Around 200 indigenous leaders from 16 peoples from all of Brazil met September 15 to articulate their demands with a view to submitting them to representatives of federal authorities at a collective meeting in BrasÀlia.
The need for the peoples to join forces to confront the difficult period which the indigenous people’s struggle is going through was one of the points repeatedly mentioned in the leaders’ speeches.
“The tears of one relative have to be the reason for the resistance of the other,” said the deputy chief Wellington Tapuia, from Goiás.
The main subject of the meeting ”“ which began with exhibitions showing the position of the indigenous people’s struggle in Brazil ”“ was the behavior of the Lula administration in land demarcation processes.
“The government has used the executive, legislative and judiciary branches to weaken the struggle of indigenous people. It has managed to reduce lands and push back deadlines for publishing land identifications. They want to tire us to death,” stated Julio José de Souza Makuxi, from the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR).
Contrary to the initial expectation of seeing stronger indigenous policies in place to meet the demands of indigenous people, the government has militarized the issue and has been dealing with as a matter of national security.
Especially after it strengthened the Institutional Security Cabinet and the Foreign Relations and National Defense Chamber (Creden), which has been in charge of formulating the country’s indigenous policy since May 2004.
Congress has again started to discuss projects that will exclude border areas from indigenous lands and which, furthermore, stimulate the creation of population centers in these places.
The government claims that, at the end of its mandate, all the lands will be demarcated. Saulo Feitosa, vice president of Cimi (Indianist Missionary Council), has pointed out that the last official document about the number of indigenous lands in the country contained 19 lands fewer than the previous document.
He also said that very few new work groups had been set up to identify lands and that the 33 ratifications carried out by President Lula had been of lands whose processes had been concluded during the administration of his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
District Attorney Déborah Duprat remembered the speech given by employees of the National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai) published in a newspaper in Brasília (Correio Braziliense, 1 September 2004), in which an old director of Funai and the current president contest the legitimacy of communities who have only reappeared recently and call themselves indigenous.
“This attitude is in conflict with ILO Convention 169, which states that indigenous people are those who can identify themselves as such, and recognizes that ethnic groups, which have been hidden, will emerge all over the world, especially in Latin America, for a long time. Funai employees cannot assume this position,” claims Duprat.
Delegations of indigenous people are common in Brasília, since a large part of the issues involving education, health and lands are federal responsibility.
What is new, however, is the fact that these delegations have decided to make their claims together. This decision was taken to search for faster, more effective answers to the claims, which have, in the majority of cases, been dragging on for decades.
Amongst the main subjects in need to be addressed are the demarcation processes for the Pataxó (Monte Pascoal – Bahia), Guarani and Terena (La Lima and Cachoeirinha – Mato Grosso do Sul), Raposa/Serra do Sol (Roraima), Guajajara (Maranhão), Kalankó, Karuazu, Katokim and Koiupanká (Alagoas); Krahô-Kanela, Javaé and Karajá (Tocantins) and Tapuia (Goiás) lands.
The presence of large farms in indigenous lands, especially those of soybean producers in the mid-west region, the construction of the Araguaia-Tocantins Waterway and the overlapping of the Javaé and Karajá lands with The Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) conservation units on Bananal Island, were other issues raised.
The delicate situation of the last 6 Avá-Canoeiro – who, at the time Furnas was constructed, came to a mitigation agreement which has not been followed; the issue of the transfer of water from the Tocantins river to the São Francisco river; highways that run through indigenous lands; and the Sustainable Amazon Region Plan, were also mentioned.
A report on the situation of the Krahô-Kanela, a people from Tocantins, who have been living in a Funai house for nine months waiting for replies from this indigenous people’s institution concerning the demarcation of their lands, will be presented.
The meetings are supported by the Forum for the Defense of Indigenous People’s Rights, made up of indigenous and indianist organizations, including the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab), the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), the Pro-Yanomami Commission, the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), the Indigenous People’s Labor Center (CTI), the Brazilian Anthropological Association (ABA), the Indianist Missionary Council (Cimi), the Parliamentary Front for the Defense of Indigenous People’s Rights and the 6th Chamber of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.Cimi ”“ Indianist Missionary Council