Stuckert said: ‘The pictures show the traditional way of life of these people who live in harmony with nature. They provide an overview of the contemporary situation of the indigenous people in Brazil.
“I’ve been a professional photographer for 29 years, and have been photographing Brazil’s Indigenous people since 1996, when I visited an Yanomany tribe. Since then, I have become a strong supporter of Indigenous people.”
Tribesmen perform a ceremonial dance in another of the photographer’s stunning images. (Photo: Ricardo Stuckert)
The collection of photographs has now been published in a book titled Brazilian Indians, as part of an effort by Stuckert to help them.
Members of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Basin were photographed by air in 2008. (Ho New / Reuters)
At least 10 members of an uncontacted tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Basin were allegedly killed last month by illegal gold miners, according to Survival International.
The organization, which advocates for indigenous rights, said the massacre included women and children and may have wiped out one-fifth of the tribe.
Members of the tribe were gathering eggs along a river in the Javari Valley, in the country’s remote west, when they came across the miners, The New York Times reported. The miners later boasted about the slaughter at a bar in the nearest town, and even showed off a hand-carved paddle they claimed to have stolen as a trophy.
Funai is Brazil’s agency for indigenous affairs and its budget was recently cut under President Michel Temer. Survival International described Temer’s government as “fiercely anti-Indian, and has close ties to the country’s powerful and anti-indigenous agribusiness lobby.”
Survival International called the attack “genocidal” and said Temer and his government bore “heavy responsibility” for it. According to Stephen Corry, Survival International’s director:
“The slashing of Funai’s funds has left dozens of uncontacted tribes defenseless against thousands of invaders ― gold miners, ranchers and loggers ― who are desperate to steal and ransack their lands. All these tribes should have had their lands properly recognized and protected years ago ― the government’s open support for those who want to open up indigenous territories is utterly shameful, and is setting indigenous rights in Brazil back decades.”
At least two other tribes in the region have seen their land invaded and are now surrounded by ranchers and others, Survival International reported.
Adelson Kora Kanamari, leader of the Warikama Djapar tribe, told the Amazon Real portal that the situation for indigenous people in the region was “very critical” and that between 18 and 21 people have been killed in attacks, AFP reported.
A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters
Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants
The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.
The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.
Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.
A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.
“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”
Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.
But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”
Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.
The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.
“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”
Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.
Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”
The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.
The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.
Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.
The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal,has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.
Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.
Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”
The 14th ‘Free Terra’ Camp in Praça dos Ipês, Brasília, during April 24-28 2017. Over 4,000 representatives from 200 indigenous peoples from all regions of the country were present in a large demonstration of strength of the indigenous movement. Photo: NINJA Media / National Indigenous Mobilization via Flickr (CC BY-SA).
By Joe Sandler Clarke & Sam Cowie / Greenpeace Energydesk
There has been a significant increase in the number of indigenous people and environmental activists killed over land disputes in Brazil, as human rights experts warn of a dangerous political mood in the nation.
New research shared with Energydesk by Brazilian human rights NGO Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), shows that 37 people have been killed in the first six months of the year in rural land conflicts, eight more than at the same time in 2016.
The data comes as President Temer’s right-wing government has cut funding dramatically for the country’s indigenous rights agency, Funai.
CPT, which has been collecting data on rural violence since 1985, has found that so far the number of people killed in these disputes is set to exceed last year’s figures, when 61 people died.
At the end of April, violence against indigenous people in Brazil made international headlines, as 13 members of the Gamela community in Maranhão state were attacked by farmers wielding machetes in brutal land dispute.
A couple of week’s earlier, nine people were stabbed and shot over a territorial dispute in Mato Grosso state, in the Amazon.
Jeane Bellini, national coordinator of CPT told Energydesk that recent years have a significant increase in the number of people being killed in rural land conflicts.
Bellini believes the current political turmoil in Brazil, the former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted last year while sitting President Michel Temer is embroiled in a corruption scandal, has helped fuel the violence:
“Rural violence has accelerated under President Temer. Actually, it isn’t only the government. I would say that the political instability created by all of those irresponsible people in congress, as well as Temer and his government have added. I mean, they’re doing things that are completely against the needs and the rights of the people.”
