Newsletter n. 247


The death of a six-year-old indigenous girl was the straw that broke the camel's back and led to a crisis in the Krikati area in the municipality of Montes Altos, state of Maranhao. Fed up with the lack of assistance, the invasion of their lands, and the hostility of the population of neighbouring towns, the Indians decided to draw society's attention by setting fire to and melting the foundations of two electric power transmission towers of the Tucurui power plant, belonging to Centrais Eletricas do Norte (Eletronorte), on the border with the state of Para. The Krikati are demanding the demarcation of 146,000 hectares, for which they have been fighting for 30 years. Brandishing bows and arrows, they say they will not be deceived any longer and that they will only leave the site of the conflict after being assured that their land will be demarcated.

The action of the Indians on Saturday (February 8) caused a cut in the provision of electric power in part of the municipalities of Imperatriz and Presidente Dutra in the state of Maranhao. They complain that Funai's office in Sao Luiz, capital of the state, had been informed many times that their lands had been invaded but did nothing about it. A commission made up of representatives of Funai, Eletronorte, the Land Reform Institute (Incra), the Ministry of Justice, and the Government of Maranhao is negotiating with the Indians in the conflict area. The acting president of the Republic, Marco Maciel, determined that the land in question is to be urgently demarcated, but the presidency of Funai argues that it only depends on a decision of the Ministry of Justice. Deputy Gilney Vianna, chairman of the Consumer Defense, Environment and Minorities Commission told the press that he will summon Eletronorte's chairman to provide explanations on the indemnification and the problem with the Krikati.

The date of this audience has not been fixed so far.


On Monday, February 10, about 500 Xokleng Indians who live in the Duque de Caxias indigenous area surprised the country by forcing the opening of two of the four gates of Barragem do Norte (North Dam), located in the municipality of Jose Boiteux, state of Santa Catarina.

They had been threatening to open the gates since February 3 as a means to pressure for a quicker solution to their problem. The Indians have camped close to the gates to demand an indemnification for the expropriation of 856 hectares in their land to be occupied by the reservoir of the dam. In addition to the indemnification, the Indians are demanding the building of roads, a bridge, 188 houses for the community and a church and also the expansion of the local school and the implementation of an electric power network, according to promises made by the federal administration in exchange for the expropriation.

The Xokleng complain that 300 hectares were flooded, their crops were destroyed, and at least 200 Indians were isolated because of the water that is covering the area. The North Dam was inaugurated in 1992 with the aim of avoiding floods in neighbouring towns and if it rains heavily in the next few days, the opening of the gates may lead to the flooding of at least six towns located in the region. The vice-governor of the state, Jose Augusto Hulse, asked the Federal Police for reinforce- ments to help him drive the Indians out of the dam area.

Brasilia, 14 February 1997
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi