A Brazilian Federal Court in Mato Grosso do Sul reached a verdict which granted ranchers control of lands traditionally occupied by the Terena people, in the Dois Irmãos do Buriti and Sidrolândia region.
The decision, announced on October 8, is based on the assumption that the indigenous people have not traditionally occupied the lands, because they are part of an extinct village.
The judge of the 3rd Federal Jurisdiction in Mato Grosso do Sul, Odilon de Oliveira, did not accept the argument presented by the indigenous people and by the Public Prosecutor’s Office that the village only became extinct because the Terena were thrown off their lands and confined to small reservations in a process that has been in progress since the start of the 20th century.
Manoelito Pereira, leader of the Córrego do Meio village, said that “the decision saddened us greatly because the anthropologists who carried out the research came down in favor of the indigenous people, but the judge decided against us.”
In his decision, the judge claims “the documents do not show any concrete evidence, but only indications or vague reports of the indigenous people having been driven away from the disputed areas by means of physical threats or violence.
“It is also true that after settling in the 2,090 hectares referred to [in the Buriti indigenous land], they began to live peacefully with the owners and worked for them until recently, when they decided to use violence and invade the lands in dispute, driving the ranchers away.”
The judge also argues that “the indigenous people themselves say that there were no stones left standing, because over the decades the environment had been adapted to suit the activities of the white man.”
There was, therefore, nowhere to fish, hunt or plant food. “We are dealing with a village that has been extinct for almost a century, and with irreversibly altered conditions that are no good to the indigenous people.”
According to Manoelito, in the areas reoccupied in 2000, the Terena grow rice, corn, manioc and beans, which are the basic items for their subsistence.
Since these lands were reoccupied, the people have been campaigning to have the boundaries of the Buriti indigenous land revised to cover around 17,000 hectares.
In 2003, a Technical Group (GT) set up by Funai identified the land claimed by the Terena as indigenous land.
The same judge declared the report of the working group void and asked for a new study in November 2003, setting a deadline of 120 days for it to be concluded.
The anthropologists designated by the Federal Court once again recognized that the land was indigenous and, in spite of this, the verdict now passed grants the land to the ranchers.
Cimi ”“ Indianist Missionary Council
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