The almost 4,000 Terena people who live in the 2,090 hectares of the Buriti indigenous land, located in the northeastern region of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, live with the stress of imminent eviction from the lands to which they returned in 2001.
The reason is a repossession action for the Buriti indigenous land that had been schedule for March 5. At the request of the Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Campo Grande, the action was suspended by the appeal court judge Ana Maria Pimentel, from the Federal Regional Court.
According to the local press, the mobilization of the police force for the eviction of two indigenous peoples – the Guarani-Kaiowá, in the Nhande Ru Marangatu land, and the Terena people, in the Buriti land – which were scheduled for earlier this month, had a cost of US$ 74,000.
The operation would have involved 160 men from the Federal and Military Police forces, a helicopter, an airplane and fire brigade vehicles.
In its March 8 edition, the Campo Grande-based newspaper Correio do Estado published, in an article entitled “Producers prepare to defend their lands” that “around 1,000 rural producers could be mobilized to expel the indigenous people from seven rural properties in Sidrolândia and Dois Irmãos de Buriti.”
One of the producers is supposed to have said that “the group’s intention is to retake the areas without the support of the police.”
It their struggle for the land, the Terena de Buriti are facing a situation similar to that of the Guarani-Kaiowá: large populations living in small areas, where the search for crop lands has led to a repossession procedures or petitions requesting revision of land boundaries, so that the people can use places that they have traditionally occupied but which remained outside the lands demarcated by the Indigenous People’s Protection Service (SPI) during the first two decades of the twentieth century. At that time, SPI demarcated 10 Terena lands in the region that we now call Mato Grosso do Sul.
The anthropological report dealing with the review of the boundaries of the Buriti lands was concluded in 2001 and identified 17,200 hectares traditionally occupied by the indigenous people.
Farmers contested the process in the courts and a new Working Group was set up under the federal court system in which representatives of the farmers participated in the information collection process.
The second group’s report retained the area identified by the first, but with a 5% reduction, according to information from the Terena de Buriti. Even so, a federal court granted land rights to the farmers.
Rice, corn, cassava and cotton are being cultivated in the repossessed areas of the Buriti indigenous land. The concentration of people in the old areas does not leave any space for plantations beyond the yards of the houses.
A traditionally agricultural people, which survived by working on the cattle ranches that still exist in their region and on their lands, the Terena have adopted a strategy of interacting with non-indigenous people which has included schooling (many of them are at university).
They have also been present in places where public policies concerning the people are formulated or applied, such as in Funai and more recently through the election of Terena councilors, who have been charged with representing the people in the legislative sphere.
How important is the São Francisco river to the indigenous peoples that live on its banks? How will the transposition of this river affect these peoples? What transformations has the river undergone over the last few years? What must be done to guarantee the survival of the indigenous peoples that depend on the river?
These and other questions were discussed at the Meeting of the Riverine Indigenous People of the São Francisco River Basin on March 12 and 13 in the Tuxá indigenous land in Rodelas, state of Bahia.
The meeting, put on by the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo (Apoinme), is aimed at giving the indigenous communities clear details about the São Francisco river transposition project and preparing joint steps to be taken by the indigenous people with respect to the project.
Representative Edson Duarte, from the Green Party, Bahia, and José Augusto Laranjeiras Sampaio, representative of the National Association of Indigenist Action, have been invited to reflect on the indigenous policy.
Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council