During a recent audience with 30 indigenous leaders from Brazil, the Brazilian Minister of Justice, Marcio Thomaz Bastos, pledged to create a National Indigenous Policy Council.
The implementation of a council to define the guidelines of a policy for indigenous peoples with their participation and that of indigenous entities and government representatives is the first of the four main claims of over 700 leaders who last month took part in the National Mobilization for a Free Land at Esplanada dos Ministérios (the square where all ministries are located) in Brasília.
"Only a political pact between the government, society and indigenous people can solve their problems. The Forum in Defense of Indigenous Rights is willing to participate in such a pact and this Council constitutes a first major step toward building it," said Gersen Baniwa, the secretary general of the Coordinating Board of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon Region (Coiab), an indigenous person himself.
During the audience, the indigenous people attending it mentioned the three other claims they have: support from the government to the dismissal of regular and constitutional amendment bills aimed at obstructing or preventing the recognition of indigenous lands; the creation of a system for protecting traditional knowledge and ensuring the right of indigenous peoples to decide on the use of their knowledge and a fair sharing of the benefits derived from biodiversity; and the immediate official confirmation of the bounds of 14 indigenous lands by the Ministry of Justice, as it is taking too long for it to do so.
"These propositions constitute a fundamental path toward a new indigenous policy," agreed the president of Funai, Mercio Pereira Gomes, who also attended the meeting.
During the audience, indigenous leaders made regional claims. Most of them are related to the recognition and official confirmation of the bounds of indigenous lands and the removal of invaders from them.
Thomaz Bastos said that he will analyze the situation of the indigenous lands mentioned by the indigenous people "one by one," but he also mentioned pressures against the demarcation of indigenous lands. "Sometimes, there are problems to be tackled."
"The fact that administrative rulings declaring the bounds of indigenous areas are not being issued as expected leads to violence from invaders of indigenous lands," stressed í‰den Magalhães, the executive secretary of the Indianist Missionary Council (CIMI), to justify how important it is for the Ministry of Justice to issue those rulings.
Chief Marcos Xukuru emphatically mentioned the occurrence of 63 murders of indigenous people over the past two years and blamed them on the lack of a clear policy for demarcating the bounds of indigenous lands and removing invaders from them.
"The sluggishness of the Federal Police in the investigation of these murders also contributes to this situation," he said. "There is a criminalization process which paralyzes the indigenous movement and hinders our struggle."
The representatives from the south region of Brazil requested measures in relation to the intervention of the Federal Police in their lands. Indigenous people from the south stressed the unacceptable long time it is taking for their lands to be recognized, as in the case of the Guarani do Araca'i people in Santa Catarina.
"The argument used by Funai (National Indian Foundation) to justify the non-identification of the lands of the Guarani do Araca'i people is that the minister has not authorized their identification," said Waldemar Kaingang, who also requested the revoking of an administrative ruling, which creates an Interinstitutional Commission to have a say in the recognition of indigenous lands in Santa Catarina.
Speaking on behalf of indigenous people from Brazil's north region, Graça Tapajós recalled the need to define public policies for resistant indigenous people, who have publicly assumed their indigenous identity once again. He also recalled the threats posed by large projects for building roads and dams.
Raposa/Serra do Sol
Also during the audience, indigenous leaders disseminated a note in support of the official confirmation of the bounds of the Raposa-Serra do Sol indigenous land through a decree signed by president Lula on April 15.
"The Federal Administration and the Judiciary Branch can count on the support from all sectors of Brazilian society, which support the cause of indigenous peoples in connection with the official confirmation of the bounds of the Raposa/Serra do Sol indigenous land and will surely ensure the public order in the state of Roraima," the text says.
The document points out the political connections, which exist between farmers who invaded the area, the governor of Roraima, Ottomar Pinto, and various state-level politicians.
"As opposed to what members of the political and economic élite of the state of Roraima are saying, the presence of indigenous lands in its territory will not harm it in any way. What is harmful to Roraima is the historical mismanagement of the state, land grabbing practices, corruption, and scandals such as the one of the 'grasshoppers'," the note mentions.
The indigenous leaders also mentioned the climate of impunity, which prevails in the state, the privileges enjoyed by local groups, which oppose indigenous rights and how indigenous people are being discriminated against, as seen in the official mourning declared by the government of Roraima after the bounds of the land in question were officially confirmed.
"There is a Mafia in the Raposa-Serra do Sol land, which is using some indigenous people for their own purposes," said Jecinaldo Barbosa Cabral Saterê-Mawé, general coordinator of the Coordinating Board of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon Region (Coiab), when a journalist asked him about the alleged support given by some indigenous people to farmers who invaded the indigenous land.
He stressed the fact that minister Márcio Thomaz Bastos reaffirmed the commitment of the government to maintain the official confirmation of the bounds of Raposa-Serra do Sol as a continuous area.
Indigenous people belonging to 89 peoples coming from all regions of the Brazuk gathered at Esplanada dos Ministérios in Brasília in the "Free Land" camp. Tents of straw, canvas and bamboo in all shapes and sizes were set up in the form of a "u".
A true "village" was set up on the lawn in front of the National Congress, and every afternoon at around 3:00 p.m. indigenous leaders held plenary meetings there to discuss the four claims they defined at the Forum in Defense of Indigenous Rights (FDDPI).
The first discussion was on procedures to legalize indigenous lands. They also talked about the regular and constitutional amendment bills, which threaten indigenous rights in the National Congress and they discussed details of a proposal of the Forum in Defense of Indigenous Rights for the creation of a National Indigenous Policy Council.
Cimi - Indianist Missionary Council - www.cimi.org.br