INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND SELF-DETERMINATION IN BRASIL

The language and culture is the window through we see the world. 

Language is the first step to communicate with other cultures. it is not only about phonetic, sound or grammar but also about how people store their knowledge in their brain and express what they are seeing! 

As in the Italian culture, but I guess in most of languages that derives from latin, we are used to mark words by feminine and masculine categories. In the Indigenous languages as in many other languages there are other factors to mark a world which is animate or inanimate. So, people, growing plants are animal but there are also other things that are animate such as rocks. And this tells you a lot about how Indigenous People perceive and understand the world around them! 

The environment, nature and the forest is alive. 

Interesting. But who are Indigenous People (IP)? 

Indigenous populations are communities that live within, or are attached to ancestral territories, and who identify themselves as being part of a distinct cultural group, descended from groups present in the area before modern states were created and current borders defined. [WHO]

They have a connection with a collective identity as peoples, so they maintain cultural and social identities, economic, cultural and political institutions that are not represented by the society where they are located. They have the right to own and secure their lands and resources and to preserve their indigenous language, knowledge, culture and habits. As stated in many National Laws and International Conventions.

Indigenous people, their lands and language are in danger.. and if they are not in dangerous they are vulnerable. There has been states attempts around the world to eliminate IP language and culture, to force IPs to relocate to other lands through development projects or assimilation approaches.

Memories

It was in 2017 when I first visited an Indigenous Reserve for the first time in my life. I was in Brasil volunteering for a local NGO in the state of Cearà and the supervisor offered to show me around the area were we were working.

At that time I was not quite familiar with the concept of Indigenous Populations and my knowledge was very limited. What I can recall clearly is that even If my work was located in the a really poor area in Brasil, It was not the poorest place I had visited. When I entered the Pitaguary Reserve I understood that you really have no limits to discoveries.

I remember we went to have a chat with a family composed of one mother and her two children. I was trying to capture those moments but that little girl was so scared of seeing my camera! I bet she was even wondering what that strange thing was.

The mother was explaining us about their struggles and difficulties to reach any service provided by the Government. Their children were not able to access to education institutions and they struggled even in accessing basic resources as they were located in remote areas of the region. In addition to that, they were also affected by narcotic gangs that were violating their properties to produce drugs and store them.

All these attitudes and actions including oppression, exclusion and persecution show how Indigenous Populations are in danger. Brazil is the country in South America with the largest known concentration of Indigenous Peoples in isolation in the Northern States of the country especially in the Amazon region.

Following the Presidential elections in Brazil in October 2018 the President has threatened Indigenous Peoples particularly through its unconstitutional revocation of the legal processes of demarcation related to indigenous lands. This means that official reports, declaratory ordinances and Indigenous land permissions which have been issued in the past years and helped recognising and protect indigenous land holdings can be revoked and reviewed.  In addition, the National Foundations for Indians, Fundação Nacional do Indio (FUNAI) and the federal body have been functionally deactivated. Through this structural violence mechanism, the social cohesion and poverty reduction of Brazilian Indigenous Populations have been hindered and all of this is done for the development of the country and the interest of business’ that want to invest and increase their profits by exploiting the lands.

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