Lack of Land Is Major Reason for High Mortality Among Brazilian Indians

The Brazilian Indianist Missionary Council (CIMI) registered the murders of 38 Indians last year all across Brazil. According to the organization, this is the largest number of Indian homicide victims since 1994, when 45 Indians were murdered in the country.

The tally sheet also includes 29 suicides, 136 deaths for lack of medical assistance, and 44 child malnutrition victims. 241 Indians have suffered violent deaths in Brazil in the last ten years.

Of the 38 murder cases listed in the CIMI’s 2005 report, three were committed by military police and two by landowners. Half were committed by other Indians, in many instances, drunken relatives.

Most of the deaths occurred in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. 26 of the 29 suicides in 2005, for example, occurred in this state. The other three, in the state of Amazonas. 32 of the 44 malnutrition victims were also from Mato Grosso do Sul.

Excessive population in small territories. In the judgment of Marcos Ferreira Lima, an expert in anthropological analysis with the Federal Public Defense Ministry in Dourados (Mato Grosso do Sul), this is a perfect combination for the eruption of conflicts among Indians, which, he says, is the chief problem in the Mato Grosso do Sul region.

"The Indians are packed into small reservations and concentrated areas. Under these conditions, parents have a very hard time seeing to their children’s food requirements, often leading to infant mortality as a result of hunger, diarrhea, or contaminated water," he points out.

He observes that excessive population in small territories also exacerbates ethnic disputes. According to Ferreira Lima, because they are restricted to small reservations,

Indians end up demanding the right to traditionally occupied lands granted to them in the Federal Constitution. "When they do this, they end up conflicting with local power structures," he says.

Agência Brasil

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