Tupinambá: The Return of the Land
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Tupinambá: The Return of the Land

A new documentary about the Tupinambá's efforts to recover their traditional territory
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John Ahni Schertow
May 23, 2015
 

Tupinambá: The Return of the Land is a new documentary film that hones in on the Tupinambá’s ongoing struggle to attain official recognition of their ancestral territory in what is now southern Bahia, Brazil.

Comprised of archival footage and testimony from the Tupinambá de Olivença Indigenous Territory, the film tells the story of Tupinambá dispossession and resistance – a journey that is inextricably linked to the advance of Brazil’s agricultural frontier at the end of the 19th century, the rise of the cocoa colonels and the recognition of indigenous territorial rights by Brazil’s 1988 Constitution.

Guided by unflinching reverence for Encantados (Ancestral Spirits) – to whom all Tupinambá land belongs – the Tupinambá collectively mobilized to recover their lands using a process known as “retomadas de terras”. Through this process, the Tupinambá have been able to retrieve considerable portions of their territory. However, as much as the Tupinambá have gained, without official recognition or even a modicum of respect from the Brazilian state and others opposed to the demarcation (recognition) of their lands, the Tupinambá have been met with intimidation, torture, incarceration, and other acts of violence.

As noted in the following Chronology of violence suffered by the Tupinambá Peoples: In 2010, Chief Babau (Rosivaldo Ferreira da Silva) was imprisoned in a maximum security penitentiary for five months. During that same year, another leader, along with her baby, was imprisoned for two months. In 2009, federal police officers tortured five people with electric shocks and, in 2011, an Indigenous man had his leg amputated after being targeted by a plainclothes officer.

In 2014, a military base was installed in Tupinambá territory. About 500 army soldiers were moved to the area. Since then, the Tupinambá people have reported being subjected to threats and acts of violence carried out by law enforcement officials. Furthermore, the Tupinambá have been subjected to repeated acts of violence from farmers and others opposed to the demarcation (recognition) of their lands. Several cases have been recorded since August 2013.

Despite the horrendous record of abuse, the Tupinambá remain committed to the path of their ancestors. For the sake of future generations, they will continue to pressure the Brazilian state to fulfill its constitutional duty by recognizing their most basic right: their right to land.

Chronology of violence suffered by the Tupinambá Peoples

What follows is an updated chronological list of the violence suffered by the Tupinambá over the past seven years – by both the state and private agents

April 17, 2008

First arrest of Cacique Babau accused of leading the community demonstration against the misuse of federal funds designated for health care. The Cacique was in Salvador at the time of the demonstrations.

October 23, 2008

Attack of the FP in the village of Serra do Padeiro, with more than 130 agents, 2 helicopters and 30 vehicles – to carry out court orders suspended in the Regional Federal Court (TRF) of the 1st Region, resulting in 22 injuries to indigenous persons by rubber bullets and poisoning from gas canisters, destruction of homes, community vehicles, school foods and equipment.

May 27, 2009

Preventive arrest of the brother of Cacique Babau for driving a FUNASA car carrying groceries. Appeals Court Judge Cândido Ribeiro, of the TRF of the 1st Region, found no justification in the arrest order of Federal Court of Ilheus.

June 2, 2009

Five persons were captured and tortured by agents of the Federal Police who used pepper spray, punches, kicks, blindfolds, swearing and electric shock. The results by the IML/DF (Medical Forensics Institute of the Federal District of Brasilia) confirmed torture, but an inquiry concluded otherwise.

March 10, 2010

Cacique Babau is arrested, in the middle of the night, during a home invasion by the Federal Police. According to the agents, the arrest was carried out at a time permitted by law. This proved to be false.

March 20, 2010

Preventive arrest of the brother of Cacique Babau, by Federal Police agents on a public thoroughfare, while taking a vehicle for community use of the village for repair.

April 16, 2010

Babau and his brother are transferred to the maximum security penitentiary in Mossoró (Rio Negro), for Federal Police fear of demonstrations against his incarceration in Salvador on “Indian Day”, in violation of the Indian Statute.

