Tag Archives: GENOCIDE

Brazil’s Guarani-Kaiowa Tribe Allege Genocide Over Land Disputes

Indigenous leaders have accused landowners of murder

Indigenous leaders have accused landowners of murder. (Screenshot)

By BBC | Posted September 8 2015

Genocide is an emotive and powerful accusation to make against anyone but it is exactly what some indigenous leaders in Brazil say is happening to their people because of their government’s ignorance, if not its compliance.

For the past week hundreds of members of the Guarani-Kaiowa tribe have been mourning the death of a 24-year-old man, Semiao Vilhalva. He was killed – shot in the face – during an invasion, or re-occupation, of three farms in the western state of Matto Grosso do Sul.

I looked on as elderly members of the tribe chanted tributes in their native tongue and led mourners across fields they say have belonged to their people for centuries – long before their present white so-called owners arrived, cut down the trees and populated the area with cattle.

A Guarani leader denounces the murder of indigenous leader Simao Vilhalva during a protest in front of the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, 1 September 2015.

The Guarani have taken their protests to Brazil’s capital, Brasilia

Mourners at Semiao's funeral 08 September 2015

The Guarani hold their own ceremony for Semiao

Semiao's grave 08 September 2015

Semiao Valhala was buried on disputed land

Semiao was buried on this land, now occupied by the Guarani but also claimed as legally theirs by several influential and powerful farming families here in the state of Matto Grosso do Sul.

Guarani men showed me the very spot, on the bank of a small river, where Semiao was shot and died. The gunman, say my guides, was a hired “pistoleiro” brought in by the farmers to intimidate and scare off the Guarani.

Map of Brazil

But, if anything, the murder of their young leader has made these indigenous people even more resolute to remain.

“This is a deliberate policy of genocide. It’s a long legal process designed to kill our people, slowly but surely,” says Guarani elder Tunico Benites.

He goes on: “Our rights are being violated and we don’t have even the basic conditions to survive. So we have no choice but to occupy, to retake our lands – otherwise we can’t survive as a people.”

Tunico Benites 08 September 2015

Tunico Benites says his people face a threat

One of those farmers whose land is claimed by the Guarani, under a legal ruling dating back to 2005, is Roseli Ruiz. She is also the chairwoman of the local farmers’ syndicate, or union, and is completely mistrustful of the way the dispute has been reported in the international media.

In her office in the rural town of Antonio Joao, Roseli Ruiz dismisses any suggestion that farmers had a hand in the death of Semiao.

Arguing that that there was no obvious gunshot wound on his body (in contrast to a video I was shown which suggested otherwise) the combative Ms Ruiz offered an explanation that the Indians themselves brought someone who had died earlier, and presented it as a murder, just to discredit the farmers and advance their claims to the land.

Roseli Ruiz in her office 08 September 2015

Roseli Ruiz: “I was known as Roseli of the Indians”

Roseli Ruiz paints a picture of a hitherto mutually beneficial relationship between indigenous and farmer.

“I was known as Roseli of the Indians,” she cries. “I took them to hospital if they were ill and even built them a school.”

It was a relationship that, according to Roseli, only started to deteriorate when the Guarani began to pursue claims to the land – claims which she insists are baseless.

Ranchers have long been part of Brazil’s drive for development – deep into the interior of the country and into conflict with indigenous people.

While some farmers have taken their cattle and moved on from the disputed land, others are refusing to move.

Gino Ferreira with horse 08 September 2015

Farmers like Gino Ferreira refuse all attempts to move them out

Gino Ferreira, like many farmers, has legal titles to his fazenda – or farm. He blames the government for doing nothing while an inevitable conflict loomed.

“This is my family’s land,” says Gino. “If the Indians arrive and take it over what do you think I’m going to do? Lose all I’ve worked for?”

He too, dismisses any allegations that farmers had a hand in the death of the Guarani leader, Semiao.

“We’re not bandits and we don’t hire gunmen,” says the 50-year-old farmer.

He goes on, “There are political reasons why they to try and make us look bad but none of it is true.”

