Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
of large multinational corporations, while their original owners were forcibly
exterminated, and their survivors transferred to diminutive and infertile reservations
(Survival International 2007). According to International law, in particular the United
Nations Convention on Genocide of 1948, ratified by Brazil in 1952, the intention to
exterminate Brazilian Indigenous Peoples, in whole or in part, qualifies as genocide.
Today, there are approximately 6,000 individuals belonging to 16 distinct Indig-
enous nations living in the XIP (ISA 2010). The Park is an administrative territorial
unit of the Brazilian State located in the northernmost part of the state of Mato Grosso,
which literally means “thick woods” in Portuguese (
woods, grosso thick). The
dense vegetation actually reflects a zone of transition between the brushy savannah
and the tropical Amazonian rain forest, but no doubt it is dense. Most Indigenous
Peoples now living in the Xingu Park suffered heavy population losses, either before
they were transferred into the park, due to the encroachment of colonizing fronts, or
else during the relocation process into the Park itself by the Brazilian government.
Up to 85 percent of the original inhabitants of central Brazil were summarily
exterminated during their initial contacts with colonizing fronts and various segments
of the broader Brazilian society in the 19 th and 20 th centuries. With the official creation
of the XIP in 1961, most peoples have increased demographically, basically due to
health care and sustainable environmental practices. In 1959, the date of the official
“pacification” of the Suyá people, there were 60 Suyá individuals living within the
Wawi area, which was being considered for demarcation within the boundaries of a
national (later changed to an “Indigenous”) park. The Suyá population today in the
Wawi Indigenous Land totals approximately 330 individuals (ISA 2010).
The Suyá share similar contact experiences with segments of the broader Brazilian
society, as many other Indigenous Peoples do, including the Juruna, Kayabi, Trumai,
and other nations that were either pushed into the Xingu area by settlers, goldminers,
and rubber-tappers, or brought into the park by colonizing agents of the Brazilian
government starting in the late 1950s. Their original territories were encroached
upon by rubber tappers, gold prospectors, and cattle ranchers who indiscriminately
killed the peoples with firearms and diseases, and enslaved them in their settlements,
raping and torturing women and children (Ferreira 1994a, Oliveira 1969, Seeger
1981, Travassos 1984). The Suyá were forced to migrate towards central Brazil
to the Xingu area in the mid 1800s, and have lived in the area later demarcated
as the Xingu Indigenous Park. One of its extensions, the Wawi Indigenous Land,
demarcated in 1998, gave rise to the main court case discussed in this chapter. As
the anthropological expert in this court case, I spent two weeks traveling around the
Wawi territory and its borders with the XIP with Intoni and other members of the
Suyá people, as well as two Funai officials.
Fact, Fiction, and the Language of Jurisprudence
Suyá practices of land occupancy clash abruptly with non-Indigenous ideas of land
ownership and jurisprudence. The Suyá are most interested in creating, negotiating
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