point of view

It’s time to listen to the indigenous peoples

abril indígena - voces indígenas - indigenous voices

There are a lot of people out there saying they know what the indigenous peoples want. The guesses are many and come from all sides, with the most varied interests and intentions. With all this noise, the indigenous voices (in the plural, since they are multiple) end up muffled. In this Indigenous April, then, how about we start listening to the indigenous peoples themselves to find out what their true demands are?

Between the 24th and 26th, people’s leaders from all over the country will gather at the 15th Camp Terra Livre, in Brasilia, to defend the maintenance and expansion of their rights.

The most important event in the annual calendar of Brazilian native peoples, the ATL is financed by the National Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) and by those who believe the most in the cause, through private donations from citizens and institutions. For those interested, it is possible to contribute through crowdfunding – with money or airplane miles. Not a penny comes from public money. So let’s stop screaming about what we do not know. It’s time to listen.

One of the main issues to be debated is the emptying of the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), which caught everyone by surprise on the first day of the year. In addition to transferring Funai from the Ministry of Justice to the newly created Women, Family and Human Rights Ministry, the new government also took away its function of demarcating indigenous lands. The responsibility now lies with the Secretariat of Land Affairs of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply. That is, a crucial demand of the indigenous peoples is in the hands of the ruralists, who have an eye on the indigenous territories to increase their profit even more.

It is good to remember that traditional peoples have an essential role in protecting nature, preventing deforestation of their areas and preserving biodiversity. The benefits of their actions are not only local and restricted to members of the ethnicity. They cross borders as they collaborate to slow down climate change and ensure the balance of temperatures on the entire planet.

The lack of understanding of the indigenous peoples’ demands helps precisely who is watching these precious lands. Their speech gains strength and often falls into hatred. According to the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), at least five demarcated lands have been invaded since the beginning of the year. There was theft of wood, clearing of forest for pastures and establishment of lots for illegal occupation. The case is even more serious because four of these territories have the presence of isolated peoples. And it goes further: there have also been reported attacks on the Guarani Mbya of Ponta do Arado in Rio Grande do Sul, and death threats against caciques in the Caiapucá Indigenous Land, on the border between Acre and Amazonas.

Although ancient, another issue that still haunts indigenous peoples is the “temporal framework.” The legal thesis is defended by ruralists and, if accepted by the Federal Supreme Court, can restrict the constitutional right of demarcation of territories to areas proven occupied at the time of the promulgation of the Constitution of 1988. Quite a retrocession.

Among many challenges, we must also highlight the achievements of years and years of organized resistance. At the end of March, leaders were heard as they took to the streets in the four corners of the country to protest against the decision of the Ministry of Health to extinguish the Secretariat of Indigenous Health (Sesai) and municipalize the service. It worked.

Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta says he has given up the change, although he has not given more concrete proof of the decision. In addition, the voices of the traditional people have resonated in the National Congress. It began with the election of Joenia Wapichana and now consecrated itself with the creation of the Joint Parliamentary Front in Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, earlier this month, with the surprising adhesion of 248 parliamentarians. It is an important step to guarantee the speaking space of those who are so little represented within national politics.

The demands, as you can see, are not few and they are not simple. We repeat, we must clear our ears to understand them. And not just during the ATL, but for the entire year.

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