Indigenous leaders protest with a coffin against the murder of the leader of the Guarani Kaiowa ethnicity, Semiao Vilhalva, in Brasilia, Brazil 01 September 2015.

But the Guarani’s reputation for dogged determination and their struggle has attracted attention beyond this rugged border region between Brazil and Paraguay.

Survival International, one of several pressure groups to criticise the hitherto unexplained death of the tribe’s leader said, “What is particularly harrowing about this murder is that the Guarani knew their reoccupation was likely to end in bloodshed.”

The mood among the Guarani is militant. As other Brazilians this week celebrated their independence day, the land’s original inhabitants mourned what they had lost.

For now the Brazilian army is doing a good job of keeping the two sides apart – preventing new land invasions and more retribution.

Occupying these 10,000 hectares the Guarani may have succeeded in recovering some of what was historically theirs.

But it has come at a high price and their lives are still burdened by poverty and discrimination.


Does Canada Have Courage To Call What They Did To Indigenous Peoples Genocide?

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. ERIC LONG / NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. ERIC LONG / NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM

By Dan Lett

Commission’s report will offer stark evidence

In the elegant confines of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., the bias is pretty clear for all to see.

The content in this government-run facility is robustly pro-Indian rights and unabashedly political. Elaborate displays of cultural art and culture are laid alongside shocking and graphic descriptions of seminal legal battles involving, and the atrocities committed against, indigenous peoples in the U.S.

Most striking is the frequent use of a quote from former U.S. Supreme Court justice Hugo Black who, in 1960, argued in a minority opinion on a treaty rights case that “Great nations, like great men, should keep their word.” That is a stark missive to a government from a government-run museum.

What you will not find in this facility is the word “genocide.” It is not completely absent; the museum and its website both reference activists, academics and other supporters who believe American Indians were the victims of a state-sponsored genocide. The U.S. government, however, has declined to officially adopt the label.

That is not, in and of itself, an unusual condition. Nation states often struggle to accept an incident in their history meets the criteria of a genocide. Most acknowledged genocides come as the result of legal decisions, either from a domestic or international court. In the absence of those decisions, voluntary self-labelling is very rare.

Canada, however, could find itself in the rare position of becoming one of only a handful of nations to admit to a historic genocide when the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is tabled June 2.

Struck as part of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement between the federal government and victims, the commission has spent the last five years collecting evidence on the atrocities committed in residential schools.

It is not within the mandate of the commission to formally attach the term genocide to residential schools. That would come from a court or from Parliament. However, that has not stopped Justice Murray Sinclair, a judge from Manitoba and chairman of the TRC, from reaching his own conclusions.

In interviews and published arguments, Sinclair makes it clear residential schools were part of a process of aggressive colonization of aboriginal people. And that this process is consistent with international legal definitions of genocide.

Sinclair’s argument will be bolstered by new, stark details of just how badly we treated aboriginal children sent to residential schools.

The broader Canadian public has always conceded the schools tried to eradicate aboriginal culture. And that some of the children were victims of sexual and physical abuse so severe, some died. At the outset of the TRC, it was believed about 4,000 of the 150,000 children who went through the residential school system died from mistreatment of one form or another.

However, as the TRC has gone through its work, other, more troubling incidents have been revealed, some by the commission itself and others by academics doing parallel research into Canada’s treatment of aboriginal people.

Deadly tuberculosis outbreaks in overcrowded school dormitories. Medical experiments on malnourished aboriginal children, who were kept in a state of starvation to serve the needs of researchers. Dozens of unexplained, unmarked graves of aboriginal children near a residential school in Brandon.

The total number of aboriginal children who died while in the care of a residential school is expected to rise exponentially when the TRC tables its final report. And that alone should create an opportunity for a national debate about whether it’s time to use the term genocide to describe what went on.

Whether the current Conservative government accepts that opportunity is unclear. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to aboriginal people for their treatment in residential schools and offered financial compensation. In addition, Harper launched the TRC to look more deeply into the reality of residential schools.

