Were The Portuguese the First to Bring Slavery to Brazil?

Last Updated on May 6, 2022 by Shaun Snapp

Executive Summary

  • There is a long term narrative that Europeans were the first to bring slavery to areas they colonized.
  • In yet another example, we cover how this turns out to not be true.


It is not at all common to hear about the slavery practices of the native tribes that existed before the arrival of European colonial powers. In this article, we describe an interesting quote we found on this topic.

See our references for this article and other related articles at this link.

The Status of Slavery Before the Arrival of the Portuguese

The Portuguese first traveled to Brazil in 1500 under the expedition of Pedro Álvares Cabral, though the first Portuguese settlement was not established until 1516.[8][9][10] Long before Europeans came to Brazil and began colonization, indigenous groups such as the Papanases, the Guaianases, the Tupinambás, and the Cadiueus enslaved captured members of other tribes. The captured lived and worked with their new communities as trophies to the tribe’s martial prowess. Some enslaved would eventually escape but could never re-attain their previous status in their own tribe because of the strong social stigma against slavery and rival tribes. During their time in the new tribe, enslaved indigenes would even marry as a sign of acceptance and servitude. For the enslaved of cannibalistic tribes, execution for devouring purposes (cannibalistic ceremonies) could happen at any moment. While other tribes did not consume human flesh, their enslaved were still put to work, imprisoned, used as hostages, and killed mercilessly. – Wikipedia

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Pre-Portuguese arrival, the natives practiced not only slavery but also cannibalism. This information is normally not described, and the question is, why is it hidden from those who seek to understand slavery?