Napalm Colonization: Native Peoples in Brazil's Aeronautical Frontiers

Abstract: This article investigates how aviation shaped Brazilian frontier colonization beginning in the 1940s and how Indigenous peoples came to use aviation for their own purposes. Backed by a technocratic ideology, the Getúlio Vargas regime saw aeronautics as a fix for the state's lack of control over the frontiers. Beginning with its March to the West program, the government used aviation to quickly explore and colonize vast territories previously out of its reach. The military radically transformed this method in the 1960s, using napalm and paratroopers to quickly create outposts and settlements. This article introduces the term aeronautical frontier to define unique regions where flying was the primary mode of transportation. While much of the discourse on Indigenous peoples and aviation has focused on defensive reactions to the incoming airplanes, this article shows how Native Brazilians appropriated the technology for their own means, mastering it for their own use in aeronautical frontiers.