June 3, 2010

Babau’s sister and her two month old baby are arrested on the runway of the Ilheus airport by the Federal Police, upon return from an audience with President Lula, in the National Commission on Indigenous Policy, by decision of the district judge of Buerarema. They remain imprisoned in Jequié for two months, despite the judge himself having decided to revoke the arrest warrant.

April 5, 2011

Estanislau Luiz Cunha and Nerivaldo Nascimento Silva were arrested in a situation of entrapment (“flagrante preparado”) – a practice deemed illegal – in a sandpit exploited by companies, within the Tupinambá Indigenous Land. Accusations based on mere allegations of crimes of “extortion” by Federal Police, Estanislau – who was taking prescription drugs – and Nerivaldo – who had to have his right leg amputated, after being shot by Federal Police – are still respondents to “attempted murder” against federal police officers. Coincidentally, the action was taken on the eve of the arrival of the Secretary of Justice of the State of Bahia, to the region. After two and a half months in jail, the Federal Regional Court of the 1st Region granted their freedom by 3 x 0 in a judgment of habeas corpus, on June 20.

February 3, 2011

Arrest of Cacique Maria Valdelice, after providing deposition to the Federal Police in Ilhéus, pursuant to the Arrest Warrant issued by Federal Judge Alberto Pedro Calmon Holliday, accused of “disseisin/trespass” (esbulho possessório), “formation of criminal conspiracy or gang” and “arbitrary exercise of their own reasons”, (“exercício arbitrário das próprias razões”). The Cacique was released at the end of June, after serving four months under house arrest.

April 14, 2011

At approximately 5am, heavily armed with a warrant for search and seizure, a number of Federal Police agents ransacked the residence of Cacique Valdelice, terrorizing the entire family – especially many of the grandchildren of the Cacique. In Salvador, the “Tupinambá Commission” arrived for meetings with local authorities of the CDDPH (Commission on the Rights of the Human Person).

April 15, 2011

Heavily armed, the Federal Police accompany court officials sent to carry out a repossession expulsion. Indigenous Peoples and FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) had not received prior notification of the action, which was noted by members of the CDDPH, who testified to the lack of preparation by the agents and the presence of alleged fazenda (plantation) title holders that incited the authorities against the Indigenous Peoples.

April 28, 2011

The Federal Police initiate an inquiry, requiring the federal prosecutor from the Office of the Attorney General (AGU) and FUNAI staff to provide evidence into denunciation of alleged “coercion” against businesswoman Linda Souza, responsible for the operation of a sand pit, situated on the Tupinambá land.

April 29, 2011

Arrest of Cacique Gildo Amaral, Mauricio Souza Borges and Rubenildo Santos Souza, three days before the delegation composed of federal representatives of the CDHM and members of the CDDPH/SDH again visit the Indigenous Ppeoples of the region because of the violence that continues to be reported.

July 5, 2011

Five Tupinambá are arrested by Federal Police on charges of “obstruction of justice” and “arbitrary exercise of their own reasons”, “criminal conspiracy” and “disseisin/trespass”.

October 18, 2012

In the Forum of Itabuna (BA), five Tupinambá, victims of torture committed by federal police, provide testimony to the Federal Judge in the Public Civil Action for Collective and Individual Moral Damage brought by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) of Bahia against the Federal Government (União). Prosecutors also opened an inquiry to determine those responsible for the torture, attested to and confirmed by the reports of the Medical Forensics Institute (IML-Instituto Médico Legal).

August 14, 2013

Students from the Indigenous Tupinambá State School of Serra do Padeiro were victims of ambush on the road that links Buerarema with Vila Brasil. The attack occurred when the truck that transports students from the night classes to their localities was surprised by several gunshots coming from a man standing atop an embankment. The shots were directed at the cab of the vehicle, in an obvious attempt to shoot the driver, who the shooter obviously believed to be Gil, brother of Cacique Babau, because the vehicle belonged to him. The vehicle was being driven by Luciano Tupinambá.

