulino Arak-xó (also called Dotay) at first lived on the banks of the upper Ivaí with 95 Indians, in the place called Porteirinha, near Barra Vermelha. In 1896 he had moved to the indigenous settlement of Ubá. Seemingly, this is a region of the present-day municipality of Cândido de Abreu.

Groups of the chiefs Aropquimbé, Covó and Nhozoro, all brothers, lived in the Tibagi-PR basin. The conquest of this region was important for the neo-Brazilians because, as we have already said, the imperial State desired to find a connection between the coast of Paranaguá and Mato Grosso, for strategic reasons having to do with the conquest and incorporation of territories to the west. A part of the Kaingang who inhabited the forests of the Tibagi were the Dorins, who had participated in the attack and burning of Atalaia (Guarapuava) in 1825.

Included in the conquest strategy, the founding of four military colonies in the province of Paraná and four in Mato Grosso was planned. The military colony of Jataí was founded in 1855 and, facing it, on the other side of the river, an indigenous settlement was founded which came to be inhabited by several Guarani-kaiowá groups brought from Mato Grosso in 1852 and others who came in the following years. The first contacts with the isolated Kaingang who lived in the forests of the Tibagi basin were begun in 1858. In 1859 the founding of the settlement of São Jerônimo was authorized so that the Kaingang would establish their villages there.

In 1862, the Kaingang came to the settlement led by the chief Aropquimbe, the first from the region of the Tibagi who accepted moving permanently to the settlement. In the following year, it was the Kaingang led by the chief Kairu. In 1864 two groups moved to the settlement of São Pedro: one led by Kovó and the other by Gregório.

The Kaingang of Rio Grande do Sul were catechized and settled at the same time as those of Paraná and Santa Catarina. The opening of a road connecting Palmas to the lands of the Rio Grande Missions was vital to their incorporation to Brazilian territory. In 1845, the second lieutenant Francisco da Rocha Loures was put in charge of this task. Knowing that he would have to cross through Kaingang lands, Loures hired Kondá to help him, not only to know the places that would be safe to stay, but also to guarantee the safety of the expedition and try to convince the Indians to accept settlement. Parallel to this, the government sent missionaries to the region of Nonoai to promote settlement and catechization.

In 1848 the chief Fongue was subdued, and he came to settle with his group in the settlement of Guarita. The presence of Fongue is recorded in reports from 1880 in the settlements of Pinheiro Ralo and Inhacorá and also as one of the chiefs subordinate to the principal chief, Nonoai. In the same region, to the side of Fongue’s group, there is a record of the group of the chief Votouro; to the west, in the regions of Vacaria and Lagoa Vermelha, there were the groups led by the chiefs Doble and Nicafé (Nicaji; Nicafim).

Fongue assisted in the conquest of the Kaingang of the chief Nikué (known as Big John), at the service of the Whites. The conquests pushed on in the direction of the fields of Nonoai where the groups led by the chiefs Nonoai, Kondá and Nicafé (Konda’s daughter’s husband) lived. In 1850 the engineer Mabilde was able to arrange the settlement of the group of the chief Braga, who lived in Mato Castelhano and Campo do Meio. The settlement was situated in Campo do Meio. As there were many subgroups led by Braga, several chiefs did not move to the settlements and the dissident groups remained in their traditional territories, as was the case of the group led by Nicafé. In 1865/66, there are records of the presence of the chief Chico, who lived in Campo do Meio.

The chief Doble, after his split with the main chief, Braga, presented himself to the whites to be settled, thus becoming one of the principal assistants of the “military” force of the Whites in the submission of the isolated groups who attacked the colonists and troops. Doble thus appears, in many places, with Braga before contact and, after, in the service of the whites: in the region of Mato Castelhano, until 1848; in the depths of the Fields of Nonoai and Guarita, in 1849; in Vacaria, in 1851. In the settlement of Santa Izabel he succeeded in submitting the Kaaguá, near the colony of Monte Caseros (Mato Português); Flores refers to Doble in Pontão, in 1880, with 200 Indians. He was responsible for the extermination of the group of the chief Nicafé, the survivors of which settled permanently in Santa Izabel, led by the chief Chico (who must have succeeded the deceased Nicafé). This settlement was extinct in1861. In 1862, Doble left the region and settled near the colony of Monte Caseros, in the place that was later known as Toldo de Caseros. In fact, Doble led 11 groups, each of which had its own chief, when they presented themselves at the colony of Monte Caseros.


