When the Portuguese settlers arrived in the south of Bahia, in 1500, the littoral was occupied by the Tupi-Guarani Indians. In Bahia’s seashore lived two big groups of the Tupi nation: the tupiniquins and the tupinambás. The first group inhabited the stretch that goes from Camamu to the state of Espírito Santo. The second group dominated the vast littoral area from Sergipe to Ilhéus. In the interior lived the Aimorés and the Botucudos, who were only known by the Portuguese years later.
Since the beginning, there was a pacific trading relationship between the Indians and the settlers. The Indians supplied food, wood for construction and manpower to cut trees. In exchange, they received tools, clothes and other utensils introduced in their lives when they had contact with the Portuguese.
According to the anthropologist, Maria Hilda Baqueiro Paraíso, as the colonization process advanced, it became more extensive and demanding and the settlers started to change their relationship with the Indians. The attempts to slave the Indians started to become more effective. On the other hand, they provoked the Indians’ reaction, who didn’t accept this new relationship. In the fights against the settlers, the Tupiniquins were exterminated. Allied to ecological and biotic factors, such as smallpox epidemics, this process resulted in the death of two thirds of the indigenous population of the far south of Bahia, in the second half of the 16th century.