CIMI - Indianist Missionary Council

Newsletter #197


Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 06:19:24 -0800

The president of Funai, Marcio Santilli, disappointed a caravan of 20 Xavante Indians who in the morning of February 12 visited the agency to request health care in their villages. With their bodies painted for war, they wanted the Indianist agency to explain why it has failed to provide an adequate care so far. Outraged with Santilli's passiveness, however, they pushed the president and other directors of the agency to the garage of the building, where for over an hour they held a tense conversation, protesting and denouncing the lack of assistance to the villages. In the afternoon, they tried to meet the minister of Justice, Nelson Jobim, but were instead received by the head of his cabinet, Jose Gregori, to whom the Xavante requested Santilli's dismissal. The claims of the Indians were seen by Funai as a ``reaction against the elimination of certain privileges'' which the new administration has been promoting. This position was immediately rejected by the Council for the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil (Capoib), which in a letter to the press has denounced the corruption of leaders as an old practice of the Indianist agency. According to Capoib, the Indians are not demanding unreasonable benefits, but rather that the State fulfill its duty. It also said that indigenous leaders are worried with reforms being promoted in Funai, as they are not being discussed with indigenous communities. In Capoib's opinion, Funai's reference to benefits is shameful, as for decades the agency has specialized in coopting Indians to overlook undue benefits enjoyed by certain directors. ``The State has always been interested in making sure that the Indians continue to be seen as dependents and ignorants.'' The actions of the Indians, some of which have been drastic, are ``a consequence of the genocidal policy that has been adopted in Brazil,'' they denounce. This is the fourth time this year that indigenous peoples take hostages to draw attention to their claims. In a meeting held on the following day, Funai announced that R$ 10,000 (around US$ 10,000) will be applied in projects to be implemented in indigenous communities. The Xavante who attended the meeting, around 40, do not believe in this promise.


The approval by the Federal Senate of the bill for the Law on Directives and Bases (LDB) for Education on February 8 represents a victory for the indigenous peoples of Brazil. The new text included an amendment proposed by senator Benedita da Silva (Workers' Party-Rio de Janeiro) based on a proposal made by Cimi to include an article in it ensuring indigenous peoples the right ``to a specific, differentiated, and intercultural school education, according to the linguistic universe of each people.'' According to the bill, indigenous peoples will have a school education that respects their costumes, beliefs and traditions. The participation of indigenous communities, organizations and similar entities in the definition of this education was also ensured. The Union will be responsible for offering this indigenous school education. The bill will now have to be passed by the Chamber of Deputies before it can become a law.

Brasilia, February 15, 1996,
Indianist Missionary Council