Indians Out!

    Indians Out!

    President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the Indian leadership were
    supposed to meet, but this never happened. Cardoso accused the Indians of "throwing
    the President’s invitation back in his face". The Indians were afraid the meeting
    would be misinterpreted.
    By Émerson Luís

    It wasn’t a flattering scene for Brazil while celebrating its 500 years. Far from it.
    There it was on TV all over the world the military police violently repressing with tear
    gas and rubber bullets a peaceful march by some 2000 Brazilian Indians representing more
    than 200 different peoples and sympathizers with their cause, in Porto Seguro, state of
    Bahia. That on April 22, the same day Brazil was celebrating the arrival of the Portuguese
    to the land, 500 years ago and in the same area Pedro Álvares Cabral’s ships are believed
    to have arrived.

    In a dramatic picture published on the newspapers and on the Internet, a bare-chested
    Indian, wearing only swimming shorts, is seen lying down on the road trying to prevent the
    advance of the police that just walked over his body. The police action left dozens
    slightly injured. Several people including a Xukuru Kariri Indian, who had both legs
    burnt, had to be hospitalized.

    A meeting between the President and the Indian leadership, scheduled for Coroa Vermelha
    on April 22, never happened. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso accused the Indians of
    "throwing the President’s invitation back in his face". The Indians backed out
    after considering that a meeting with Cardoso, on that symbolic date, could be
    misinterpreted. They did not want to be seen as supporting the celebrations they are
    against. Instead the Indian movement chose to prepare a document denouncing the government
    and the violence they were subjected to by the Bahia police.

    The Indian march should have been a moment of affirmation of the Indian culture and
    their rights. As Maninha Xucuru, a Xucuru-Kariri leader, declared before the repressed
    demonstration, "We hope that, as a result of this process, the indigenous movement in
    Brazil will be consolidated. The March and Conference will be moments for reflection on
    these past 500 years, and they are useful to strengthen the ideals and struggles of
    indigenous peoples. Together we will be building paths to the future and writing the first
    chapter of a new history for our children and the generations to come".

    Here is the final document of the Conference of Indigenous People and Organizations
    of Brazil:

    We arrived in the Pataxó village of Coroa Vermelha, in the municipality of Santa Cruz
    de Cabrália, state of Bahia, on April 17. On our way to the village, we have fulfilled
    the commitment to march on the trail of the great invasion of our territories, which has
    lasted 500 years.

    We are more than 3,000 representatives of 140 indigenous peoples from all regions of
    Brazil. We have crossed lands, rivers, mountains, valleys and plains once inhabited by our
    ancestors. Filled with emotion, we saw the regions where indigenous peoples were once the
    masters of their own future for 40,000 years. Filled with emotion, we saw the regions were
    indigenous people were killed defending the land cut by bandeirantes (members of
    early colonial expeditions called bandeiras), adventurers, miners and, later on, by
    roads, farms, and businesspersons craving for lands, profit and power.

    We marched through these lands in remembrance of our struggle and pain to retake
    history in our own hands and once again point to a positive future for all indigenous

    Here at this Conference, we have analyzed Brazilian society in these 500 years during
    which it has thrived in our territories. More than ever, we have confirmed that this
    society, whose progress was based on the invasion of our territories and on the
    extermination of the people who once lived here, was built at the expense of slavery and
    of the exploitation of black and low income groups. It’s an infamous and undignified

    The ones who have really shown dignity are those who have been persecuted and exploited
    during these five centuries. Rebellions, insurrections, political and social movements
    have also marked our history and have established a continuous line of resistance.

    For these reasons, we want to recover this remarkable past and project it into the
    future by joining black and popular movements and building a larger alliance: the
    Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance.