August 26, 2013

In the municipality of Buerarema, contiguous to the Tupinambá traditional territory, violence was promoted by groups linked to the invaders of the Tupinambá land. Indigenous persons were robbed on their way to a fair and 28 houses had been burned by early 2014. The indigenous health care service was suspended and a car of the Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health (SESAI) was burned.

November 8, 2013

Aurino Santos Calazans, 31 years old, Agenor de Souza Júnior, 30 years old, and Ademilson Vieira dos Santos, 36 years old, were executed in an ambush while returning from the community of Cajueiro, at approximately 18:00, in the southern portion of the Tupinambá territory, when they were ambushed by six men. The indigenous persons were shot. The assassins then tortured them, the bodies were lacerated by machete cuts in what is called in the region a “stingray-tail whipping”. Federal prosecutors point to the murders as part of the land conflict.

January 28, 2014

After carrying out the repossession of two fazendas (plantations) located in Serra do Padeiro, in the municipality of Ilhéus, in Bahia, Federal Police and the National Police Force set up a base in the offices of the fazenda Sempre Viva. There are grenade attacks against Tupinambá taking refuge in the forest.

February 2, 2014

During the Federal Police invasion of the Tupinambá village of Serra do Padeiro, M.S.M, 2 years old, fleeing into the forest, was separated from parents and ended up in the hands of the police. The police chief Severino Moreira da Silva, after the child had been taken to Ilheus by federal police, delivered the child to the Child Protection Council that, in turn, transferred the minor to a nursery, where the child remained separated and isolated from parents by determination of the Child and Youth Court.

April 24, 2013

Cacique Babau Tupinambá cacique is arrested by the Federal Police in Brasilia, after participating in a session of the Commission on Human Rights of the Federal Chamber. Later, attempting to travel to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis, invited by the CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil), Babau’s passport was suspended by the Federal Police, less than 24 hours after having been issued, for four arrest warrants: three filed in 2010 and the other from the State Court of Una accusing him of involvement in the murder of a small farmer. The latter accusation was dismissed by the Superior Court of Justice (STJ).

Between the murder of the farmer, on February 10, 2014, and the arrest warrant, on the 20th of the same month, ten days passed. The police investigation, on which the court’s decision was based, was carried out in record time and without sufficient police personnel, as stated, in a strange way, by the judge in Una himself in his decision for the arrest. Also, witnesses were heard, denounced by the Cacique and investigated by FUNAI as non-indigenous, who passed themselves off as Tupinambá to access benefits. The witnesses themselves confessed to the illegal practice during the inquiry.

May 1, 2015

Adenilson Da Silva Nascimento was returning from fishing trip his spouse, his son of one year and another child of 15, when they were ambushed by three armed and masked men. He died instantly and his wife, Zenaildes, was seriously injured, shot in the leg and back.

May 7, 2015

Among the Tupinambá of Belmonte, homes and crops in the village of Patiburi were burned. According to Cacique Katia Tupinambá, the attacks intensified in late 2013, when the Studies of Identification and Territorial Delimitation (RCID) was published carried out by FUNAI and published in the Federal and State Official Daily Record, which confirmed the presence of indigenous Tupinambá in the region.

Tupinambá of Belmonte has an area of 9,521 hectares, consisting of 41 families and a population over 200 indigenous persons. In 2006, the families were expulsed from the area by the Federal Police, carrying out a repossession order. They had to abandon herds, flocks and crops, and all of their homes were destroyed. Shortly thereafter they returned to the area with an Injunction Order for the Maintaining of Possession in favor of the Tupinambá community.

Tupinambá: The Return of the Land

Director: Fernanda Ligabue

Producer(s): Daniela Alarcon and Fernanda Ligabue

Produced with support from the NGO Repórter Brasil and voluntary resources of more than 500 donors.

Website: reporterbrasil.org.br/retornodaterra/

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