XXI Century Potiguaras

The Potiguara of the XXI century have their feet grounded in the present, yet the movement of rescue of their culture, so strong in the past, is a fundamental step for the current and future generations to affirm their identity. The indigenous schools have been revolutionizing this process.

Since 2002, the thirty-two villages have units of elementary school with bilingual teachers, and four of them (São Francisco, Monte-Mor, Três Rios and Acajutibiró) also receive high school students.

Along these fourteen years a lot has changed. Tupi language, once unconsciously appeared in loose and sparse word in the middle of sentences, in Portuguese, little by little, resurfaces on the people’s mouth.

“On the beginning, there was no demand. Today, there a lack of teachers. Many want to participate on the Toré ritual, including adults. It is the strengthening of our culture”, said the professor Josafá Freire, Potiguara of gem and coordinator of the project in the entire Reserve.

Classes, besides the regular content of any other school in Brazil, teach Tupi’s grammar, ethnicity history, art and Potiguara culture.

The Sacred Ritual

The Toré is an Brazillian Northeast Indian sacred ritual que endured to everyone and everything. Not even hundreds of years and long acculturation processes were capable of undermine the cult that essentially lies in the Potiguara warrior spirit.

The closed ceremony is a celebration to the identity and union of the villages and occurs on different occasions. Celebrate harvest day, a conquest, for instance the demarcation and homologation of their lands or, even, honors in grief days.

In the past, battles won by the Potiguara against the Portuguese were always celebrated with the Toré.

The rite is danced over three overlapped circles. On the first circle, formed by children and adolescents, lie the bombo players (drum), the harmonica (flute made of bamboo) and the snare; the second ring is composed by the leaderships (chiefs and witchdoctors); on the larger arc the adults dance, always in circular movements, clockwise.


The Potiguara painting is of the most representative cultural expressions. Used during the Toré ritual, it is the purest tradition of the indigenous ancestors.

The urucum reproduces the red blood and the strength of the warriors. To retrieve the seed is simples. The seed is opened, then, with bare hands, the natives paint their faces.

The black color of jenipapo evokes Mother Earth, source of energy. Its extraction is more complex, it takes three days where it is needed to stir the broth the fruit’s scrapings, every two hours, until reaches the right tone and texture.

On Indian Day, April 19, a great Toré is performed, open to public, at the São Francisco village.


The Potiguara Reserve has 33,757 hectares (Potiguara Indigenous Land – 21,238 hectares; Jacaré de São Domingos TI – 5,032 há; and Potiguara of Monte-Mor TI – 7,487), divided in three adjacent areas, on the Baía da Traição, Rio Tinto and Marcação Counties.

Its population is estimated to be twenty thousand, divided in 32 villages and town of Baía da Traição, Marcação and Rio Tinto.

Every village has one chief. The reserve, in its whole, is ran by a General Chief.

The Potiguara develop subsistence agriculture and cultures like corn, beans, manioc, cassava, yam; artisanal fishing, both in the sea and mangroves; plant extraction of mangaba, dendê, cashew and batiputá; raising chicks, ducks, goats, cattle and horses. Community based tourism is incipient, but deserves special attention for being a form for the indigenous population to have control on the economic development, since the benefits remain inside the village.

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