The Indigenous peoples in Brazil comprise a large number of distinct ethnic groups who inhabited the country prior to the European invasion around 1500. Unlike Cristóvão Colombo, who thought he had reached the East Indies, the Portuguese, most notably Vasco da Gama, had already reached India via the Indian Ocean route when they reached Brazil.
Nevertheless the word índios (“Indians”) was by then established to designate the people of the New World and stuck being used today in the Portuguese language to designate these peoples, while the people of India, Asia are called indianos in order to distinguish the two people.
At the time of European discovery, some of the indigenous peoples were traditionally mostly semi-nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and migrant agriculture. Many of the estimated 2,000 nations and tribes which existed in the 16th century died out as a consequence of the European settlement, and many were assimilated into the Brazilian population.
Brazilian Indigenous people have made substantial and pervasive contributions to the world’s medicine with knowledge used today by pharmaceutical corporations, material and cultural development—such as the domestication of cassava and other natural foods.