Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date





Jeanne de Montlaur

Ph.D., Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies,

University of New Mexico, 2021


This study examines the ethnohistorical and ancestral background of São Paulo, whose origins go back to its pre-conquest first inhabitants, the Tupi people. Early colonial times São Paulo included a majority of Indigenous and dual ethnicity populations, along with a smaller number of Portuguese settlers. This work will have a special focus on the matrilineal characteristics of the São Paulo society, because of the important role played by Paulistana [early São Paulo families and their descendants] Native women ancestors as well as descendants. Despite Native DNA results and genealogical evidence shown by some Paulistano family members, as well as the vast and detailed archival information provided by sixteenth century chronicles and ecclesiastical correspondence, research seemed to be running into obstacles. Among these problems were an apparent unawareness or silencing of ancestral Paulistano colonial times, including ethnic roots and maternal lineage. Other problems included 16th century chronicles, as well as archival and judicial records and anthropological studies which seemed to be missing essential elements or showed bias and misinterpretations. The question was, who were these early colonial maternal ancestors, what was their own ancient heritage, and what was their role at the time and thereafter? What was behind the obstacles in researching this matrilineal ancestry? In response to this, the choice of a conceptual framework was made following Morgan and Reed’s theories of human development and based on a matriarchal system in existence in ancient societies. Through this methodology, it became apparent that elements of Native matrilineality and kinship were still in existence in the Tupi society at the time of Portuguese conquest and remained centuries later, transmitted through the maternal lineage and along with patriarchal factors, through various fluctuations. Textual critical analysis of 16th century primary sources was used, as well as secondary source anthropological and historical studies, which were supplemented by Indigenous written accounts of oral history. This dissertation attempted to revive the memories of some of these maternal ancestors and their Native roots, and to serve as an example of how an ethnohistorical study can be associated with genealogical and DNA data, for researchers with Indigenous ancestry sharing an Iberian colonial past in the Americas, including the state of New Mexico.

Keywords: ethnohistorical study, Tupi people, Indigenous, Paulistano, matrilineal, human development


ethnohistorical, Tupi, Indigenous, Paulistano, matrilineal, human development

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


First Committee Member (Chair)

Holbrook Mahn

Second Committee Member

Gregory Cajete

Third Committee Member

Lucretia Pence

Fourth Committee Member

Yuliana Kenfield

Available for download on Thursday, July 31, 2025