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Back to Their Land, Brazilian Indians Don’t Want to Depend on Government

Two weeks ago the Krahô-Kanela people returned to their Mata Alagada land. They are building canvas tents and sowing crops on the banks of the Formoso River, in the municipality of Lagoa da Confusão, state of Tocantins, in northern Brasil.

The Krahô-Kanela took this action because they don’t believe in the promises made by the National Foundation for Indigenous People – Funai, which during a hearing held late in 2005 said that the community would be allowed to return to part of the Mata Alagada land by January 31, 2006.

That’s what says the Committee for the Demarcation of the Mata Alagada land in a note issued on August 9, in which it reports inadequate actions of Funai in the process of demarcating the Krahô-Kanela land and asks the ministry of Justice to speed up the process.

The ministry is now responsible for submitting a request for expropriating the Mata Alagada land to the Office of the President of the Republic for the purpose of creating an indigenous reservation there.

With the support from the Brazilian National Land Reform Institute, Incra, creating an indigenous reservation in the same area where the land claimed by the Krahô-Kanela is located was the solution devised to ensure a land for these people, which for over 30 years have been moving from place to place as pilgrims in search of a place to live.

The Committee which signed the note includes representatives of over two dozen organizations which support the struggle of the Krahô-Kanela.

These people are divided today, with families scattered throughout the state of Tocantins and a group of about 90 people living in a house in the municipality of Gurupi for the past two years without appropriate health or hygiene conditions.

"The Krahô-Kanela people say that they had enough of this neglect and disrespect and that they will now grow their own food in their land. The community does not want to depend on campaigns and on donations of food baskets to survive any longer," the note issued by the Committee adds.

The challenges to be faced by the Krahô-Kanela now include that of implementing a basic infrastructure and health and education policies in the reservation.

"We have more than 25 adolescents and children who have not attended school in the first half of this year. The conditions faced by the community in the land are precarious. It is located at a long distance from any city and we have no infrastructure," said leader Wagner Krahô-Kanela.

According to an agreement signed between Funai and Incra on December 15, 2005, the two farms which were expropriated constitute the first phase of the process of creating the reservation.

"For organizing the rest of the area (…) extraordinary budget funds from Funai should be made available. For this purpose, a request will be submitted to the ministry of Justice," says a document signed between the indigenous people and Funai in 2005 after a meeting attended by leaders of the Krahô-Kanela, representatives of Incra and Funai, and Senator Paulo Paim.

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