History of Indigenous Peoples

NGOS AGAINST INDIANS/BRAZIL

Brasmlia, 06/20/1994

by Rodrigo Azevedo Lima.

NGOs AGAINST GUARANI INDIANS

AN INTRODUCTION ABOUT THE MBIA GUARANI PEOPLE

The Mbia Guarani, that live in the Guaraquesaba region, in
the littoral of the Parana state in Brazil, are in risk to be ousted
to their lands.

The Mbia Guarani are tribesmen that belongs to the Tupi
Guarani macroethny. This macrogroup, historically inhabited,
and its remaining members still inhabit, the interiors of the
states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Parana and Mato
Grosso (River Prata basin - in the south of Brazil). They also
occupied quit almost the whole Brazilian littoral and the margins
of the main Amazon rivers. Named as Carijo, Tupiniquin, Kayabi,
Tupinamba, Guarani and etc., were largely described in the
national historiography. Subgroups of this Macroethny where
"reduced" - forced to live in villages directed by non Indians - by
Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits, between the 16th and 18th centuries.

The Tupi Guarani were, with no historical doubt, the most numerous
Indians in Brazil. They also were the Indians that most influenced
the formation of Brazilian culture. This can be identified by many
Tupi Guarani words the Brazilian Portuguese has, by the culinary
and many geographical names. (Such as Guaraquesaba). Although,
it is the most sacrificed Indian group due to the national society
expansion. As a consequence, their land reduced near to the
inexistence and their population so.

THE MBIA GUARANI AND GUARAQUESABA

The Mbia Guarani subgroup which we reefer, arrived in the
Guaraquesaba region, near 1820, as the bibliography attests, due
to internal messianic movements, in witch they looked for the "No
evils land". Due to the Tupi Guarany world vision, the "No evils Land"
might be an eminently preserved place, in where there is no admitted
any kind of cupidity relationship with. We may affirm that the "No evils
land" search is one of the main characteristics of this culture. The
respected Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro, have wrote about
this in his memorable "Uira gets out looking for god".

In 1985, the extinguished SEMA (Special Secretary of Environment)
stablished, by decree, the "Environment Protection Area - APA - of
Guaraquesaba" and the "Ecological Station of Guaraquesaba" in the
Guaraquesaba region. Latter, in 1989, once again a decree, this time
from the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources
- IBAMA -, created in some islands of this "lagunar" site, the Superagui
National Park. Those documents, failed to consider the presence of the
Mbia Guarani in there.

By the end of 1993, a technical multdisciplinary working group, directed
by FUNAI - Brazilian Indian Foundation - and created by a ministerial
act, proceeded to identify tardy, in fact and in law, the Mbia Guarani
villages from "Pescada, Superagui, Pegas and Barra do Ararapira,
in the refereed region.

THE EXPULSIONS TENTATIVE

Amazingly, since the FUNAI identifying acts were divulged, a
significant number of important NGOs, besides Miss. Guadalupe
Vivekananda, the IBAMA's administrator of the region, began to
position their selves against the permanence of the Mbia Guarani
in that region.

By posting messages to the Brazilian Amazon and Renewable
Resources Minister, WWF, Boticario Foundation, Biodiversitas
Foundation, Brazilian Foundation to Environment Preservation,
International Wildlife Preservation Coalition and other NGOs,
asked for the expulsion of the Mbia Guarani from the Guaraquesaba
complex.

Due to those institutions, the Mbia Guarani might be considered
as dangerous invaders, that put those reserve unties in risk. There
is no doubt that the Guaraquesaba complex is a important ecosystem
and so ought to be preserved. This region is one of the last areas of
"Mata atlantica" in Brazil. Recently, biologists described there the
existence of a new specimen of marmoset, the "Leontopithecus caissara",
that the evidences seems to show that it is restricted to that region.

