Newsletter n. 248


A group of Terena and Xavante Indians represented the indigenous peoples of Brazil in the last homage paid to senator and anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro on Tuesday, February 18, in Brasilia. They brought a miniature vase (made by Kadiweu female Indians) adorned with flowers from the savannah region (Center-West) as a present for him. According to the tradition of Kadiweu communities, the present ensures abundance in the afterlife. In ten years working with Indians, Darcy Ribeiro won the respect and admiration of these peoples. In 1995, during a crisis caused by the disease he was suffering from, various Guarani-Kaiowa, Terena, Kadiweu and Urubu-Kaapor communities prayed for his cure in rituals. When he was informed about this, he was proud: "It's beautiful that they played drums for me." Senator Darcy Ribeiro died on Monday, the 17th, from cancer, and left an extremely important legacy for Brazilian Indianists.

Various books that he wrote portray the universe of indigenous peoples in Brazil, among which "Diarios Indios" (Indian Diaries), "Religiao e Mitologia Kadiweu" (Kadiweu Religion and Mythology), "Lingua e Cultura Indigena no Brasil" (Indigenous Language and Culture in Brazil), "Utopia Selvagem" (Savage Utopia), and a six-book collection titled "Estudos de Antropologia da Civilizacao" (Studies on the Anthropology of Civilization). The concept of "Territoriality" which he conceived served as a basis - in the Constitution of 1988 - to define the right to indigenous lands based on usage, customs and traditions.

In various interviews to the press, Darcy Ribeiro spoke of his love for indigenous peoples, saying that the years during which he was in contact with them were the best ones of his life. "The Indians gave me much more than I gave them. They gave me the image of a fried of Indians which did me much good," he once said. Elected senator in 1994, he played an important role in approving the Educational Guidelines and Foundations Law (LDB), which is regarded as the "Constitution" of education.

A man marked by an enterprising spirit, Darcy Ribeiro conceived important projects such as the Museum of the Indian, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, the Xingu Indigenous Park, in the state of Mato Grosso, the University of Brasilia, and the integrated teaching centers - full-time schools in Rio de Janeiro. Darcy's last dream, the "Caboclo (Brazilian white and Indian half-breed) Project" began to be studied by Brazilian anthropologists on Monday, the 17th, in Brasilia, when he was already hospitalized. The idea is to set up 10 or 12 experimental communities of Indians and "caboclos" in Amazonia with 50 families in 5-thousand-hectare areas. The objective of the project is to promote an exchange of technologies and sustainable development in the region with due regard for the ecosystem, thereby avoiding migratory movements to the outskirts of large cities. The "Caboclo Project" was inspired by the ideals of Chico Mendes.


A commission of Krikati Indians signed yesterday with Funai an agreement for the demarcation of 146 thousand hectares of their land in the south region of the state of Maranhao. The work will be carried out in six steps with funds provided by state enterprises and the World Bank. The two electric power transmission towers which were burned by the Indians have been recovered, but officials of Centrais Eletricas do Norte (Eletronorte) are facing an additional problem. Fed up with the lack of assistance provided to their community, the Guajajara Indians of the Canabrava village followed the example of the Krikati and burned two other transmission towers. No information is available on negotiations being carried out with this community.

Brasilia, 20 February 1997
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi