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The Tupi were the dominant people of the region that is today Brazil. They occupied vast tracts of territory, hugging the eastern coast of the South American continent, with settlements along the Amazon River and as far inland as modern Paraguay. Tupi society consisted of a series of culturally and religiously related tribal families, which migrated along the coasts and rainforests as their food needs required.
While the Tupi economy benefited from brisk trade with other tribes, the Tupi were feared by many for their skills in combat. Armed with blowguns, bolas and all manner of bludgeoning instruments, Tupi warriors would often overwhelm their foes, taking captives to be cannibalized or to be used in religious rituals. Because of their practice of cannibalism, the Tupi were often confused with their neighbors, the Aimore, who practiced cannibalism as a form of sustenance. The Tupi, on the other hand, performed cannibalistic acts only as a form of revenge against those who had wronged members of their people.
With the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500, it affected the Tupi way of life surprisingly little - at first . The Tupi found the Portuguese excellent trading partners. Unfortunately, the Tupi soon discovered that the Portuguese brought with them diseases they had never before experienced. In addition, in their search for gold on the continent, the Portuguese soon led raiding parties against Tupi settlements in order to acquire slaves to work in the mines.
While some Tupi mounted a defense against Portuguese incursions, many chose to flee into the forest, where the dense foliage could protect them from the Europeans. They could not, however, escape the disease the Europeans brought with them and over the next century, the Tupi, once numbering in the millions, were nearly obliterated. Today, Tupi settlements can still be found nestled deep within the reaches of the Amazon, but their numbers barely reach a fraction of their former grandeur.