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Potiguar, or Potiguara, a Tupispeaking tribe of northeastern Brazil. According to an unnamed contemporary Jesuit, the Potiguar were the "largest and most united" of the coastal Tupi in sixteenth-century Brazil. Early trade relations with the French and traditional rivalry with the Tobajara made the Potiguar natural enemies of the Portuguese, who waged a long war against them in the conquest of Paraíba (1574–1599). Defeated, several Potiguar groups were placed in Jesuit missions, while others fought alongside the Portuguese against the Aimoré of southern Bahia and the Tupinambá of Maranhão and Pará. Potiguar factions became deeply involved in the Luso-Dutch War (1645–1654) on both sides, with the native chief Felipe Camarão playing an especially critical role. A few small Potiguar groups, numbering just over 10,000, live today in Paraíba, at Traição Bay. In the twenty-first century the Potiguara were awaiting a federal Supreme Court decision in their struggle for land rights in Monte Mor and Jacaré de São Domingos.

See alsoIndigenous Peoples; Tupi.


John Hemming, Red Gold (1978), provides the most complete account in English. The conquest of Paraíba is chronicled expertly in Frei Vicente Do Salvador, História do Brasil (1627). Charles Ralph Boxer, Salvador da Sá and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola (1992), covers the Luso-Dutch War in detail.

Additional Bibliography

Gurgel, Deífilo. Espaço e tempo do folclore potiguar: Folclore geral, folclore Brasileiro. Natal, Brazil: Governo do Estado do Rio Grande d Norte, Departamento Estadual de Imprensa, 2001.

Maia, Luciano Mariz, and Francisco Moonen, eds. Etnohistória dos índios potiguara. João Pessoa, Brazil: Secretaria da Educação e Cultura do Estado da Paraíba, 1992.

Pinto, Lenine, and Gerardo Pereira. A integração do Rio Grande do Norte e do Amazônas à província do Brasil. Natal, Brazil: RN Econômica, 1998.

                                    John M. Monteiro