military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. Following Freire, the Indigenous students and
I posited that learning should be viewed as an act of culture and freedom through
“conscientization” - developing consciousness, but consciousness understood to
have the power to transform reality. The actions of the protagonists in these chapters
reflect just that - an attempt to liberate themselves from oppression and humanize
the world they live in and help create. In my own work, Paulo Freire's emphasis on
dialogue and on people working with each other to transform the world materialized
into short stories, memoirs, drawings, photographs, and maps published collectively
in numerous newsletters, first-readers, atlases, and history topics in the Xingu
Indigenous Park and other reservations or territories where I worked. Through
dialogues and debate, students were challenged to adopt more critical positions about
the country and their lives. Like Freire, many educators viewed education as an
effort to liberate people and not as yet another instrument to dominate them. In this
respect, the narratives in this topic offer a portrait of what Indigenous community
members were - and to a large extent still are - thinking, saying, and doing to claim
justice for themselves and make their communities flourish.
Freire's insistence on situating educational activity in the lived experience of
participants has opened up a series of possibilities for the way education has been
put into practice in Brazilian schools, and worldwide, including Indigenous ones.
Figure 3. Ri'tubre Xavante Village on the Kuluene Indigenous Reservation, 1978.
The traditional use of land by Brazil's original inhabitants required no written laws to
show ownership. The arrival of the Portuguese colonizers starting in the 16 th century,
however, made land ownership a documented requirement. It is well known that
this concept of colonial property and ownership was based on the theory of Terra
Nullius . In Latin, this means a no-man's land, a nothing-thing that can and should be
occupied. In International Law “terra nullius” describes territory that nobody owns
so that the first nation to discover it is entitled to take it over, as “finders-keepers.”
From this perspective, Indigenous Peoples worldwide who could not “prove” land
occupancy and property rights were literally wiped off of cartographic maps. They
were considered non-living beings, invisible non-extant peoples (Mirzoeff 2013).