Indigenous People detained for promoting culture to tourists

by January 25, 2008
 

On Saturday, January 12, seven indigenous people from Raposa Serra do Sol land were detained and abused by Brazil's Federal Police after inspecting and promoting cultural awareness among tourists at Caracaranã Lake, an area that's frequently promoted in tourist packages.

According to a recent statement by CIMI, the "tourists leave a lot of garbage, offend indigenous people who live there, play music at maximum volume until late at night and bring and consume alcoholic beverages inside indigenous areas. For this reason, indigenous communities decided to promote awareness among these tourists. Some “tourists” were angry because of this initiative, which led to arguments."

As it went, some of the tourists made some complaints which, in turn, drew out teams from the Military, Highway and Federal Police. By the time the teams arrived the group had already finished their awareness-raising action and were headed back home--but they returned to speak with the officers about what happened.

The group was then frisked and arbitrarily taken to Boa Vista, the capital of the state to "testify" about the earlier incident. According to chief Clodomir Malheiros, while en route to the police station, the group was abused, threatened and beaten. "They were also ridiculed for being indigenous people, for wearing clothes and for driving cars. Chief Clodomir was accused of carrying ammunition and was arrested." Fortunately he was released the next day.

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This is not the end of it though, because the Raposa Serra do Sol happens to be demarcated land, protected land on which there should be no non-indigenous people.

According to Survival International
, this has been the case since April 15th, 2005, when "Brazil's President signed into law the ratification (legal protection) of [the Makuxi's] land, a spectacular area of savannahs, mountains and waterfalls. The territory, called Raposa-Serra do Sol, had been the object of a sustained and violent campaign by local ranchers and settlers to stop the Indians winning it back. Over twenty Indians had been killed and hundreds injured during the Indians' tireless struggle to reclaim their ancestral land. Ranchers and rice growers now have to leave the territory and will receive compensation from the government."

CIMI's statement continues, "Joênia Wapichana, a lawyer for the Indigenous Council of the state of Roraima (CIR), stated that the Federal Government should be held accountable for this conflict in the Lake Caracaranã and for the overall tension in the region of the Raposa Serra do Sol land, because it has failed to remove non-indigenous occupants from the indigenous land."

It is unclear whether or not the Makuxi will pursue legal action. By the looks of things, they really don't mind the tourists, providing they act with respect.

More Land Demarcated, but Does it Matter?

In related news, just a few days ago a Federal Court determined the lands belonging to the Apolima-Arara people in the state of Acre is to be demarcated. According to the decision, all non-indigenous people currently living on the land must be resettled within the next 90 days. The court followed this by setting "a daily fine of R$2,000 for as long as its decision is not complied with. In the coming weeks, representatives of Funai in Brasília will travel to the area near the Amônia river to meet with non-indigenous occupants and with public officials from the region to discuss the removal of the non-indigenous occupants from the indigenous area."

One has to really wonder if this is going to be seen through the end though? And if it will, then how long it will last? If the situation with the Makuxi is any indication, I guess not very long at all.

There's more information available about both stories at the CIMI website. If you'd like to learn more about the Makuxi, head over to this page on Survival International