Soy Interests in Brazil Make Demarcation of Indian Land Difficult

Leaders of the Enawenê-Nawê, Irantxe (Manuke) and Kayabi peoples, who live in the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, went to BrasÀ­lia, the Brazilian capital, to claim back their traditional lands and prevent the accelerated illegal clearing process for selling timber, raising cattle and planting soybeans that is affecting them.

This destruction also affects the springs of the rivers from which the indigenous people take their food.


The clearing exposed by the leaders – who have brought maps with them showing the growth of illegal activities – is proven by the numbers of trees felled in the Amazon forest announced by the National Institute for Space Research – INPE.


The Amazon region lost 26,130 square kilometers in 2003 and 2004, and Mato Grosso was responsible for 48.1% of the total amount of clearing.


The difficulties for the recognition of the indigenous lands involve national political issues.


The Governor of Mato Grosso, Blairo Maggi (PPS), is part of the group allied to the federal government and a member of the same party as the president of Funai, Mercio Pereira Gomes.


In 2003, the governor asked the federal government to suspend the demarcation of indigenous lands in the state for two years.


The power of the pressure that the ranchers in Mato Grosso can bring to bear on the federal authorities in something that is well known in Brazil.


Furthermore, Maggi is one of the largest producers of de soy in the world, and the Lula government, which is interested in keeping the balance of trade positive at any cost, is still defending agribusiness.


The Enawenê-Nawê people demand the start of the review of their land boundaries. A work group was being set up to carry out the anthropological studies, but the process was interrupted by the National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai), which is following a decision not to proceed with boundary review processes.


The Irantxe and Kayabi lands, which are on the list of those that have already been identified by the Foundation, arrived at the Ministry of Justice and were returned to Funai without any further explanation.


“If the process grinds to a halt, the environmental impact will be greater, and the timber clearing and the land-grabbers will advance further. The pastures are where there are ceramic works and where our cemeteries are”, said Raimundo Jywy, of the Kayabi people. 


The Public Prosecutor’s Office has asked the Ministry of Justice to justify the return of the anthropological reports of the Irantxe (who call themselves the Manuke) and Kaiabi peoples and asked for urgent steps to be taken concerning the clearing in the three areas. Funai has also promised to coordinate with environmental to repress this clearing.


June 1st, the House of Deputies Human Rights Committee approved the holding of a public hearing to get a position from the Ministry of Justice, Funai and organizations such as the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), which is responsible for looking after the environment.


This hearing should take place in August. Deputies Eduardo Valverde (PT-RO) and Iriny Lopes (PT-ES) issued the request, after a meeting with the indigenous people.


The Enawenê-Nawê


The Enawenê-Nawê are a people that have only recently been contacted. There was a population of 97 people when they were contacted, in 1974. Now, there are 430.


This people demand inclusion of the Rio Preto region, which fell outside the ratified area in 1996, in their territory.


Last year, Funai issued a public notice which gave information about the hiring of third parties to carry out the study. However, the process has been suspended.


On May 31, the NGO Survival International sent a letter to the Brazilian government asking for measures to be taken regarding this people.


They state in the letter that: “Survival has received very worrying reports describing how the rivers of the Rio Preto [region], which are crucial to the subsistence of this fish-eating people, are being polluted. This is poisoning the waters that they drink and the fish stocks.


“Traditionally, the Enawenê-Nawê have lived off fishing, growing corn and gathering nuts and have built their communal houses in the Rio Preto area. Besides this, this region is of an enormous spiritual significance to them. The indigenous people are also being intimidated by ranchers who have, on several occasions, burnt down their communal houses.”


Cimi – Indianist Missionary Council – www.cimi.org.br

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