Genocide of indigenous peoples in Brazil
|Part of a series on|
of Indigenous peoples
The process that has been described as the genocide of indigenous peoples in Brazil began with the Portuguese colonization of the Americas, when Pedro Álvares Cabral made landfall in what is now the country of Brazil in 1500. This started the process that led to the depopulation of the indigenous peoples in Brazil, because of disease and violent treatment by European settlers, and their gradual replacement with colonists from Europe and Africa. This process has been described as a genocide, and continues into the modern era with the ongoing destruction of indigenous peoples of the Amazonian region.
Over eighty indigenous tribes were destroyed between 1900 and 1957, and of a population of over one million during this period eighty per cent had been killed through disease, violent enslavement or murder. The 1988 Brazilian Constitution recognises indigenous peoples' right to pursue their traditional ways of life and to the permanent and exclusive possession of their "traditional lands", which are demarcated as Indigenous Territories. In practice, however, Brazil's indigenous people still face a number of external threats and challenges to their continued existence and cultural heritage. The process of demarcation is slow—often involving protracted legal battles—and FUNAI do not have sufficient resources to enforce the legal protection on indigenous land.
Since the 1980s there has been a boom in the exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest for mining, logging and cattle ranching, posing a severe threat to the region's indigenous population. Settlers illegally encroaching on indigenous land continue to destroy the environment necessary for indigenous peoples' traditional ways of life, provoke violent confrontations and spread disease. Peoples such as the Akuntsu and Kanoê have been brought to the brink of extinction within the last three decades. On 13 November 2012, the national indigenous peoples association from Brazil APIB submitted to the United Nation a human rights document with complaints about new proposed laws in Brazil that would further undermine their rights if approved.
Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been formed due to the ongoing persecution of the indigenous peoples in Brazil, and international pressure has been brought to bear on the state after the release of the Figueiredo Report which documented massive human rights violations.
In the 1940s the state and the Indian Protection Service (IPS) forcibly relocated the Aikanã, Kanôc, Kwazá and Salamái tribes to work on rubber plantations. During the journey many of the indigenous peoples starved to death, those who survived the journey were placed in an IPS settlement called Posto Ricardo Franco. These actions resulted in the near extinction of the Kanôc tribe.
The ethnocide of the Yanomami has been well documented, there are an estimated nine thousand currently living in Brazil in the Upper Orinoco drainage and a further fifteen thousand in Venezuela. The NGO Survival International has reported that throughout the 1980s up to forty thousand gold prospectors entered Yanomami territory bringing diseases the Yanomami had no immunity to, the prospectors shot and destroyed entire villages, and Survival International estimates that up to twenty per cent of the people were dead within seven years.
The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, whose territory has been protected by law since 1991, saw an influx of an estimated 800 people in 2007. The tribal leaders met with the civil authorities and demanded the trespassers be evicted. This tribe, initially contacted in 1981, saw a severe decline in population after disease was introduced by settlers and miners. Their numbers are now estimated at a few hundred.
During the Portuguese conquest of the Americas, Cabral made landfall off the atlantic coast. Over the following decade the indigenous Tupí, Tapuya and other tribes which lived along the coast suffered large depopulation due to disease and violence. A process of miscegenation between Portuguese settlers and indigenous women also occurred. It is estimated that of the 2.5 million indigenous peoples who had lived in the region which now comprises Brazil, less than 10 per cent survived to the 1600s. The primarily reason for depopulation was diseases such as smallpox that advanced far beyond movement of European settlers.
In 1952 Brazil ratified the genocide convention and incorporated into their penal laws article II of the convention. While the statute was being drafted, Brazil argued against the inclusion of cultural genocide, claiming that some minority groups may use it to oppose the normal assimilation which occurs in a new country. According to professor of law at Vanderbilt University Larry May, the argument put forward by Brazil was significant, but cultural genocide should not be cast aside, and this type of genocide should be included within the definition of genocide.
In 1967 public prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia, submitted the Figueiredo Report to the dictatorship which was then ruling the country. The report, which ran seven thousand pages, remained hidden for over forty years. Its release caused an international furore. The rediscovered documents are being examined by the National Truth Commission which has been tasked with the investigations of human rights violations which occurred in the periods 1947 through to 1988. The report reveals that the IPS had enslaved indigenous people, tortured children and stolen land. The Truth Commission is of the opinion that entire tribes in Maranhão were completely eradicated and in Mato Grosso, an attack on thirty Cinturão Largo left only two survivors. The report also states that landowners and members of the IPS had entered isolated villages and deliberately introduced smallpox. Of the one hundred and thirty four people accused in the report the state has as yet not tried a single one. The report also detailed instances of mass killings, rapes, and torture. Figueiredo stated that the actions of the IPS had left the indigenous peoples near extinction. The state abolished the IPS following the release of the report. The Red Cross launched an investigation after further allegations of ethnic cleansing were made after the IPS had been replaced.
