Native Village Youth and Education News
November, 2009   Volume 1

Brazil Indian Who Battled Conquerors Recognized as National Hero
By Carlos A. Moreno
Condensed by Native Village

Rio De Janerio, Brazil –Sepe Tiaraju was an 18th century Guarani leader who fought and died defending indigenous lands from the Spanish and Portuguese armies. Recently, he became the first Indian officially recognized as a Brazilian national hero. Tiaraju shares the honor with only 11 other figures in Brazil's history.

Fighting under the slogan “This land has an owner,” Tiaraju led Guarani resistance to the 1750 Treaty of Madrid, which divided South American lands between Spain and Portugal. The treaty gave Spain control over Colonia del Sacramento – what is now Uruguay. Portugal was given the Misiones Orientales which is the current Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The accord also stipulated that thousands of Guarani Indians in Misiones Orientals be moved to the opposite side of the Uruguay River. Many of these Guaranis had converted to Christianity by Jesuits and had prosperous villages with livestock and crops. They decided to stay and battle Spanish and Portuguese troops in what became known as the Guarani War.

On Feb. 7, 1756, Tiaraju died in combat at the Battle of Caiboate, near the present-day city of San Gabriel. Shortly after his death, close to 1,500 Guaranis were massacred by the combined Portuguese and Spanish forces.

Today Tiaraju is considered a “popular saint” by many Brazilians because his image appeared to the evangelized Indians in battle

“This acknowledgment is of great significance because Sepe has always been ignored by Brazilians and by history, because he represents Indian resistance to the occupation of their lands, a struggle that still goes on today,” said Jackson Antonio Lopes from the Indigenist Missionary Council.

Tiaraju's name was etched into the Steel Book at the National Pantheon of Brasilia, located near the Congress building, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace.Today, the Guarani tribe is the largest indigenous group in Paraguay and one of the most numerous in Brazil.

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