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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reveals how the vast waterways of equatorial South America facilitated exploration and inter-ethnic contact that led to conflict as well as cooperation and migration. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Portuguese explorers, slave traders, and missionaries moved progressively upriver, descending natives to missions and settlements. Some Indian and African runaways subsequently escaped to riverine forests to evade exploitation. This chapter presents new evidence showing that runaways to remote tributaries would become the supposedly uncontacted “tribes” of twentieth-century ethnographers. Against the backdrop of the eighteenth-century demarcation of Spanish and Portuguese imperial boundaries, the occupation of geographic and ecological zones defined social and cultural identities.

Keywords: Amazon, riverine environment, ethnogenesis, identity, Indians, migration, slave trade, waterways as borderlands

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