Indigenous rights agency cut
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told Energydesk that there is a close correlation between the government’s moves to cut the agency and the increase in violence. She explained:
“There is increased violence because the offices of Funai at the state levels are not functioning anymore. Funai is the only government agency trusted by Indigenous people. People look up to Funai to protect them. Now there is nobody trying to protect them.”
Tauli-Corpuz visited Brazil at the end of last year and found government agencies unable to function. She told Energydesk in December that she visited Funai regional offices which had no staff:
“We went to the office in Bahia and there was no one there. There have been huge cutbacks, and they have continued since I came back from my trip … I have a sense that the situation in the country is deteriorating.”
Months later, the UNSR said that the recommendations she made to Brazilian officials have not been addressed.
In May, a congressional committee led by a powerful farming lobby moved to replace the indigenous rights agency with a body controlled by the justice ministry – a move which campaigners believe could have terrible consequences.
According to Bellini, a culture of impunity around rural killings in Brazil is also to blame for the worsening situation. CPT states that of the 1,800 killings the organisation has recorded since 1985, only 112 ended up in court with very few ending with conviction.
She said: “Given all the political instability in Brazil since last year, those who are looking to accumulate land, in whatever way they can, have found an opportunity to accelerate the process and apparently they feel quite convinced of impunity.”
In response to this story, Amnesty International Brazil – which uses CPT’s data in its own work – sent us the following statement.
“Amnesty International believes, that in the light of the recent attack on the Gamela community in Maranhão state, it is absolutely essential that the Brazilian government makes a strong statement committing to upholding the Constitutional obligations to demarcate and deliver Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands.
“Funai must be strengthened, by making available necessary financial resources, and recent appointments to the agency should be reviewed, in order to ensure that those in leadership positions in the agency have the necessary political independence to do their job.
“The Brazilian government must ensure security to human rights defenders and withdraw any initiatives to criminalize or limit their work.”
Joe Sandler-Clarke is a UK-based journalist specialising in investigative and public interest stories. His writing has been published in the Guardian, Independent, The Sunday Times, VICE and others, and he curently works at Greenpeace UK.
Sam Cowie is a freelance journalist based in São Paulo, Brazil.
Munduruku warriors at the roadblock. Photo by Mauricio Torres
Red Power Media | May 09, 2017
by Sue Branford and Maurício Torres, Mongabay
Indigenous groups are making a defiant stand against the current wave of fiercely anti-Indian policies being rapidly implemented by Brazil’s Temer administration and Congress.
Protests blossomed last week in Brasilia where a four-day demonstration — the largest in the nation’s history — brought together over 4,000 indigenous leaders from more than 200 tribes seeking government redress of grievances. The protesters were met with teargas.
Likewise, a peaceful land occupation by members of the Gamela tribe in Maranhão state ended in violence when their camp was raided by ranchers and hired gunmen who beat the Indians brutally, even hacking off hands with machetes.
In the Amazon, members of the Munduruku tribe, armed with bows and arrows, set up a roadblock on the Transamazonian highway, creating a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of trucks loaded with this year’s soy harvest.
The blockade came in protest of the government’s refusal to demarcate the Indians’ lands as assured under the 1988 Brazilian Constitution. The commodities roadblock also sent a clear signal to the bancada ruralista, Brazil’s agribusiness lobby, which dominates Congress and the administration, and which pushed for the dramatic upsurge in federal initiatives rolling back indigenous land rights and protections.
A glimpse of the traffic backup at the Munduruku blockade. Video by Mauricio Torres
Violence in Maranhão
On 30 April gunmen and ranchers attacked an indigenous camp in Maranhão, an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, long dominated by powerful landowners led by the Sarney family (one of whom is Pres. Temer’s environment minister, José Sarney Filho).
The violence was triggered by events two days earlier, when several dozen Gamela Indians occupied disputed land near the town of Viana, 214 kilometers (133 miles) from the state capital of São Luis.
This land was traditionally occupied by the Gamela, but the military dictatorship (1964-1985) illegally ejected them from it. Ranchers then occupied the area, clearing the forest, planting pasture and raising cattle. As years passed, the ranchers began to see themselves as the legitimate owners.
