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to self-determination, collective rights, and the right to development. Many human
rights advocates regard article 3, the right to self-determination in the UN DRIP, as
the most significant feature of the Declaration, with all other rights supporting that
essential freedom.
Indigenous Peoples around the globe have sought recognition of their identities,
their ways of life, and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources;
yet throughout history, their rights have been continuously violated. The Guarani,
Kaingang, Terena and other Indigenous Peoples in Brazil are arguably among the
most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people on this planet today. The
international community now recognizes that special measures are required to
protect Indigenous rights globally. This chapter highlights the struggle toward self-
determination, the protection of collective rights and the right to development of
native Brazilians, indicating how important it is for the UN DRIP to be implemented
and respected worldwide.
Mathematics Is Important for the Autonomy of Indigenous Peoples
The idea that “mathematics is important for the autonomy of Indigenous Peoples,”
first advanced by the Guarani Mbyá of São Paulo, opened proceedings of the
Teacher Training Workshop to the relevance of a politicized mathematics education
for teachers, Indigenous or not, working directly for Indigenous communities. In
March 1999, over the course of an 80-hour workshop held at the Instituto Cajamar
of São Paulo (co-founded in 1988 by Paulo Freire, former President of Brazil Lula
Ignácio da Silva, among others), 60 Indigenous and non-Indigenous teachers, school
directors and educators working in public schools on and around Indigenous lands
came together to plan the future of mathematics education for southern native
Brazilians. The somewhat dry and abstract goal of the workshop was to “to train
human resources in mathematics education,” following the mandate of the state's
Secretary of Education, promoting the event. I was hired to lead the mathematics
workshop, given my prior experience as a mathematics teacher for the Xavante,
Kayabi, Juruna, Suyá, and Kayapó nations of central Brazil in the 1980s and 90s.
It was a huge challenge but nevertheless an exhilarating experience to lead a
discussion about mathematical knowledge amongst 60 individuals from distinct
ethnicities - 40 Guarani Mbyá, Guarani Nhandeva, Terena, Krenak, Kaingang, and
Pankaru teachers, as well as 20 non-Indigenous Portuguese-speaking participants -
with varying levels of understanding and expectations about the power of mathematics
to promote social change and protect human rights. There was a broad range of
participants, from mathematics teachers with college degrees (all non-Indigenous) to
others with varying levels of elementary and high school education (all Indigenous).
Most striking was the lack of information on the part of most educators about the
overall situation of Indigenous Peoples in São Paulo, and in Brazil broadly speaking,
and their human rights. Very few professores brancos , literally “white teachers”
as they are known in the area, knew details about Brazil's history of colonization
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