Pedro Alvares Cabral, after his discovery of Brazil in 1500, with native Indians.
Looking into the religious history of Brazil it is quickly found that the most defining religious institution of the colonial period was the Jesuit order. Although they were not the only representatives of the Christian clergy, their hands were far reaching, having more impact than others. The Jesuits were drawn to the Portuguese territory because of the large number of native populations harbored there. This native population soon became one if the first major challenges they faced within Brazil, the Indians conversion to Christianity.
Jesuits preaching to native Indians in 1600s.
They took on this challenge by gathering the natives into villages, or aldeias, where they could be easily watched and taught. Through the aldeias system the natives were taught, cared for, and Christianized by the Jesuit priests. However it is also believed that these native villages later allowed for their exploitation. This is because under the Jesuit control the Indians were made to act and worship like Europeans, even contributing to their economy through their laborious work. Consequently the Indians participating in this system were brought under the control of the Portuguese empire by the Jesuit missionaries.