In 1992 a group who had been prospecting for gold were tried for the attempted genocide of the Yanomami tribe. A report from an anthropologist, which was submitted as evidence during the trial, stated that the prospectors' entry into Yanomami territory had an adverse effect on their lives, as the prospectors carried diseases. They had also contaminated the rivers which the Yanomami used as a source of food. The UN reported that thousands of the Yanomami have been killed as the Brazilian government failed to enforce the law, and that even after though the Yanomami peoples territory had been demarcated the state had not provided the necessary resources to stop the illegal incursion of gold prospectors. These prospectors have caused massive forest fires which have led to the destruction of extensive areas of both croplands and rainforest.
At the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil the Kari-Oka Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter were presented by the representatives of indigenous peoples from around the world. The Kari-Oka Declaration states "We continue to maintain our rights as peoples despite centuries of deprivation, assimilation and genocide". The declaration also asserted that the genocide convention must be amended so as to include the genocide of indigenous peoples. The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) was founded in 1968 in response to the genocide of indigenous peoples in Brazil and Paraguay, and in 1969 Survival International was founded in London as a response to the atrocities, theft of land and genocide occurring in the Brazilian Amazon. In 1972 anthropologists from Harvard university founded Cultural survival.
The World Bank has been subject to criticism over loans which have been used to help fund the dislocation of indigenous peoples and environmental destruction. The Polonoreste project caused wholesale deforestation, ecological damage on a wide scale, as well as the forced relocation of indigenous communities. The project led to an international campaign which resulted in the World Bank suspending loans.
- Churchill, Ward (2000). Israel W. Charny, ed. Encyclopedia of Genocide. ABC-CLIO. p. 433. ISBN 978-0874369281.
- Scherrer, Christian P. (2003). Ethnicity Nationalism and Violence: Conflict Management, Human Rights and Multilateral Regimes. Ashgate. p. 204. ISBN 978-0754609568.
- Hinton, Alexander L. (2002). Annihilating Difference: The Anthropology of Genocide. University of California Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0520230293.
- Federal Constitution of Brazil. Chapter VII Article 231.
- "2008 Human Rights Report: Brazil". United States Department of State: Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- "Indigenous Lands > Introduction > About Lands". Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Instituo Socioambiental (ISA). Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- Borges, Beto; Combrisson, Gilles. "Indigenous Rights in Brazil: Stagnation to Political Impasse". South and Meso American Indian Rights Center. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- Schwartzman, Stephan; Valéria Araújo, Ana; Pankararú, Paulo (1996). "Brazil: The Legal Battle Over Indigenous Land Rights". NACLA Report on the Americas 29 (5). Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- "Brazilian Indians 'win land case'". BBC News. 11 December 2008. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). "Introduction > Akuntsu". Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). "Introduction > Kanoê". Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
- "English version of human rights complaint document submitted to the United Nations by the National Indigenous Peoples Organization from Brazil (APIB)". Earth Peoples. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
- Van Der Voort, Hein (2004). A Grammar of Kwaza. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 5. ISBN 978-3110178692.
- Haviland, William A.; Harald E. L. Prins; Dana Walrath (2013). Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Wadsworth. p. 628. ISBN 978-1133941323.
- Davi, Kopenawa Yanomami (2013). "The Yanomami". Survival International.
- International, Survival. "Massive invasion of isolated Indians land". Survival International.
- Darcy Ribeiro – O Povo Brasileiro, Vol. 07, 1997 (1997), pp. 28 to 33; 72 to 75 and 95 to 101.
- "Unnatural Histories - Amazon". BBC Four.
- Quigley, John B. (2006). The Genocide Convention: An International Law Analysis. Ashgate. p. 48. ISBN 978-0754647300.
- May, Larry (2010). Genocide: A Normative Account. Cambridge University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0521122962.
- Watts, Jonathan; Jan Rocha (19 May 2013). "Brazil's 'lost report' into genocide surfaces after 40 years". The Guardian.
- Garfield, Seth (2001). Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil: State Policy, Frontier Expansion and the Xavante Indians, 1937–1988. Duke University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0822326656.
- Warren, Jonathan W. (2001). Racial Revolutions: Antiracism and Indian Resurgence in Brazil. Duke University Press. p. 84. ISBN 978-0822327417.
- Travis, Hannibal (2013). Ethnonationalism, Genocide, and the United Nations. Routledge. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0415531252.
- Totten, Samuel; Robert K. Hitchcock (2010). Samuel Totten, Robert K. Hitchcock, ed. Genocide of Indigenous Peoples: Genocide: A Critical Bibliographic Review. Transaction. p. 4. ISBN 978-1412814959.
- Morgan, Rhiannon (2011). Transforming Law and Institution. Ashgate. p. 65. ISBN 978-0754674450.