About 300 Gamela families remained in the region, however, determined to regain their land despite the slight odds of doing so. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claim, the Indians received little help from authorities, with the federal Indian agency FUNAI, under pressure from the ranchers, refusing to begin the process of marking out the boundaries of the Gamela territory.
Three years ago the Indians went to court to force the ranchers to relinquish the land, but the case was stalled by bureaucratic delays. With their living conditions worsening year-by-year, the Gamela became convinced that they would only survive as a people if they took action. So they began a series of retomadas or re-occupations of their traditional land.
They timed the latest reoccupation to coincide with both the indigenous protest in Brasilia and a national one-day general strike, the first in 21 years, organized by Brazil’s trade unions in protest over the Temer government’s severe austerity measures.
A cell phone photo taken just before the attack on the Gamela camp, showing a police car and group of ranchers. Photo courtesy of Cimi
Messages supporting the ranchers flooded the media. Federal deputy, Aluisio Guimarães Mendes Filho, (the state’s Public Security Secretary during the government of Roseana Sarney, another member of the Sarney clan), spoke out in a local radio interview, accusing the Gamela of being “troublemakers” and encouraging violence against them.
The ranchers had a barbecue, drank a lot of alcohol, and became increasingly abusive in their talk about the Indians. It was clear that an attack was being planned, but when it happened, the military police (who had arrived on site earlier) didn’t intervene.
The Indians were vastly out-numbered and could do little but flee into the forest when attacked by men wielding rifles and machetes.
According to Cimi (the Catholic Missionary Council), 13 Indians were injured. Two had both hands lopped off. Others were severely beaten; one had a fractured skull. One of the injured is Kum ‘Tum Gamela, a former priest, who has received numerous death threats in the past.
The Ministry of Justice issued a press statement in which it promised to investigate “the incident that involved small farmers and supposed Indians in the hamlet of Bahias.” The term “supposed” generated a wave of indigenous anger and was quickly deleted from the statement. Later the term “small farmers” was also removed, as it was widely criticized as being a euphemism for the gunmen employed by the ranchers. In the end, the statement merely said that that the ministry would investigate a “rural conflict.”
The Human Rights Commission of the prestigious Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) is to request help from the human rights body, Amnesty International, to resolve the dispute.
Another serious conflict is still underway, though it has not, as yet, resulted in violence. On 28 April, 130 Munduruku Indians and members of the Tapajós riverside communities of Montanha and Mongabal blockaded the Transamazonian highway, occupying a bridge about 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the new port of Miritituba, a key transhipment point for the soy industry, where international trading giants, such as Bunge and ADM, have large terminals.
With the soy harvest in full swing, the road soon became highly congested, with at least a 40 kilometer (25 mile) backup of large trucks, carrying soybeans to Miritituba. The blockade was lifted during the night from 28 April forward, but was then re-imposed as a 24-hour blockade on the morning of 3 May.
A Mongabay contributor was accidentally caught up in the traffic, and on arriving at the road block he stayed to cover the showdown.
The Munduruku blocked the Transamazonian highway this week in protest of the failure of the Brazilian government to demarcate their traditional lands. The blockade is ongoing. Photo by Mauricio Torres
Antonio Munduruku, a young Indian, told Mongabay two reasons why the blockade was imposed: “We want the FUNAI employees who were working with us to be reinstated. We need them. They are our greatest tool in getting our lands marked out. And we won’t leave with empty hands. The FUNAI president told us on Friday that he’d sorted it out. But we don’t believe in words any more. We want their reinstatement published in the official gazette.”
He went on: “The second reason is to get the Sawré Muybu indigenous territory properly marked out. It’s our land but nothing is happening. Loggers are carrying on extracting timber.”
Vicente Saw, an old cacique, leader, said that stopping traffic on highways was effective: “The heart of the government is here on the road,” he said.