The main chief (Põ’í-bang) Braga, was leader of a group of 23 subgroups and dominated an extensive territory that covered the Mato Castelhano, the Campo do Meio, and the fields of Vacaria and Passo Fundo, to the southeast of these forests and between the headwaters of the Turvo Prata rivers, tributaries of the river of the Tapirs. With the dissidence of the group of the subordinate chief Doble, they began to go to war amongst themselves. The conquest of the chiefs Nonoai, Kondá and Nicafé, for Braga, meant more persecutors against him. Shortly before 1850, he was camped between the Tapir and Caí rivers, and, possibly to flee from the persecutions, he moved to the hills between the Turvo and Prata rivers, where the engineer Mabilde met him, and convinced him to settle in Campo do Meio.

The chief Nonoai and his group were contacted by Father Parés, who had established himself in the area under the protection of the government. In 1848 the Jesuit priests began the catechization of the Kaingang of Guarita and Nonoai. The settlements founded between 1848 and 1850 in the North and Northwest of Rio Grande do Sul, according to Becker’s analysis, had as their objective to concentrate the Kaingang led by the chiefs Nonoai, Fongue and Braga for the purpose of distributing their lands among the German colonists.

Another important group in the history of Rio Grande do Sul was led by the chief Votouro, probably from Paraná, who did not accept being settled and crossed over the Uruguai River. He was chief of the indigenous settlements of Votouro, five leagues to the east of Nonoai, on the other side of the Passo Fundo River.

Despite all the wars of the Kaingang to expel the Whites, the chiefs were overcome one by one and accepted taking up residence in the settlements defined by the government, under penalty of being exterminated, as in fact several were. At the same time as the settlement process was underway, the territories were being occupied by ranches and national colonization went on being consolidated in the following decades. At the end of the 19th Century, one can say that all the groups had been conquered, with few exceptions: in the state of São Paulo, the Kaingang of the region of Aguapeí still resisted; in Paraná there were two Kaingang groups in the forests between the Cinzas and Laranjinha rivers; in Santa Catarina the Xokléng still resisted and attacked colonists and passers-by.

The strategy that guaranteed the efficacy of the conquest of the Indians was that of transforming the settled groups into military forces at the service of conquest. Not only did these groups activate the already existing enmities among the different chiefs but also they multiplied and potentialized these enmities. The fact that one groups allied itself with the White man produced dissidence among all the resistant groups, which were then implacably persecuted.g.

The conquest of the last Kaingang groups in the 20th Century


NIn the 19th Century, the territories of the principal chiefs provide evidence for their presence in the present-day states of São Paulo, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and also in Argentina, in the region of Misiones Province. All the Kaingang groups and chiefs who lived in the south of Brazil were practically conquered and settled in the 19th Century, with the exception of the Kaingang of the Tietê-SP basin and the groups who lived in the territories between the Laranjinha and Cinzas rivers, in Paraná. Those of São Paulo were conquered in 1912 and those of Paraná in 1930. In all expeditions of conquest, several pacified Kaingang from São Jerônimo were utilized.

The Kaingang in the State of São Paulo had their territories invaded by the government of the state and by colonizers who, in a joint operation, began constructing the railway towards the backlands which was in fact the territory of the Kaingang. The attacks of the Kaingang on the railway workers were one of the reasons behind the creation of the SPI and the organization of pacification expeditions. Several Kaingang of the Tibagi basin and other linguarás (interpreters who participated in the expedition) were hired to help in the contacts in 1912, the beginning of the conquest. Horta Barboza recorded that half of the Kaingang of São Paulo died from a flu epidemic shortly after the first contacts between 1912 and 1913.


In the state of Paraná linguarás and Kaingang Indians from São Jerônimo were also utilized to help in the pacification of the isolated groups. Two expeditions were organized by the SPI in partnership with the CTNP-Northern Paraná Lands Company. The Guarani who lived in the same region were also used as assistants in these expeditions. In 1930 two groups were contacted and accepted the SPI’s “protection” proposals: the smaller group, with about twenty-five people, was settled on the “Old” post or Krenau (near the present=day Guarani village of Laranjinha, municipality of Santa Amélia) and the second group, larger, with about a hundred people was taken to the region of the Ivaí (Tommasino, 1995). With the epidemics that swept the region, the entire group that was settled on the Old Post or Krenau, died. As for those who were taken to the Ivai, there are no reports of what happened to them.