Last night, during Brazil’s Regional Confederation of Indigenous Nations, in Dourados, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the Guarani-Kaiowá Indians commemorated with songs and dances the final confirmation of the demarcation of their lands.
Since 1998 they had been demanding the demarcation of the Nhanderu Marangatu territory, which was homologated on Tuesday, March 29, by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“It is a joy to be gaining this land,” says Leia Aquino Pedro, a teacher at the Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous school.
For the Indians, this means a victory but not the end of the struggle for their rights. The lands are still occupied by farmers.
“It will still be a fight for us to remove these people, and I don’t even know how to go about getting them to leave right away ,” the teacher points out.
According to the regional coordinator of the Indianist Missionary Council (CIMI) in Mato Grosso do Sul, Egon Heck, the land is occupied by three farms that belong to a single family and there is a possibility that “conflicts will increase in the region, since the Indians now feel they have the right” to enter the area.
To remove the farmers, it is first necessary for them to receive compensation, and no date has been set for this. The National Indian Foundation (Funai) is the government organ responsible for figuring the amount to be paid.
For the schoolteacher, Leia Aquino Pedro, all the other problems, in the areas of education and health, stem from the lack of land.
“Without land, families lack means to provide for their children the way they should.”
In the future, she added, “we can plant and have our own means of subsistence within the village, without needing the basic food baskets that the government gives us, since we depend upon them now. So, our children will no longer go hungry.”
The Guarani-Kaiowá are preparing a statute with the government policies they judge to be essential for the indigenous communities. The document should be ready for the National Conference of Indigenous Nations scheduled for April, 2006.
“For our autonomy, our rights need to be respected,” the teacher underscored.
The territory that was demarcated encompasses 9,317 hectares in the municipality of Antônio João, 450 kilometers southwest of the state capital, Campo Grande.
Over 500 Guarani-Kaiowá Indians currently live on slightly over 100 of the 9.3 thousand hectares that comprise the Nhanderu Marangatu area.
Translation: David Silberstein