Brazilian Indians Sue Government to Get Traditional Land Back

Two lawsuits will reinforce the mobilization of Brazil’s Krahô-Kanela people and their allies, such as the pro-Krahô-Kanela Committee, to pressure the Brazilian National Foundation for Indigenous People (Funai) to make a decision in relation to recognizing the Mata Alagada land, which has been traditionally occupied by the Krahô-Kanela.

The Krahô-Kanela and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) will file suit to pressure Funai to state its position in relation to the demarcation of the Mata Alagada land, located in the municipality of Cristalândia, state of Tocantins.

The decision to sue Funai was announced by the MPF and the Krahô-Kanela during a public hearing held in Palmas, state of Tocantins, on October 28. The federal attorney in Tocantins, Adrian Pereira Ziemba, said during the audience that there is no doubt about the fact that indigenous people have traditionally occupied the Mata Alagada land.

According to him, Funai needs to play the role assigned to it and return to the Krahô-Kanela what belongs to them by right. "The indigenous people did not leave the area because they wanted to, but because they were violently expelled from it," he said.  

The Krahô-Kanela were violently expelled from the lands they occupied in 1984, when the Land Institute of Goiás (Idago) sold their land to Cia. Cervejaria Brahma, a large Brazilian brewer.

The anthropological report on the occupation of the Mata Alagada land by the Krahô-Kanela began to be prepared in October 2003 and was finalized in September 2004. Therefore, it has been ready for more than a year and available to be analyzed by the president of Funai, who must decide to approve or reject it.  

The anthropological study in relation to which Funai’s decision is pending was carried out by a team made up of technical experts from different public agencies and it concluded that the Mata Alagada land has been traditionally occupied by the Krahô-Kanela indigenous people.

Bad Health Conditions

In the public hearing, the indigenous people mentioned that laboratorial tests confirmed that their area is affected by a high rate of contamination by worms as a result of the health conditions they are forced to face: they live in a confined area, without appropriate sanitary conditions, without treated water and with an open-air sewage system.

Amongst the subjects to be addressed during the audience, a request will be made to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) for it to check the health conditions in a house where 96 of the 333 members of the Krahô-Kanela have been living in the past two years, located in the municipality of Gurupi, state of Tocantins.

The group began to live there after a frustrated attempt to reoccupy their lands when they reoccupied the Planeta Farm, located in the Mata Alagada land, and were evicted from it in 2004 by decision of a state court.

Back then, Funai took the commitment to rent a farm where the indigenous people would stay until a final decision was made in relation to the Mata Alagada land. However, no decision has been made so far, and they continue to live in the house.

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

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