Brazilian Indians Marking Lands Themselves Due to Government’s Delay

The Munduruku Indians have begun marking their ancestral lands in the Amazon region on their own, tired of waiting for the Brazilian government to get around to protecting the territory, indigenous sources said Thursday.

The area claimed by the Indians, called the Sawre Muybu, is a jungle zone 178,000 hectares (about 700 square miles) in size in the northern state of Para, where about 300 Mundurukus live and where the government intends to build two hydroelectric facilities.

The Indians are carving a pathway out of the jungle and are being guided with a GPS device as they mark the zone with stakes in the "hope" that the government will recognize their efforts after the fact, according to missionary Haroldo Pinto, with the Indigenous Missionary Council, or Cimi, told Efe.

About 70 Indians from the tribe, which is one of the most numerous in the southeastern Amazon jungle, began delimiting the ancestral lands on Oct. 16.

The official process of delimiting the reservation was launched in January 2001 and in 2013 the Funai national Indian foundation finished the report that will allow the zone to be protected, but that document has still not been officially published, and so it has not yet entered into force, and thus the Mundurukus do not yet have exclusive rights to the land there.

"Now they are in a very vulnerable situation. As long as the area is not marked, it is being invaded by illegal miners, or those who want to fish or cut wood. Everyone thinks they own it and that creates the threat of conflict. The Mundurukus are defending their territory," said Pinto.

The Indians accuse the government of not wanting to protect the lands so that it can build the hydroelectric centers in the area, projects that – according to the original plans – will flood part of the Sawre Muybu region.

The Mundurukus issued a statement confirming that they will not negotiate with the government until the official project to protect the Sawre Muybu zone is completed.

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