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Bury My Heart on the Bend of the João Dias Streamlet in the Indigenous Land of Limão Verde

The Indigenous Peoples of Brazil are going through an intense rescue process of their ancestral lands.

Some years ago the Indian Tenetehar from Maranhão told me about a Bororo leader when someone asked him about those times of the colonization. Touched and speaking in a loud voice he said: “The European, the civilized man, when he arrived here, he stepped hard, he stepped hard not only in the land, but in the soul of our people as well. The rivers got wider, the seawater became saltier, but both were with our people’s tears.” I never forgot those words. I knew it was truth and that within our blood there were still the tears of our ancestors running. I thought of the way that my grandmother’s grandmother was murdered in the end of the XIX century with a bullet against her chest and of her last wish to go back to her ancestral land, her village, the land neither her body nor her spirit could see again in Bahia.

When I visited for the first time the Indigenous Village of Limão Verde in the city of Aquidauana in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, in Central-West Brazil, I observed a clean water streamlet that crossed the whole community. It crosses several areas and farms until it arrives all polluted in the city of Aquidauana. Those waters that roll a long way to get in the city tell a little bit of the history of each border, in the land in which the spirits are thirsty, stage one part of the Paraguayan War. It reminded me of the book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” by Dee Brown in which he shows the massacre and the genocide of the indigenous population in North America. A decision of the Supreme Federal Court in March 2015, nullified the Declaratory Administrative Rule of the Indigenous Land of Limão Verde. Terena leaderships asked the SFC to revalidate the Declaratory Administrative Rule so they do not lose their homologated indigenous area. A resistance symbol Limão Verde does not represent today merely a part of the history of the Terena, but all the indigenous lands threatened in Brazil.

The Indigenous Peoples of Brazil are going through an intense rescue process of their ancestral lands. In Ilhéus, Bahia, the Tupinambá from Olivença suffer retaliation from the farmers, they await for the demarcation of their lands and constantly have their leaderships killed in gunmen’s ambushes. In Pau Brasil the Pataxó Hã Hã Hãe people are going through the same conflicts situation over land, even after the assassination in Brasília in 1997 of the Pataxó Hã Hã Hãe, Galdino Jesus dos Santos, from the Indigenous Land of Caramuru-Catarina Paraguaçu. He was sleeping on a bus stop of a public square when the teenagers Tomás Oliveira de Almeida, Eron Chaves Oliveira, Max Rogério Alves, Antonio Novely Cardoso and Gutemberg Nader Almeida Junio put fire on him.

A great part of the indigenous territory in the country is occupied mainly by farms, hotels or companies, in which the indigenous people were not only victims of expulsion and genocide in the past but also of slavery and exploitation during the whole existence of the Indian Protection Service (IPS). The document that proves that is the Figueiredo Report written in 1967 and found by the historiographer Marcelo Zelic of the Grupo Tortura Nunca Mais of São Paulo (Torture Never Again). This report gathers a series of accusations over human rights violations at the time of the military dictatorship in Brazil from 1964 to 1968. Whole communities suffered from torture, extermination and slavery. Indigenous Commission of Truth have been gathering testimonies among several peoples about this period of violence based on the National Commission of Truth (Comissão Nacional da Verdade) created over the Law 12528/2011 and established in 16th May 2012.

Some lands ware demarcated by the government but a lot more are still waiting to be. Land is life, the safety guarantee for future generations and maintenance of the culture of each people. Without land, many indigenous families have to live by roadsides or in places where one cannot have a decent condition of life. Today we have an indigenous population that besides suffering from prejudice and discrimination, present in some regions high child mortality rates and leaderships are killed in conflicts over land with non-Indians. Unfortunately, in Brazil the indigenous lands are going through repossession. That happens when farmers and others take the land supported by misappropriated laws. One of the articulations between agroindustry and rural caucus that are trying to make money in these lands. Besides we have gone through 515 years of colonization, we are still living as we did before, even though many indigenous rights were obtained with the Constitution of 1988. There are more than 300 indigenous nations in Brazil. With the arrival of the Constitution Amendment Proposition 215/2000, known as PEC 215, no more Indigenous Land is assured in Brazil if it gets approved.

This story originally appears at www.radioyande.com, and is a reprint with permission. Translated into English by José Jefferson.