Brazil Indians Ready to Die for Land

 Brazil Indians Ready to 
  Die for Land

Despite a judicial
order against Brazil’s Krahô-Kanela Indians
they refuse to leave Mata Alagada, in the state of Tocantins, a
place they consider traditional land. They have occupied the
area and say nothing will make them give up. Said one Indian,
"My mother is 76 and prefers to die in her land than have to leave".

by: Cimi

The substitute federal judge, Wesley Wandim Passos Ferreira de Souza, from
Tocantins state, Brazil, issued a new court order June 16 granting land rights
against the Krahô-Kanela people.

April 14, the judge Agenor
Alexandre da Silva had revoked an earlier court order of his, and transferred
responsibility to the Federal Justice system. June 10, the Krahô-Kanela
returned to their traditional land—Mata Alagada—in the municipality
of Lagoa da Confusão, around 300 kilometers from Palmas, the capital
of Tocantins.

The first court order
was issued on June 11 and the next day the indigenous people took hostage
the two judicial officers who had gone to the area to deliver the court papers.

After some negotiations,
the two men were released June 15 and the Funai administrator in Gurupi, Euclides
Lopes Dias, was held by the indigenous people in their place. After receiving
news that the court order had been revoked, Dias was also set free.

The negotiations were
accompanied by the Superintendent of the Federal Police in Palmas, a representative
from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and institutions that support the indigenous
people and human rights.

The new court order can
be carried out at any time by two judicial officers who will be accompanied
by the Federal and Military Police. The Krahô-Kanela people remain in
the area and steadfastly refuse to leave.

They guarantee that nothing
will make them give up. According to Aldereise Krahô-Kanela, they have
decided to resist, "We will stay here, nobody will leave. My mother is
76 years old and has said that she prefers to die in her land than have to

The government only began
the process of regulating the Krahô-Kanela land last year, when it set
up the Technical Group to draw up a report to define the land and its boundaries.
Until that time, the people had been moving from one place to another since
they were kicked out of their lands in the 1970s.

Tired of all this moving
about, in 2001 the Krahô-Kanela returned to the Mata Alagada land. Four
days later they had to leave because of a land rights court order.

After an agreement involving
The National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform and Funai, around
300 of the people, were confined to a settlement, covering an area of half
a hectare, located around 2 kilometers from their traditional land.

At the end of last year,
they had to leave this settlement and were transferred to a house, in Gurupi,
where the Indigenous People’s Center used to operate. They remained there
until they returned to their land on the 10th.

According to Aldereise,
the people were willing to wait until the identification report had been completed,
but as they had been abandoned and were hungry, they decided to return to
the area. "We suffered a lot, we were hungry and Funai did not look after
us in Gurupi".

When they went back to
the city, once again, the indigenous people’s organization promised to take
good care of the people. Even though they were worried about moving from the
rural area to the city, the Krahô-Kanela believed the promises. "We
were afraid, but believed that what we were promised would really be done,
which never happened".

An Appeal to Justice

For the first time, a
group from the Ugorogmo people, known as the Arara, from the Cachoeira Seca
indigenous land, around 1300 kilometers from Belém, in Pará,
has gone to Brasília. The delegation came to the capital to deliver
a petition to the Minister of Justice in favor of land demarcation.

Commissioned by the elders
to go to Brasília, six young members of the Arara people, on June 16,
delivered to the Advisor to the Minister of Justice, Cláudio Luiz Beirão,
a petition containing 23,000 signatures collected during the campaign for
the demarcation of the Cachoeira Seca indigenous land, which began in December
last year.

Worried about the delay
in demarcating their lands and the increasing number of invaders, the Arara
also had a meeting with Artur Mendes, from Funai’s Department of Land Affairs,
Rolf Hackbart, president of Incra, (The National Institute for Colonization
and Agrarian Reform), members of parliament and attorneys from the 6th Chamber
of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

A study carried out in
1992 showed that there were around 400 families in the area. Nowadays, 12
years later, the land, covering 760,000 hectares, has been invaded by more
than a thousand people, according to Afonso Alves da Cruz, an explorer who
has worked with the Arara since they were first contacted in 1978.

The invaders have built
roads in the land, such as the Bannach Timber Company, which, attracted by
the mahogany, has built a highway to Transiriri, that cuts through the indigenous
land. Others have opened up trails and put up billboards to confirm their
occupation of the land.

The indigenous people
claimed that because of the delays in demarcating the land, they are constantly
threatened and persecuted by the invaders. In 2000, one of the Arara was assassinated
after trying to stop predatory fishing within the land.

Since then, they have
never gone hunting or fishing alone. "Everybody goes out together because
we are afraid to walk about alone. If we meet the white man in the forest
and he kills one of us, who will be there to save him?" said Iaut Arara.

The Arara believe that
the demarcation of the land will give them peace to bring up their families.
They fear that hunting of animals, which are still plentiful, will become
more difficult if the invasions continue. "The forest will end and the
animals will go away. We want demarcation so that we can live in peace".

According to Iaut, the
community is growing. They are now 72, many children are being born and they
are worried about the future of their people. "Where will they plant
seeds? Where will they hunt? That is why we want our land". And he believes
that "with demarcation, they (the invaders) will have to respect our
land, because there it is not theirs".

Cimi is Brazil’s Indianist Missionary Council, an organization linked to
CNBB, National Conference of Brazilian Bishops. You can get in touch with
them by sending an email to

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