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Government’s Conference on Indians Has No Legitimacy, Say Brazilian Indians

The 550 indigenous leaders gathered in the 2006 Acampamento Terra Livre (Free Land Camp) that was held during the first week of April in BrasÀ­lia, capital of Brazil, expressed their position on the National Conference of Indigenous Peoples organized by Funai (National Foundation for Indigenous People), which also happened in BrasÀ­lia in April.

One of the conclusions of the camp is that after three years under the Lula administration and despite the tools proposed during the presidential campaign for building an indigenous policy with the participation of indigenous peoples and of the indigenous and indigenist movement, this federal administration has not yet implemented necessary changes in the paths of the indigenous policy.

And the National Conference sponsored by Funai will not be the tool to change this policy, considering the way it was built. "Indigenous movements have not been invited to participate in building this Conference at any moment," said Ilton Tuxá, coordinator of Apoinme (Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espí­rito Santo).

Indigenous and indigenist movements complain that the topics and participants in the regional conferences held in preparation for the national conference were defined in a centralized manner by the National Foundation for Indigenous People.

It was the president of Funai who called the regional conferences, defined their agenda and how the topics chosen by him were to be discussed and set the criteria for electing representatives to attend them without discussing these matters with indigenous peoples and organizations beforehand, disregarding all the names suggested by the indigenous movement, which has been fighting to create participation channels for indigenous peoples and their representative organizations in the construction of public policies voted on by their peoples. The few invitations for participating in preparatory processes were only made after all topics had been defined.

"The indigenous policy adopted by this federal administration is outdated, tutelary and officialist, and it is based on the assumption that the interests of indigenous peoples are the same as those of Funai, as if the agency and the indigenous policy had the same purposes.

"An example of how this policy works could be seen during the organization of the regional preparatory conferences and in the people invited to attend these conferences, in which discussions were only meant to meet the interests of Funai," said the participants in the 3rd Free Land Camp held during the first week of April in Brasí­lia, in a motion on the Conference.

"For this reason, we do not recognize the legitimacy of this Conference to propose an indigenous policy that will only reinforce tutelage and the tutoring agency or even take advantage of the conference to legitimize solutions to crucial issues for indigenous peoples through bills that are not passed by Congress under the Statute of Indigenous Peoples which is being analyzed by it," they added. 

The way this Conference was organized is even in tune with recent decisions made by the federal administration, which on May 23, after over one year of pressures from the indigenous movement, established the National Commission for the Indigenous Policy, which will be in charge, among other things, of "following up on and collaborating in the organization of the 1st National Conference on the Indigenous Policy." A conference which still to be built with the equal participation of indigenous peoples and representatives of the Brazilian State.

Lack of Dialogue

The first regional conference held by Funai in Maceió, state of Alagoas, in December 2004, gathered indigenous people from the northeast region and the states of Minas Gerais and Espí­rito Santo.

Although its participants came from an area covered by the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Northeast Region, Minas Gerais and Espí­rito Santo (Apoinme), the regional conference did not involve the indigenous movement of the region. The 190 indigenous leaders assigned to attend it were suggested by regional offices of the agency.

The holding of a conference attended by indigenous people invited and chosen by regional managers of Funai marked this meeting and the following ones.

In relation to the procedures adopted for holding the conferences, indigenous entities and people criticized the fact that only after the third conference was held, nine months after the first one, the president of Funai issued, through Funai’s Administrative Ruling n. 1,092, dated September 20, 2005, the rules for the Regional Conferences of Indigenous Peoples. According to those rules, this would be the preparatory stage for the National Conference of Indigenous Peoples.

The president of Funai issued another administrative ruling, n. 025, dated September 4, 2005, approving the internal rules of the Regional Conference of Indigenous Peoples of the states of Amazonas and Roraima. This administrative ruling was aimed at bringing the government closer to the indigenous movement, especially to the managers of the Coordinating Board of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon Region (Coiab). 

Of the nine conferences that have been held so far, Coiab only managed to establish a channel for discussions with the directors of Funai and to ensure the inclusion of topics of its interests for discussion at the one held in Manaus.

Nevertheless, Coiab has been complaining against how the debates were organized, as more time was set apart for lectures than for discussions. The indigenous organization also complained that it has had no access to the transcriptions of the discussions held during the conference.

Cimi – www.cimi.com.br

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