The argumentation of those institutions, meanwhile, did not base in any
technical-cientifical research about the Mbia Guarani. The
"Leontopithecus caissara" by the other side, are far to be considered
as a well known specimen ( scientists do not know its number,
inhabits and dispersion region ).

Each Mbia Guarani Village needs, in average, 2 or 3 ha of deforested
land to cultivate their back country. This means, that only 0,024
percent of the decreeted complex are deforested for the Indians survival.

Another argumentation used against the Mbia Guarani, were the
criterion stabilished by the Brazilian constitution (article 231) that
talks about the necessity of traditionally and permanence of Indian
communities in a way their land may be recognized. Due to those
institutions, the Mbia Guarani, in question, are not specified in those
two cases and so might be considered invaders.

This construction, besides have no support in the ethnographic
bibliography about the Mbia Guarany in question, revels etnocentic
judgments, once deny to the Indians their constitutional rights
( "... there are recognized to the Indians their social organization,
inhabits, languages, credences, traditions....") to conceive the
territoriality and permanence by their own diverse concepts - of course,
to an Indian culture, those are so much more elastic concepts
than for the occidentals.

What also surprises, is that the NGOs ignore deliberately - and this is
a worrying position when we are talking about environmentalists
- the indigen ecological practices, marked by the rotational
exploitation of their big domains.

The NGOs are also using the same discourse of Brazilian reactionary
upper class, by saying the Mbia Guarani have no Indian rights, once
they are "acculturated" Indians, based on their external appearance.
In the truth - and different of those who sign the Ministry letters,
we lived during 50 days among many villages of them - the Mbia
Guarani is a so similar and rare case of Indian Group, so described
by many respected social scientists, once they, as a minority, are
living in one of the most populated regions of Brazil (south littoral),
have quite no land, suffer from all kinds of occidental persons but speak
their original language, are repulsive to consumerism, practice internal
matrimony, practice their own strong religion (neither 3 centuries of
Christianity forced them to abandon it), and are proud of being Mbia
Guarani intend of "Brazilians".

Some of the refereed NGOs representatives, called the Mbia Guarani
as "fake Indians" and "destroyers", repeatedly, based on the example
of the Pataxo (a completely different ethnic tribe) Indians, that are
accused to sell timber in the "National Park of Monte Paschoal",
located about 3.000 km far from Guaraquesaba, in the northern
state of Bahia. Some, also mischievousnessly confused them with
the Xokleng and Kaingang Indians (also from completely different
ethnic), which by a typical distortion of the Brazilian indigenist policy,
share some common small reserves in the south states with the Mbia
Guarani, and are also accused to sell protected Pinnus timber.
Due to Brazilian law, race prejudice like this, may put the
responsible in jail, with no "sursis" rights.

Another defended purpose of those NGOs, is to simply transfer
the Mbia Guarani villages from Guaraquesaba. This procedure,
does not take in count the mythical and cultural relationship that
justify, for those Indians, the actual placements of their villages.
The environmentalists simply believe that the Mbia Guarani are
"nomadic", and so, there is no problem to push them away. This
is not what anthropologists have proved about them. Due to the
social scientists, that studied this ethnic, they conceive the world
as a circular island. During a life period each Mbia has to visit at
least once, all their parents land, traveling in a contrary clockwise
direction, due to live in harmony with the real Mbia Guarani "Teko"
(In the Tupy Guarani idiom, teko means way of life). Deeply miscalls,
they believe that an hecatomb would destroy the known world,
if they do not do this. By the other hand, any kind of transferring
just could be possible with the permission of Brazilian Congress,
that should constitutionally hear the Indians.

The Mbia Guarani are legally protected by the juridical institute
of the "indigenato", that has a large jurisprudence tradition, based
since the Royal charter of 1680, that recognized the Indian right to
the land use.