The will to resist
The Munduruku were shocked but not surprised by what happened to the Gamela: “They’re a different ethnic group but they are our brothers, with the same blood,” said Jairo Saw Munduruku. “We mustn’t let what’s happened to them happen to us. The government must mark out our land. If not, big loggers, big mining companies, will come in. And they will start conflicts, attacking us, assassinating leaders. That’s what the government wants but we must stop it happening. We don’t have anyone speaking for us in Congress. We have to defend ourselves.” Attempts by Mongabay to reach the Brazilian government for comment in recent weeks have been met with no response.
The Munduruku feel no hostility toward the truck drivers. An old indigenous leader, Tomas Munduruku, said: “We’re in favor of the truck drivers. They need our support too. It’s not right that the government is cutting their pensions.”
More surprisingly perhaps, many of the truck drivers are supportive of the Indians too. Trucker Mario de Nascimento said: “This road is essential for Brazil and the protest must stop. But the Indians’ rights aren’t being respected, just like ours aren’t being respected. But we are carrying Brazil on our backs. We can’t stop. We need the government to sort it out. None of us deserves the way we’re being treated.”
Another trucker, who didn’t want to give his name, said: “They [the Indians] are right. You can’t deny that. And if some of the people here want to lynch me for saying that, then let them lynch me.”
David and Goliath: One truck driver threatened to drive over the Indians, but other truckers found common ground with the Munduruku in their grievances against the repression and austerity measures of the current government. Photo by Mauricio Torres
Time and again, the truckers, like the Indians, blamed the government for failing to listen, declaring flatly: “The biggest problem is the government.”
The concern is that the Amazonian heat, hunger and thirst will affect both Indians and truck drivers, and that tempers may begin to fray. One truck driver, who also didn’t give his name, threatened: “We’re going to drive our trucks over the Indians, pushing them all over, Indian after Indian. If our dreadful federal government doesn’t manage to get the blockade lifted soon, that’s what we’ll do.”
Another trucker said, in exasperated jest: “It’s getting terrible for all of us. I haven’t had a shower for more than 24 hours, in this heat. I feel like throwing my underpants into the river. They’d kill the fish. So the Indians wouldn’t have fish to eat, nor any of us have fish either.”
With the drivers stretched over many miles, it’s difficult to assess the truckers’ overall mood, but there was a surprising development Wednesday afternoon. A substantial group of truckers and Indians held a meeting beside the highway, during which both sides expressed support for the other’s struggle, saying that their chief complaint is against the current government.
Although not all truckers share this opinion, a significant number do. That is an extraordinary new development because, in the past, Indian actions of this type caused huge resentment among affected parties, particularly truck drivers. It is indicative of the very high level of rejection in Brazil of the ruling government by voters of all kinds, with Pres. Temer’s support now standing at an unprecedented low of 9 percent.
Protests in Maranhão and Pará are not isolated cases. All over Brazil Indians are expressing grave fears about the future. Paulo Marubo, an Indian from the Javari Valley in the state of Amazonas, not far from the border with Peru, says that FUNAI, decimated by budget cuts, will have to close many of its offices for ethno-environmental protection (Bapes), which play a key role in monitoring the territory occupied by uncontacted tribes.
Marubo told Survival International: “If the protection teams are withdrawn, it will be like before, when many Indians were massacred and died as a result of disease… If the loggers come here, they will want to contact the uncontacted, they will spread diseases and even kill them.”
Instead, the federal government seems to be turning its back on indigenous demands. During his first 55 days in office, justice minister Osmar Serraglio didn’t have a single meeting with an Indian but found time to sit down behind closed doors with a 100 landowners plus businessmen accused of corruption in the Car-Wash scandal.
During the large protest in Brasilia, Serraglio and Eliseu Padilha, Temer’s chief-of-staff, belatedly offered to meet the Indians, but that offer was turned down. The two officials are known to have drawn up the government’s anti-indigenous strategy and, with no offer of compromise on the table, the indigenous leaders saw little point in meeting with them.
The current assault on indigenous rights is the most severe since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. The NGO ISA (Socioenvironmental Institute) says there has been an “exponential increase in rural violence” since Temer took over. It comments: “The fact that the ministry of justice is occupied by [Osmar Serraglio], an advocate of injustice reinforces the sinister omens of what lies ahead.”
(Leia essa matéria em português no The Intercept Brasil. You can also read this article in Portuguese at The Intercept Brasil)