Article: ‘Indian program’*: prejudice, yes sir!

“Of all the ingredients of this promiscuous well arranged salad of public-private, the more nefast has been prejudice in the last period, which fatally affects the indigenous people.” Antônio Claret […]

“Of all the ingredients of this promiscuous well arranged salad of public-private, the more nefast has been prejudice in the last period, which fatally affects the indigenous people.”

Antônio Claret Fernandes, MAB member and missionary of the Xingu Prelacy

*PHOTO: Ruy Sposati – Indigenous Missionary Council – CIMI”

Jairo, of the Munduruku do Tapajós, has been incisive in his testimonial: “ Indigenous people do not want to be a museum piece, we want to be living people!” at the symposium organized by a work-team of the Federal University of Para, in Altamira, on May 17th.

His testimonial sounds like a prophecy! Someone who mobilizes against the threat of extinction due to the prepotency of the Capital, which is materialized in real and concrete names and addresses. The post-colonial project implemented in the Amazon region with the intensive capitalist expansion at any cost, is a mixed salad with many ingredients, among them brutal force, psychological pressure, co-optation and prejudice.

The Transamazônica highway was opened with brutal force during the Military Dictatorship. The slogan at that time was: “land without people for people without land”. Of course! The indigenous inhabitants of these forests were not considered people.

A habitant of Altamira, proud to be a hunter at that time, lifts his T-shirt and shows the arrow marks, which perforated his abdomen and left that horrible scar. Who were those hunters? What exactly did they do? They were “professionals” acknowledged of the secrets of the forests, in general were friends of the indigenous people, hired by the military to apparently guarantee the “mix” of dinner with hunted meat. But that is only apparently, their real function, and here is the brutal force, was to hunt indigenous people, they curtailed them, just like they do to cattle, and killed them without any pity; leaving no chance for resistance. This way they opened the highway in the middle of the forest, breaking the resistance of the arrow with the weight of the gun.

The recent “expedition study” at Tapajós, is a typical example of psychological pressure, also brutal. Maximum force is used to find minimum resistance. You will find 200 armed policemen with the intention to guarantee studies that “have to be done” by the rivers with the objective to implement hydroelectric power plant dams.

This expedition is successful in the point of view of the Capital – “rigorously accomplishing the plan”, affirmed the government -, but leaves a trace of indignation among the Munduruku, who are now very alert. And they react! They occupied the construction site at Belo Monte, between the days of May 2nd and 9, when they left, forced by the order of property reintegration. Because of the complete unresponsiveness of the government and Norte Energia in hearing them, they occupied the construction site again on May 27th.This time for an undetermined period.


The National Force, which practically lives at the construction site, is also an open example of psychological state pressure in favour of the private. This demonstration of force, although a sign of weakness, has a perverted effect on people. An inhabitant near to community of São Francisco, at the 27 km, said that “the policemen pass there every day”. Of course for the workers that are confined and inspected at each entrance and at the gateway it is even worse.

A third ingredient is the mirror tactic1, which continues to be the form of co-optation, naturally with more sophisticated proposals and objects. Five hundred million serve as leisure to politicians of the twelve municipalities of the area of influence of the Belo Monte Dam. Like hunter- hounds they dispute between them the small pieces of flesh of the palace gardens. They are satisfied, sometimes, because historically they did not even have the bones.2 But even these crumbs they are only promises to the people. It is often seen in the municipalities boards indicating the benefits obtained thanks to the support given to the construction of the Belo Monte Dam. But the real constructions with these funds are never seen, they stay on project papers.

But of all the ingredients of this promiscuous well arranged salad of public-private, the more nefast has been prejudice in the last period which falls fatally on the indigenous people. Norte Energia and Government think that the indigenous do not have organizational capacity neither can write a letter to expose their point of view.

This prejudice falls as well to the non-indigenous people. The treatment which should be particular to the indigenous, but which turns out to be prejudiced, reveals to be a prohibition for non-indigenous people to protest. Even because of rumours they face prohibitory injunctions. During indigenous protests non-indigenous people are investigated by the Federal and Civil Police believing that this way they will reach the head of the organization.

The question of more than 500 years ago was if the sauvage (T.N: how the white people referred to the indigenous people) had soul. Anyhow, the objective is the same, there and here: to create objective conditions for domination, massacre, complete extinction. Prejudice is the first step to decimate a population group. It is in this context that Jairo’s testimonial reveals as a prophecy at that day of the symposium. Behind the phrase: “Indigenous people do not want to be a museum piece, wants to be people alive!” is the feeling of the people of the forests that governments and companies are disposed to reduce them to these stereotyped figure of the pure Indian, exotic, folkloric, whom are no barrier for the advance of the Capital.

In History you have many of these examples. People who were decimated intentionally, but ironically are honoured by their dominator’s, putting their names on royal products or on potential commodities. For example Aimorés is a trademark of biscuits and Guarani is a aquifer.

In this dispute between the cannon and the arrow (the cannon which is powered by endless greed; and the arrow, coming of a millenarian culture – which has normal contradictions but always with principles and values of undeniable importance -) graves of history breaks and resurfaces from the whited sepulchres positions of prejudice.

War is war, and the enemies of the people do not send flowers.

The myth that indigenous are mean, the myth of the eternal cannibals, gains more force among the people. A sweet woman in Minas Gerais, when heard of our mission trip to Para, in September 2011, made an innocent comment, but born out of prejudice:

– Are you not afraid of indigenous people?

I answered directly:

– No! We are afraid of the indigenous enemies.

These are the ideas planted in the head of Brazilian people about the indigenous. And who tries to to counteract this idea, like CIMI does, is set aside, or is victim of calumny to delegitimize their work.

