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Brazil - Indigenous Indian Population

Far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who has vowed to open up the Amazon harming the Indigenous population, was sworn in as Brazil's president 01 January 2019. The neoliberal, racist, homophobic, and misogynistic former army captain has stated that his point of view on Indigenous peoples is that they should be made a part of society which means that their land can be more easily exploited, which he argues would make them beneficiaries of the corresponding revenues coming out of those lands. "We will give them the means to be like us." Indigenous groups and human rights defenders in Brazil have been speaking out against Bolsonaro, whose “careless” statements about Indigenous people have generated outrage, such as Bolsonaro's comment that Indigenous people in reserves are “as if they were animals in a zoo.” The new Human Rights, Family and Women Ministry will also be in charge of the National Foundation of the Indigenous (FUNAI), a previously independent institution that regulates issues related to the indigenous communities in the country.

Bolsonaro stated that: "Indians want to integrate into society. (They) want electric power, they want a doctor, they want a dentist, they want the Internet, they want to play soccer. They want what we want. (...) Here in Brazil, some want the Indians to continue inside a reserve as if they were animals in a zoo. I do not want that. I want to treat the Indians as human beings, as citizens."

The Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) told president-elect Bolsonaro he needed to respect the Constitution, rejecting his statement that they are 'zoo animals'. Indigenous groups in Brazil spoke out against right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s “careless” statement earlier this month about Indigenous peoples who he says are in reserves “as if they were animals in a zoo.” In a response letter to the Bolsonaro statement on Dec. 4, the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) say they aren’t “inferior beings, as projected in (the president-elect’s) statement.” In a statement released earlier this month, the APIB said: “We are only different and the government is Constitutionally obliged to respect our social organization, customs, languages, beliefs and traditions. Therefore, we reject (Bolsonaro’s) pejorative and reductive understanding of us as animals in zoos," contests the APIB.

Except for the small indigenous Indian population, Brazilians are one people, with a single culture. Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Fundacao Nacional do Indio — FUNAI) estimates that the indigenous Indian population, with about 230 tribes located in about 530 known Indian reservations in Brazil, totals 330,000 members. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Indians have never had contact with Brazilian government officials. About 62 percent, or 137,000, live in the Amazon region.

They are the descendants of what could be the oldest Americans. According to a team of archaeologists led by Anna C. Roosevelt, radiocarbon dating of material in a cave located near Monte Alegre, between Manaus and Belem, shows that early Paleo-Indians were contemporaries of the Clovis people in the southwestern United States and had a distinctive foraging economy, stone technology, and cave art, dating back between 10,000 and 11,200 years ago.

One-tenth of Brazil's national territory is to be set aside for its Indian population, according to the constitution. However, fewer than half of the reservations have been demarcated, and the issue has continued to be controversial. Settlers and gold miners have massacred Indians. In May 1996, the Ministry of Justice published decrees recognizing the existence of seventeen indigenous areas in Brazil, totaling 8.6 million hectares.

Each Brazilian Indian (including children) has on average an area of 400 hectares on which to live. By comparison, Native Americans in the United States live on only eighteen hectares per person. Some members of Brazil's Congress believe that the policy gave too much land to only two-tenths of the population.

A decree signed by President Cardoso in January 1996 did not include the Indians as one of his priorities. By permitting states, municipalities, and non-Indian individuals to contest demarcation of Indian land, the decree alarmed indigenous support groups. The executive order could end much of the violence against the Indians, by giving non-Indians a legal forum. However, official figures indicate that 153 of the 554 areas recognized by the government as Indian territories were liable to be revised under the decree.

Estimates of the original Amerindian population of Brazil range from 2 to 5 million at the time of first contact with Europeans in the early sixteenth century. There were hundreds of tribes and languages. Now there are 230 tribes that speak more than ninety languages and 300 dialects. Because of violence and disease, the original Amerindian population was reduced to about 150,000 by the early twentieth century. In 1910 the Indian Protection Service (Servico de Protecao aos Indios—SPI) was established. Its leader, Marechal Candido Rondon, was famous for stating that "one should die, if necessary, but never kill an Indian." In 1968 the National Indian Foundation (Fundacao Nacional do Indio—Funai) replaced SPI, which was charged with corruption. The Indian Statute went into effect in 1973. The 1988 constitution provides that Indians are entitled to the lands that they traditionally occupy.

Despite the difficulties it faced, the Amerindian population began to recover its numbers and increased to 330,000 by the mid-1990s. In genetic terms, millions of Brazilians have some Amerindian ancestry, usually on the side of their grandmothers or great-grandmothers. The ancestry is especially strong in the Amazon region, where the inhabitants of mixed Indian and white descent are called caboclos. Because of such widespread miscegenation and acculturation, objective definitions of "Indian" are practically impossible in Brazil. The most useful definition, also used for official purposes, is subjective but pragmatic: Indians are those who consider themselves Indians and are considered by others as such. They include groups that are officially classified as isolated, in the process of integration, or integrated (although "integration" involves entry into the lowest ranks of Brazilian society).

Most of the Amerindian population is in the Amazon region, where Amerindian lands account for about 15 percent of the territory. Some of the largest areas were set aside during the Collor administration in 1992. The best known and largest of these is the 9.6-million-hectare Yanomami Indigenous Park, located in the northern states of Amazonas and Roraima, along Brazil's border with Venezuela. Gold miners and their diseases have had an adverse impact on the Yanomami. The Caiapo in southeastern Para became widely known both for their traditional environmental management and their controversial concessions to gold miners and lumber companies. Other indigenous areas include the Xingu Indigenous Park and other parts of Amazonia, including the western section of the Amazon along the Rio Solimoes, Roraima, northern Amazonas, Rondonia, Acre, Amapa, and northern and southeastern Para. The Northeast (Maranhao) and Center-West (western Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, and Goias) regions also have large indigenous areas.

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Page last modified: 09-01-2019 18:51:49 ZULU