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Brazil’s Tapeba Indians Want Their Land Back

For many years, the Brazilian State claimed that there were no indigenous people in the state of Ceará. During the 1980s, the process of reorganizing the indigenous peoples in this state made society aware of a resistance that had lasted for centuries.

According to the missionary Alexandre Fonseca, who works in the state, official figures indicate that there is a population of 15,000 indigenous people, but Cimi (Indianist Missionary Council) works with estimates of up to 30,000 indigenous people.


They live in settlements and also in urban centers such as Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará state. “In spite of there being a total of 14 peoples, Funai (the National Indigenous Foundation) recognizes only four of the peoples in Ceará,” says Fonseca.


In Ceará, as in all of Brazil, land has been acquired as the result of invasion and resistance.


Four years ago, the Tapeba people reoccupied some land areas in the municipality of Caucaia, where the Lagoa I settlement is situated today.


According to their leaders, in November 2004, a land grabber, who claimed to own the land, appeared together with the Military Police and tried to expel the indigenous people and sell the land, but was not successful.


Reports from indigenous people tell of violence on the part of the Police. 


According to Alexandre Fonseca, this violence was reported by the Tapeba and by the Human Rights Defense Center in the Diocese of Fortaleza.


According to an indigenous woman, Claudênia Silva dos Reis, the courts turned down a petition for a land rights order requested by the farmer.


The land of the Tapeba people was identified in 2004, but this has still not been published in the Diário Oficial (Official Gazette).


Another Tapeba group, from the Trilho settlement, which is also located in the municipality of Caucaia, reoccupied some land areas on November 22.


Elizabete Tapeba, an indigenous teacher, spoke about the organization of her people.


“Our main objective, lately, has been the demarcation of our land,” she says. “We are not taking anything from anybody, we are after our rights, which were the rights of our forefathers and which we are now looking to get back,” she concluded.


Cimi ”“ Indianist Missionary Council
www.cimi.org.br

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