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Indian Protection Service (SPI)

Indian Protection Service (SPI)

Originally known as the Service for the Protection of Indians (Serviço de Proteção ao Indio) and the Settlement of National Workers (SPILTN), the SPI was the first Brazilian federal agency charged with protecting Indian peoples against acts of frontier violence, persecution, and extermination. In the wake of the first public international accusations of indigenous genocide (XVI Congress of Americanists in Vienna, 1908) and in the midst of a period of intense national debate concerning the rights of indigenous peoples, President Nilo Peçanha, on 20 June 1910, signed Decree no. 8.072, the legislation mandating the formation of the SPI under the directorship of General Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon. Reflecting the positivist ideals of Rondon and his supporters, this legislation recognized the rights of indigenous peoples to the lands they traditionally inhabited, as well as to their traditional customs, and provided for the demarcation of lands for which indigenous peoples would have exclusive usufructory rights. The SPI was charged with ensuring implementation of this legislation and also for facilitating the establishment of new settlements in areas previously unoccupied by peoples of European descent.

To mediate against the possibility of violent interethnic conflicts, Rondon adopted a strategy, known as pacification, for establishing friendly relations with previously uncontacted indigenous peoples. In a country as vast as Brazil and with a consistently small operating budget, the SPI had difficulty carrying out its responsibilities. From the 1920s until its dissolution, the SPI was fraught with scandal and corruption. It was replaced by the National Indian Foundation (funai) in 1967.

See alsoIndigenous Peoples; Peçanha, Nilo Procópio.


Shelton H. Davis, Victims of the Miracle: Development and the Indians of Brazil (1977), pp. 1-18.

Manuela Carneiro Da Cunha, Os direitos do índio: Ensaios e documentos (1987), pp. 78-82.

Greg Urban and Joel Sherzer, eds., Nation-States and Indians in Latin America (1991), esp. pp. 218-222, 236-258.

Additional Bibliography

Diacon, Todd. Stringing Together a Nation: Candido Mariano da Silva Rondon and the Construction of a Modern Brazil, 1906–1930. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

                                      Laura Graham

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