There will be those who will argue Ottawa has done enough to address this issue and any debate over labelling residential schools a genocide is gratuitous. They will be wrong.

Whether or not the prime minister had this in mind when he created the TRC, the final report will serve as an indictment of Canada’s role in residential schools and provide the evidence necessary to back up a charge of genocide.

The politics of the TRC report is difficult to anticipate. The country is still keenly aware of concerns surrounding missing and murdered aboriginal women and the calls for a national inquiry.

Those calls have already become fodder for campaigning parties. Will the TRC report itself become an election issue this fall?

Regardless of how politicians wade into the issue, we should be confident that for the first time in our history, we will know the full truth about residential schools. What we choose to do with that information will either define us as a courageous nation or a cowardly one.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press story, Do we have courage to call what we did to natives genocide? by Dan Lett, May 21, 2015

Survivors Recall Genocide of Amazon Tribe in Brazil

Waimiri Atroari man shows children how to make an arrow, Brazil.

Waimiri Atroari man shows children how to make an arrow, Brazil.

December 13, 2014 | Latin American Herald Tribune

RIO DE JANEIRO – The almost complete extermination of an Amazonian tribe in the 1970s, one of the darkest chapters of Brazil’s military dictatorship, is detailed in a new book.

“The Military dictatorship and the Waimiri-Atroari Genocide,” written by anthropologist Egydio Schwade, brings together accounts from survivors.

The number of Waimiri-Atroaris plummeted from roughly 3,000 in 1972 and to 322 in 1983, according to censuses carried out by the University of Brasilia and the National Indian Foundation.

Recovery did not begin until after the end of the military regime in 1985 and even now, the Waimiri-Atroari population is only 1,689.

The book, which was funded in part by the Amazonas state Truth Commission, drew on contemporaneous official reports about a push to wipe out the Waimiri-Atroaris to make room for a highway through the jungle.

Schwade’s research found that the military razed entire villages, dropping chemicals from aircraft and gunning down the Indians in cold blood.

“Until now we had only suspicions, denunciations of what happened during the construction of (highway) BR-174,” Schwade told Efe. “We now have the story directly from the Indians themselves.”

Egydio Schwade

                                                  Egydio Schwade

Schwade and his wife, Doroti, compiled survivors’ accounts over the course of two years while teaching the Indians as a part of a literacy program.

The story begins in 1972 with the junta’s plan to build BR-174, a 750-kilometer (466-mile) highway across pristine jungle between Amazonas’ capital, Manaus, and Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state.

The regime first sent a small expedition that attempted to force the Indians to move to a new settlement, but the Waimiri-Atroaris resisted and killed the advance party, which brought about a harsh response, Schwade said.

“A war of extermination was launched” by the dictatorship’s top leaders and the state governors “who demanded the construction of the road at any cost,” he said.

One of the most shocking incidents described in the book happened in 1974, when Indians from a number of settlements gathered in a village 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the Alalau river for a festival.

A military aircraft flew over the village and sprayed a chemical that killed all but one of those present.

“When Indians from other villages who were late to arrive got there they found everyone dead in a town that should have been celebrating amid plates piled high with food,” the anthropologist said.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is visibly moved while presenting the final report of the National Truth Commission in Brasilia. Photograph: Agencia Estado/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is visibly moved while presenting the final report of the National Truth Commission in Brasilia. Photograph: Agencia Estado/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Crimes against the Waimiri-Atroaris where mentioned, without much detail, in the final report of the report delivered Wednesday to President Dilma Rousseff by the Truth Commission appointed to document human rights violations under the 1964-1985 military regime.

The report does cites an official document in which Brig. Gen. Gentil Nogueira Paes orders soldiers to “stage small shows of strength” if they spotted Indians close to the highway construction sites, including “bursts of machine-gun fire, grenades and dynamite.”

Schwade said he was initially “quite disappointed” about the treatment the Truth Commission’s report gave to the indigenous peoples’ question, but he praised the decision to continue investigations under a special panel.