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Final Report Summary - NATIVE INQUISITION (The Native Peoples and the Portuguese Inquisition)

The project “The Native Peoples and the Portuguese Inquisition” (NATIVE INQUISITION) has investigated the accusations against the indigenous peoples and their descendants in Brazil sent to the Tribunal of the Inquisition in Portugal from sixteenth to nineteenth century. The central objective is to gain an understanding of the cultural and religious practices of resistance and adaptation adopted by the natives of into the Portuguese America colonization, as well as the inclusion of those indigenous peoples in a society marked by cultural hybridism and miscegenation in colonial Brazil. Thus, taking an ethnohistorical approach, Native Inquisition Project attempts to interpret the cultural dilemmas in religious and interethnic contact of these populations with the colonizer. In this sense it has particularly focused on analysing and building knowledge of the rich and diverse world of indigenous cultures, which constitute the root and essence of Latin America.

Therefore, the colonial time is studied a reconfiguration of all these processes, especially in the eighteenth-century that involved clashes of all kinds in establishing relations between the conquerors (Portuguese and non-Portuguese) and indigenous peoples from various ethnic origins and different territories in Brazil. The differences in cultures between the established Native and immigrant Europeans, as well as shifting alliances among different nations of each culture through the centuries, caused extensive political tension, ethnic violence and social disruption. This project offers an analysis of the social relationships and establishment of other cultural and religious practices that arose as a result of contact between the Christian colonizer, Africans and the Native Peoples of Portuguese America.

At the first level of analysis, it had a special focus on the diversity of the relationship between the Native Peoples and other different types of cultural agents (different religious orders, settlers, traders, explorers), Africans slaves and African-Brazilian descendants. It aims to shed light on some of the ambiguities inherent to the need for adaptability and resistance that was experienced by indigenous peoples in relation to the others actors.

At a second level, it has focus on the role that the indigenous individuals and their descendants played in that scenario. The researcher has investigated the daily contact between indigenous peoples and these actors to understand the various levels of cultural connections. In an anthropological description, the researcher has reviewed some categories such as the paradigmatic opposition between “indigenous” and mixed people (“mestizos”) that Modern Europe.

Moreover, this project has provided a description and examined inquisitorial accusations against the indigenous and “mestizos”, producing a ‘cartography’ of the ethnic groups involved, the reasons and regions from 16th to 19th. The study report has also developed an inventory of related historical sources with a view to promoting further research on the Native Peoples involved with the Portuguese Inquisition.

The fellow has researched in most prestigious libraries and several ecclesiastical archives in Brazil and Europe, as University of Coimbra, University of Pablo de Olavide (Seville), National Library of Madrid, Propaganda Fide and Capuchin Order (Rome), National Library of Portugal and National Archive of Torre do Tombo in Lisbon [Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo – ANTT].
The researcher has scrutinized a vast series knowed as “Inquisitorial Court of Lisbon” [Tribunal da Inquisição de Lisboa] to identify the accusations against native peoples at National Archive of Torre do Tombo. Resende conducted systematic research of the following sources in the historical archive: 148 manuscript codices [Cadernos do Promotor], 4 indexes, 54 Inquisitorial Processes and finally all the Disperse Documentation in which she has identified 522 indigenous from Brazil who were prosecuted by the Holy Office Court from 16th to 19th century. She has made an important contribution preparing a database in which there is a complete alphabetical listing of all those who were prosecuted by the Inquisition and also prepared a descriptive and detailed inventory of all the inquisitorial accusations and processes against indigenous people.

Encouraging the dissemination of scientific activity related to her academic research, and with the goal of providing support to a Brazilian Act of 2008 (according to which it is compulsory to teach Native History in public and private schools in Brazil) the fellow has coordinated and taught in the e-learning Course on Culture and History of Indigenous Peoples (CHPI) supported by UFSJ (University of São João del-Rei) and MEC (Ministry of Education of Brazil). She has produced conjointly with colleagues a new educational material on Native People History edited as a book entitled “Native Worlds: History and Cultura of Indigenous People” [Mundos Nativos. História e culturas dos povos indígenas]. The e-learning course to teachers of public schools has emerged as an important means to democratize higher education on Brazilian Native People.

She has taught disciplines for postgraduate students about Inquisition history in Portuguese America composed of different issues that examine in-depth the inquisition and the indigenous as for master students from UFSJ and UPO [University Pablo de Olavide]. Providing Advisory for postgraduate students on the subject of inquisition and / or issues related to Native History, the researcher has advised researches in the Master's degree as well. As stated in NATIVE INQUISITION, the objective of the teaching activities was the dissemination of knowledge.
Also she has maintained an active channel of communication with Native People, when she has visited the indigenous village [Aldeia dos Pataxó e Pankararu, Aracuaí, Minas Gerais] and has met with indigenous leaders as Aílton Krenak, Edson Kayapó and Daniel Munduruku.

All of the results is available on the page for consultation:

Maria Leônia Chaves de Resende, a historian and Associate Professor expert in the history of the native peoples of the Americas has developed this research project in the Centre for Overseas History (Centro de História de Além-Mar, CHAM) of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade das Açores, under the supervision of Professor Pedro Cardim (scientist in charge). The area of expertise is the Ibero-American Atlantic World (Brazil and Portugal), with an emphasis on its social and cultural history, which involves mainly indigenous history and related issues, such as travels and travellers, expeditions, catechesis and missionary work, conquest and colonization as well as topics involving religion, miscegenation, identity and ethnicity.

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