Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
and anthropologists at USP. Mathematics also helped strengthen the role of the
Xavante in Brazil's Organized Indigenous Movement, founded in the 1970s by
dozens of Indigenous communities, with the goal of fighting for the Indigenous
right to self-determination. This movement then led to several autonomous and self-
sustainable Indigenous projects, such as the ones described in this topic. At a global
level, movements such as these marked the initial drafting of the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - the UN DRIP (see Introduction
in this topic). 6
At the young age of 19, I found myself deeply immersed in a socio-political
situation that entailed the careful study of national and international law, Indigenous
history, and the provision of health care for the Xavante people given the poor health
of the villagers. Working as a practical nurse allowed me to care for children and
adults suffering tremendously from malnutrition and a gamut of newly introduced
contagious diseases, such as smallpox and tuberculosis, against which the Xavante
had no immunity. I relied heavily on the topic Where There's No Doctor (Werner
1973), which my father stuck in my backpack when I first left for central Brazil in
July, 1978.
In the midst of these very intense political movements in 1979 and 1980, Xavante
warriors from Kuluene, Couto Magalhães, and several other Indigenous territories
got together and managed to take over Fazenda Xavantina. While hundreds of
warriors, all painted in red and black, surrounded and then invaded the farm,
the women and I hid in the savannah forest to protect ourselves from potential
retaliation by the farmers in the absence of the Xavante men. The takeover of the
farm required elaborate mathematical calculations, including a detailed process
of mapping its entire surrounding, establishing checkpoints on roads and rivers,
and distributing weapons and ammunition amongst all the warriors. The standoff
was huge, with the military police barricaded behind sandbags protecting the
farmers. Fortunately no one was killed as the president of Funai soon promised
to begin the process of removal of the farmers from Fazenda Xavantina, after
paying them a big compensation for their “losses,” and start the extensive process
of the “demarcation” of what then became the Terra Indígena Parabubure .
Ten years later, on October 21, 1991, Funai issued Decree number 306, which
officially regulated the Parabubure land. The federal government and Funai, now
in the hands of civilians, began the process of dealing with the multiple outside
requests by mining companies to explore minerals on the recently demarcated land
(Ricardo 2000:691).
To this day, the 15,000 Xavante located on 9 Indigenous lands in the state of
Mato Grosso, including Parabubure and Sangradouro, face severe environmental
and health problems due to the continuing invasion of their lands, pollution of their
waterways, lack of resources, and insufficient health care. Degenerative diseases,
such as cancer and diabetes, are continuing to increase at an alarming rate, along
with respiratory and parasitic infections including tuberculosis and leishmaniosis.
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