The election of Jair Bolsonaro as new President of Brazil has put indigenous people under renewed pressure. Only recently, loggers invaded indigenous territory and attacked indigenous people in the Xingu region in Para. This blog post reprints the letter of three indigenous nations from Brazil to President Bolsonaro, asserting their rights.
Letter to the revered President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
Jair Messias Bolsonaro,
Brasilia, Federal District
Manaus, 2 January 2019
we have already been decimated, supervised and victims of the integration policies of the governments and the Brazilian National State. Therefore, we affirm publicly that we no longer accept integration policies and guardianship policies, that we do not want to be decimated by new measures by the government of the Brazilian National state. This country called Brazil owes us an invaluable asset, Mr. President, for everything that was done against and with our peoples. Indigenous areas play a very important role in preserving the richness of biodiversity, air purity, environmental performance and the survival of the Brazilian population and the world population.
It is not true that indigenous peoples own 15% of the country. In fact, it is 13%, most of which (90%) are in the legal Amazon region. This percentage is what was left over from the land that previously belonged to 100% of the native population before the year 1500 and was stolen from us. We no longer have much of the Brazilian territory, it is the big landowners, big farmers, the agricultural industry, etc., which claim more than 60% of Brazil's territory.
The argument "demographic emptiness" in indigenous areas is old and false. It only serves to justify the administrative and legal measures that harm indigenous peoples. Our country is never a demographic emptiness. It was the natives who helped protect the Brazilian borders in the Amazon.
It's not, as you say full of prejudice, that we are being manipulated by NGOs. The policy, the governmental measures of the Brazilian government are inefficient, inadequate and out of the reality of the indigenous peoples and our communities.
Those who do not belong to the indigenous population cannot propose or dictate rules on how we should behave or how we should act in our territory, in our country. We have the full ability and autonomy to speak for ourselves. We have the full civilian capacity to rethink and discuss the rights of indigenous peoples guaranteed by Articles 231 and 232 of the Federal Constitution, as well as International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 and the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. We can design projects and initiatives. Many are already done. This is the case of indigenous land management plans applied in the state of Amazonas.
Mr President, fulfil your election promises to enforce democracy, as you have proclaimed in your speeches during the campaign, because we are Brazilians who deserve respect for our rights. We do not accept dictatorial actions, it contradicts the discourse of the Minister of Civil Affairs, Onyx Lorenzoni, who supports the dialogue. We affirm that we are empowered and organized with the indigenous leaders and peoples, with the President, the Brazilian State and the Government, because we are already familiar and speak Portuguese along with our native languages of each people and languages of other nationalities.
The changes made in the restructuring and administrative re-organization of the Federal Government by MP No. 870 of 1 January 2019 are a complete mess and an attack on Brazilian indigenous politics. Additional damage is inflicted by the decree, which abolishes the rights of indigenous people, which are guaranteed in the constitution. The same applies to the new regulation, which deprives Funai of the responsibility for licensing that affects our territories. This practice has historically taken place in Brazilian history as an aggressive attempt to decimate us. It was a very difficult and inefficient period of the state. We do not accept this and we do not agree with your reform measures for the management of indigenous policies.
We are not to blame for the many changes in our lives and in our cultures. This is the result of a violent colonization process in which many peoples were killed and their mother tongues wiped out. We want to continue to be indigenous, with the right to our ethnic identity, just as we are also Brazilians. The Brazilian, when he goes to other countries and continents, remains a Brazilian. We are the same and even more Brazilians when we are in Brazil and learn to defend our nationality.
Our lifestyle is different. We are not against those who choose a Western capitalist economic model. But we have our own way of living and organizing in our areas and we have our own way of sustainability. Therefore, we accept neither a particular development nor any economic model that only destroys our territories. Our form of sustainability is to preserve and guarantee the future of our generation.
We are not in zoos, Mr President, we are in our country, in our homes, as lords and as in every human society that is in their homes, in cities or in neighbourhoods. We are human beings, flesh and blood people like you, we are born, we grow up, we multiply and die in our holy land, like every living human on this earth.
Our areas, as technically and scientifically proven, are guarantees of environmental protection, are preserved and managed by indigenous peoples, which promotes a constant rainfall that will benefit the South and South-East plantations and farms, and we know that.
Therefore, Mr President, Mr Jair Messias Bolsonaro, in the light of your Government's democratic dialogue policy, we are indigenous leaders, legitimate representatives, ready for dialogue, but we are also ready to defend ourselves.
Open letter of the peoples Aruak Baniwa and Apurinã
Marcos Apurinã, Apurinã people, Apurinã Indigenous leadership of the Federation of Indigenous Organizations and communities of the river Purus
E-Mail: email@example.com; Cel .: (92) 99338-0178
Bonifácio José, Baniwa people, Baniwa Indigenous leadership of the Alto Rio Negro,
Member of the Baniwa Organization and Koripako NADZOERI;
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Cel .: (92) 98417-0545
André Baniwa, Baniwa people, Baniwa Indigenous leadership of the Alto Rio Negro,
Native American Alto Negro Negro, President of the Içana Basin Indigenous Organization, OIBI
Email: email@example.com; Cel. (92) 98186-7262