    Our main demands and proposals are the following:

    The main demands and proposals pointed out by indigenous peoples for the Brazilian
    State are the following:

    1. Assurance of the indigenous rights provided for in the Federal Constitution:

    a. Demarcation and official confirmation of the bounds of all indigenous lands by the
    year 2000;

    b. Revocation of Decree n. 1,775/96;

    c. Assurance and protection of all indigenous areas;

    d. Return of all territories claimed by different indigenous peoples throughout Brazil;

    e. Expansion of the bounds of areas that are not large enough for indigenous families
    to live and grow;

    f. Removal of invaders from all demarcated areas, payment of damages for and recovery
    of all degraded areas and rivers, such as, for example, the São Francisco river;

    g. Recognition of peoples that made a resurgence and of their territories;

    h. Protection against encroachments upon the territories of isolated peoples;

    i. Dissolution of municipalities illegally established within indigenous areas;

    j. Respect for the right to exclusive enjoyment of the natural resources contained in
    indigenous areas, paying special attention to biopiracy;

    k. Interruption of the building of power plants, waterways, railroads, highways, and
    gas pipelines under way and indemnification for damages caused by projects that have been
    implemented already;

    l. Allocation of funds to agricultural projects, among others, for indigenous
    communities, so as to ensure their independent subsistence.

    1. Immediate approval of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO);

    2. Passage of the Statute of Indigenous Peoples being reviewed by the National
    Congress, as approved by indigenous peoples and organizations (Bill 2,057/91);

    3. The end of discrimination, removal by force of indigenous people from their lands,
    massacres, threats against indigenous leaders, violence and impunity in any form.
    Immediate investigation of all crimes committed against indigenous people in the last 20
    years and punishment of the guilty ones. We demand respect for our culture, traditions,
    languages, and for the religions of the different indigenous peoples of Brazil;

    4. Punishment of the persons responsible for the criminal sterilization of indigenous
    women at the discretion of the community;

    5. Recognition of the true history of this country and its inclusion in the curriculum
    of schools, taking into account the thousands of years during which indigenous populations
    have lived in this land;

    6. Restructuring and empowerment of the official indigenous agency and measures to link
    it to the Office of the President of the Republic through a Secretariat for Indigenous
    Affairs, whose secretaries would only be appointed after the organizations concerned are

    7. Election of the president of Funai by indigenous peoples from among names suggested
    by the different regions of Brazil;

    8. Education has to be placed at the service of the indigenous struggle and should be
    aimed at strengthening our culture;

    9. Assured access of indigenous students to federal universities without any
    competitive university entrance examination;

    10. Reform, expansion and construction of indigenous schools and provision of education
    at all levels to indigenous communities, with measures to ensure the training of
    indigenous teachers and the provision of a professionalizing secondary education;

    11. Inspection of the application of funds ear-marked for indigenous schools by an
    Indigenous Council to be set up;

    12. Indigenous education and health care should be placed under the responsibility of
    the federal administration. We reject all attempts to promote state-level administration
    of the school system or its municipalization;

    13. Enforcement of the Arouca Law, which provides for the establishment of a health
    care subsystem for indigenous people;

    14. Empowerment and expansion of the participation of indigenous communities and
    leaders in decision-making processes related to the definition of public policies for
    indigenous people. In particular, the Special Indigenous Sanitary Districts should have
    full autonomy in their deliberations;

    15. The health care system should take into account and respect the culture of
    indigenous people. Traditional approaches to health care should be prized and

    16. Specific quality training for teachers, health agents and other indigenous
    professionals working in indigenous communities;

    17. Formulation of a specific policy for each region of Brazil with broad participation
    of indigenous people and of all segments of society, based on the existing knowledge and

    18. Better means to prevent the military and civil police from entering indigenous
    areas without the permission of indigenous leaders;

    19. Annulment of judicial actions against the demarcation of lands traditionally
    occupied by indigenous people;

    We, indigenous people of Brazil, have gone a long way to rebuild our territories and
    communities. By firmly taking this history into our own collective hands, we are sure that
    we will break away from a sad past and will confidently move ahead toward a brighter

    Despite the weight of the old history written by the dominant classes of this country
    though their culture, political and economic practices and State institutions, we have
    launched our war cry and set the cornerstone for the beginning of a new history, the great
    history of the "Other 500 years".

    Our indigenous struggle is a tribute to the many heroes who have died in war during
    these five centuries. Our struggle is for our children and grandchildren, so that they can
    be free people in a free land.

    Coroa Vermelha, Bahia, 21 April 2000.

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