Environmentalists and IBAMA, are afraid because as the Mbia
Guarani are under tutorship by FUNAI, they could not be processed,
once they committed any environmental fault. In the reality, this
way of thinking reveals a pernicious incapacity of the authorities
to protect and support the Indian lands. Historically, since the
beginning of the European colonization the, Brazilian natives
are systematically submitted to all kind of vicissitudes and privations
- as an example, about the necessary resources asked for FUNAI
this year to satisfactory honor the assistance demands (health,
education and demarcations), just 9 percent were approved for the
upper authorities. This way, very often non Indians have corrupted
some Indian leaders, inducing them to sell their land's natural
resources. We do not mean to defend the "Good Savage Myth",
but this is a reality that the great majority of the Brazilian and
international society ignores. At the same time, the non Indians,
that really manage this illegally and have excess profit, stay in
confortable liberty.

For an attempt indigenist, there is no knew to notice how
environmentalists and IBAMA consider the Indians - as if
there where no difference between the tribes - as a lost cause.
In our opinion, by the reasons we are trying to expose, it is an
historical mistake. Brazilian Indian areas cover 11 percent of
the national territory, and globe almost all kinds of Brazilian
ecosystems. This is much more than the actually insufficient
normal established preservation unties. Instead of fearing the
Indians and looking for them as enemies, the rightist and
more pragmactical thing to do, would be the coalition of
efforts with the Indians and their fights.

At any moment, we watched a conciliatory position by the
NGOs, able to propose actions to support or even try to
understand the Mbia Guarani. No value was give for their
notorious etnobiologic knowledgement - the Guaraquesaba
region is few studied by science, as in general the whole
Brazilian ecosystems. Meanwhile, contrary to their own
creation acts, the Guaraquesaba preservation units, passed
5 years since their creations, still do not have their management
plans - that might consider the Mbia Guarany occupation
- and it means that it is possible to extinguish then by the terms
of the Brazilian justice.

THE ACTUAL REALITY OF THE MBIA GUARANY

An attempt traveler may notice in the roads of the south
states of Brazil, roaming Guarani families, as indigents.
Frequently they are forced to abandon their sites, by land's
owners. Threatened as pariahs by the Europeans descendants
that settled those states, but by their radical conviction,
stay deeply peaceful. Called in a pejorative way as "bugres"
(no race horses), with no conditions to plant their back
countries. Making craftsmanship (baskets) of creeper and
bamboo to sale for the tourists.

Even though, by the crepuscle of each day, they pray to their
gods. Their genuine hope is to become light enough to float
over the ocean and finally search the "no evils land".

CONCLUSION

When the segments of our confuse society, that were supposed
to use the science, knowledge and humanitarian felling to
defend the nature and the sons of the nature, turn their backs
to the most weak and practice the sectarism in the name of the
preservation, something so wrong might be happening.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1 - Please, send respectable faxes or letters to the "Brazilian
Amazon and Natural renewable resources - Mr. Henrique
Brandao Cavalcante - fax: 061 226.4345 (Brazil) ;" Brazilian
Justice Minister - Alexandre de Paula Dupeyrat -
fax: 061 224.0954 (Brazil)"; "President of IBAMA - Miss.
Nilde Pinheiro Lago - fax:061 224.5206 (Brazil)"; asking
for support to the Mbia Guarani.

2 - Please, send respectable messages, fax or letters to "WWF",
"Fundacao Boticario (AV. Rui Barbosa, 3450, Bairro Afonso
Pena, CEP 83065-260, Sao Jose dos Pinhais/Parana/Brazil)",
"Fundacao Brasileira para a Conservacao da Natureza" e para
"International World Coalition, iwcbr , fax 051 - 222.3191 (Brazil)",
showing your disappointment with their position and asking for
support to the Mbia Guarani.

3 - Try to get more information about the Guarani people from
Brazil, in a way to understand their problems, divulge and
stablishing solidarity alliances with them. Send positive
messages to them by the CVII alternex address or conferences.

Thanks a lot.

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