NATIVE INQUISITION - The Native Peoples and the Portuguese Inquisition



Start . 2014

Duration . 24 months

Principal Investigator Maria Leônia Chaves de Resende (CHAM)



Funding Entity

Marie Curie Actions

Main Research Unit

CHAM - Centro de Humanidades / Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa | Universidade dos Açores



Universidade Federal de São João del-Rei


The project The Native Peoples and the Portuguese Inquisition” (NATIVE INQUISITION) will investigate the accusations and proceedings against the indigenous peoples and their descendants in Brazil sent to the Tribunal of the Inquisition in Portugal during the eighteenth century.The project NATIVE INQUISITION intends to investigate the accusations, seeking to understand the lived experience of indigenous peoples of distinct Native Brazilian tribes that were incorporated into the Portuguese America colonization. 

The central objective is to gain an understanding of the social-cultural and religious practices of resistance and adaptation adopted by the natives of Portuguese America, as well as the inclusion of those indigenous peoples in a society marked by cultural hybridism and miscegenation in colonial Brazil. 


The main methodological approaches applied in this project are based on multiple disciplines such as History and Anthropology (subjects as representation of the “other”, identity and cultural studies), especially with respect to Native History. 

Taking this approach to analyse Inquisition documents is a fruitful avenue to understand these situations as opportunities for cultural miscegenation and identity recreation, i.e. opportunities for different ethnic and social groups to share a new experience and rebuild their cultures, traditions, and identities. Far from being passive, the Native People were active agents of their own process of change and thus had the means to adapt to the new world in a process that can be understood as one of “adaptive resistance”.


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The main research objectives of this project are:

- To take an interdisciplinary approach between History and Anthropology to analyse the accusations against the Native People in Inquisitorial documentation, observing the processes of cultural miscegenation provoked by interethnic relations between Indigenous, Africans, and other cultural groups in Portuguese America.

- To analyse the different forms of insertion of the indigenous in the colonial society, seeking to identify the actors and their interests in specific contexts. Apply a comparative perspective to the cultural perceptions of Native People, and to the role of Inquisition in the Portuguese and Spanish colonial enterprises. 

- Moreover, this project will provide a description and examine inquisitorial accusations against the indigenous and “mestizos”, producing a cartography of the ethnic groups involved, the reasons and regions. The study report will also developed an inventory of related historical sources with a view to promoting further research on the Native Peoples involved with the Portuguese Inquisition.


In sum, the research herein proposed will contribute to creating a comprehensive overview of the Native Inquisition in the Portuguese Empire and allow comparative studies of the different Portuguese and Spanish expansion processes, promoting historiographical debate. In addition, it will contribute to research on the history of knowledge in early modern Europe and the dissemination of knowledge of the Portuguese expansion.





Maria Leônia Chaves de Resende   .   Coordenator