Newsletter n. 225


The National Congress is considering the adoption of a new model for reservation units called Indigenous Reservation for National Conservation which may be a new attack on indigenous rights in Brazil. The model was proposed by the Socioenvironmental Institute (ISA) to the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC), which intends to establish ten conservation units with the aim of setting up an integrated, consistent and complete network of such units. The bill proposing the Indigenous Reservation was accepted for consideration by rapporteur Fernando Gabeira (deputy of the Green Party - Rio de Janeiro), after the original text was amended.

Worried with the negative effects of the bill on the rights of indigenous peoples, CIMI is proposing an amendment refuting the proposal of the Socioenvironmental Institute, which is regarded as clearly unconstitutional. The model of the Indigenous Reservation for National Conservation deals with indigenous lands and their components in a manner which is not in tune with the Federal Constitution, as it is intended to turn them, among other things, into territorial spaces whose main purpose would be to conserve the natural resources found in them, where research activities, visits, private and public works, and the exploitation of natural resources would be allowed. According to the proposal, the Reservation would be managed by the agencies in charge of environmental and indigenous matters and both public and private institutions, and indigenous groups would no longer enjoy exclusive usufruct rights in it, as private individuals and groups would also be entitled to enjoy this right.

In its amendment, CIMI warns that, conceptually, lands traditionally occupied by indigenous groups are areas for the conservation of environmental resources where the policies, practices and measures to conserve nature provided for in the law are to be applied, except those which are not consistent with the exclusive possession and usufruct rights ensured to indigenous groups in the Constitution. Any conservation measures to be adopted must be previously agreed upon with the communities concerned, which must receive compensations for any inconveniences.


Minister Ilmar Galvao of the Supreme Federal Court in Brasilia withdrew a decision aimed at suspending the effects of the Administrative Decree which established the Ventarra Indigenous Area of the Kaingang Indians in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The decision was made as a result of a bill of review filed by Funai. The Indianist agency based its arguments on Law 6,001/73, according to which "no judicial action may be taken on a preliminary basis" in proceedings involving indigenous groups "without the prior knowledge of the Union" or of Funai.

Therefore, the demarcation process can continue until the stage before the registration of the land, provided that the present situation is not changed - with regard to possession issues and title deeds to be discussed as a result of an action filed by Funai at the Supreme Federal Court. However, the demarcation of the Ventarra indigenous area was interrupted on July 9, when the minister of Justice, Nelson Jobim, determined that its invaders would have a deadline of 120 days to apply for compensations for improvements made therein.

Brasilia, 29 August 1996
Indianist Missionary Council