Colonial Tribes or Indian Conquistadors?

Indigenous Peoples and European Expansion in Northeastern Brazil, 1550-1700
Center for American Indian Studies Programs
American Indian Studies Seminar Series
Saturday, May 21, 2011

5:30 - 6:30 pm

TFL

Mark Meuwese, University of Winnipeg

Recent studies have shown that indigenous peoples played an indispensable role as military allies of European colonial powers in Mesoamerica and Eastern North America. A similar argument can be made about the role of indigenous peoples in the European conquest of Northeastern Brazil. In this region the Potiguares and Tobajaras were vital allies of the Portuguese, the French, and the Dutch through the early 1700s. Stuart Schwartz and Frank Salomon have recently identified the Potiguares as a ‘colonial tribe’ who were created through the process of European expansion. According to Schwartz and Salomon the Potiguares were manipulated by the Portuguese as military auxiliaries to fight other peoples as well as runaway slaves. In this paper I question the ‘colonial tribe’-concept and highlight the ability of the Potiguares and Tobajaras to pursue their own goals in the face of expanding European warfare.

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