Among the population of Altamira area venomous comments comes up again: ‘Indian does not work, does not need so much land!’. And everyone has a story to tell.

In Brasil Novo, a city 45 km from Altamira, a simple settler3 said, “where I lived, in Pernambuco, Indians came at my house asking for anything. Once, arrived ten, to test them I asked them to seek firewood. Each brought a stick, like birds when make nests.” And the settler laughed!

At Km 18, heading Altamira/Maraba next to the Belo Monte construction site community leaders lodged the Mundurukú, which remained there until the 26th May, the eve of the second occupation of the dam construction site. There were the most absurd comments at the village, such as: “they will expel all non-Indian” “the people are upset with their leaders, they should not have welcomed these people”; “they are threatening people at the door”.

Luckily, those who really participate in the community did not listen to these kind of comments. And they could enjoy with their own eyes and ears, a unique wisdom. Throughout Sunday they assembled, attentive, discussing their problems, ready to face its challenges. At night, young indigenous people played guitar and sang hymns in the community.

This resurrection of prejudice, as a chronic disease whose wound healed over, the surface begins to open up and bleed, aching terribly, is related to the old plan of colonization of Amazon and in whole Brazil.

Nowadays no one affirms that Indians does´t have a soul. On the exploration point of view to have or not a soul does not matter. Capitalists for example do not have a ‘soul’, but have achieved much success on their business. At least at their business!

So you do not say that Indian do not have a soul. But it is planted the prejudice against the indigenous, because this makes a lot of difference; prejudice comes on peoples lips, forms the public who will clap and will vote on those who generate the indigenous genocide. Prejudice transform victims into bandits. Prejudice affects the indigenous and the resistance of the natives. Jairo is right! In this conjuncture – which goes beyond governments action, but which has its active participation -, the indigenous are condemned to turn into a museum piece.

With the begin of the construction of Belo Monte many indigenous people started to wander around the streets of Altamira. Some begging or unfortunately turned into alcoholics and even addicted on other types of drugs. Why? Quality of life in the indigenous villages is now worse, despite of the discourse and objects. The House of The Indigenous in Altamira which has capacity for 80 people, is now crowded, sometimes with 180 people. If the snake comes and messes in the bird nest, attacking the eggs and chicks, it is normal that the bird fly around, lost, and without destination. And will be totally vulnerable for other predators. That is what is happening with the indigenous. The abandonment itself is part of the game. Because it creates more prejudice, which weakens them.

The correlation of strength is unfavourable for people in struggle at the moment. This situation is worse when companies and governments with weapons are in a society of prejudice. A weak team has a good chance of winning with strong supporters. The case of Belo Monte is a strong team, with a budget over 30 billion dollars, with combined efforts of the private and state – meaning that, ultimately, they have in their favour Justice and weapons. It is a coward situation, sophisticated rifles against bows and arrows. It is reality.

It is evident that the pressure on indigenous lands especially in the Amazon will continue to grow. What is in dispute is more than Belo Monte on the Xingu and Teles Pires, on the river of Tapajós. The agribusiness, mining companies, electricity companies will not give them peace until they grab everything and drain the last drop of blood from the Amazon, and its different peoples.

Governments/companies and indigenous confront each other in an unequal dispute. In Congress and the Senate, proceed through Amendments Projects for the Constitution. This means that, rights which were incorporated in the Constitution4 with much effort by CIMI and other entities may fall down, because of the Capital; which has name and address, is insatiably hungry. Among the 513 members that make up the Congress, less than 5, if much, have the courage to stand up in favour of the indigenous, on risk of losing funding for his campaign and not be re-elected.

The [capitalist] band continues playing in a criminal harmony. Historical entities and social activists are institutionalizing, bureaucratic and repeating the same refrain that the sacrifice of some will be for the good of all. A fallacy! Many associations, unions and other entities, the most diverse, although are still silent, are seeing the band pass.
In fulfillment of repossession yesterday, May 30, on the farm Buriti, in Campo Grande, the Federal Police and military killed an indigenous, the Terena, 36, and injured four others. In Belo Monte, natives of various tribes, led by Mundurukú Tapajós, remain at the construction site since May 27th despite of the injunction of repossession. The risk of conflict is imminent! A friend of ours, defender of the indigenous peoples, said that the ‘caciques‘, political leaders, withdrew from the battlefield, and the warriors stayed in battlefield; a clear sign that they intend to resist. How many more will still die?

The [capitalist] band have mad maestros. And follows the capitalist rhythm who bets all in money signs and a in a power project without a enduring nation project. We must touch dissonant notes – many, and much harder! – The indigenous flute, in line with the fisherman, in the mind of the worker, in the heart of the people in the trenches of history to end for once and for all ‘Sir prejudice’. Different peoples have the right to self-determination, deciding what is best for the territories where they live and their lives, and the country and the people can not survive of the bread crumbs since it is the people who plant wheat, kneads and bakes the whole bread.

Published in Portuguese 31/05/2013 

* Translator note on the title: Is a Brazilian expression of prejudice, meaning an appointment without much planning, refers to indigenous people as disorganized. This article writes about the prejudice suffered by indigenous people.

1 Translator note: Reference to the first colonization period of Brazil, when colonizers exchanged mirrors and other objectives with the indigenous for gold.

2 Translator note: The author refers that the Federal Government send funds for investment for municipal politicians, this way federal government guarantees municipal support in relation to the construction of the dams.

3 Translator note: settlers (colono) at this case refers those who came from other regions of Brazil to work as farmers on own property. This immigration started with the Military Dictatorship when this government eased their coming and property of land for those who came to ‘populate’ Amazon.

4Translator note: At the time of the Constitution writing (1988).

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