Brazilian Indigenous Respond To Bolsonaro: ‘We Are Not Animals In Zoos, We Are People In Our Homeland’
Above Photo: Eduardo Fonseca Arraes/Flickr
The Bolsonaro government’s racist attacks on indigenous peoples, the administrative change in the Agricultural portfolio, and responsibility for the demarcation of original lands are already provoking an immediate reaction from the organized and autonomous communities that survive and struggle in the national territory. More than 500 years after the European invasion and a systematic policy of extermination, 305 ethnic groups still resist, occupying little more than 12% of Brazilian territory. The majority, almost 90%, is located in the Amazon basin, an area of lush forests in which communities can still live according to their culture while also guaranteeing the preservation of a biome that is fundamental not only for Brazil, but for the entire planet. Just look on “Google Maps” and “Google Earth” applications and immediately you can see that where there is an indigenous community the land has protection and the forest vibrates. Where there is an industry or ranch, life agonizes.
The Amazon, due to its climatic and environmental characteristics, has always been a difficult space to occupy, so much so that until today it is the region with the lowest population density. But it is also the region with the richest diversity, the minerals and the voracity in the search for energy (with the construction of hydroelectric plants), has made corporation turn greedy eyes towards it. And so, the latifundia, which already occupies more than 60% of the territory with agribusiness, wants to encompass that 12% which is still under the control of the original peoples. The intention of the government, in response to the desire of the farmers, is to remove the indigenous people from the lands “making them citizens”, which, in practice, means not only eliminating their way of being in the world, but their disintegration as human beings who have their own culture, that is viscerally differentiated from western Jewish/Christian culture. Following the wishes of ultraliberal capital, indigenous people need to be incorporated as a labor force in cities and fields, without the right to own their land. It is yet another episode of massive accumulation that will only serve to destroy the way of life of the original peoples.
This week, following a statement by President Bolsonaro that the indigenous people who live on the native lands are like animals in zoos, an open letter from the Aruak Baniwa and Apurinã peoples makes their position very clear with regard to this idea to make them ‘citizens’; “ We are not living in zoos, Mr President, we are in our lands, our homes, like the Lord himself and like any human society that is in their homes, cities, neighborhoods. We are people, human beings, we have blood like you, we are born, we grew up, we procreate and then we die in our sacred land, like every living human being on this land. Our lands, already technically and scientifically proven, are guarantees of environmental protection, being preserved and managed by the indigenous peoples, promoting constant rains with which the plantations and agribusinesses of the southern and southeastern region benefit and we know it”.
Indigenous people do not accept this idea of integration proposed by the president: “We have been decimated, and are victims of the integrationist policy of governments and the Brazilian National State, that is why we are here to affirm that we do not accept any more policy of integration, a tutelage policy and we do not want to be decimated by means of new actions by the government and the Brazilian National State. This country called Brazil owes us an unpayable debt, Mr. President, for everything that has already been done against us. Indigenous lands play a very important role in maintaining the richness of biodiversity, air purification, environmental balance and the very survival of the Brazilian population and of the world.
Also this week, a representative of the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), arrived at the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic requesting judicial control of the Provisional Measure signed by President Jair Bolsonaro who passes to the Ministry of Agriculture the powers over identification, delimitation and registration of land traditionally occupied by indigenous people. According to the APIB, this measure contravenes Article 6 of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization as well as a series of other national laws.
The representatives also requests the establishment of a civil investigation in order to investigate and control the administrative acts and processes of demarcation of indigenous lands that will be processed in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, as well as to determine a possible administrative responsibility against the administrative morality, democracy and cultural rights of indigenous peoples, based on article 129, paragraph 5 [ed. n.] that reads the functions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office is to defend the judicial rights and interests of the indigenous population in the 1988 Federal Constitution.
They also demand that urgent measures be taken to avoid the risk of irreparable harm to indigenous peoples through suspension and/or political interference in demarcation proceedings, affected by the eventual behavior of the minister and her subordinates.
In addition to actions in the fields of communication and the judiciary, the autonomous entities of the indigenous organization are already preparing public actions against the attack on their culture and lands. According to the communities, there can be no going back on the important achievements made thanks to the 1988 Constitution. Brazil cannot go back to having a colonial practice, such as the one that marked the post-invasion ethnocide. There will be struggle.