Indigenous lands and their demarcations
Brazil has approximately 104,508,334 hectares (1 million and 45 thousand km²) of indigenous lands. This represents 12.24% of the extension of the Brazilian territory (almost twice the Spanish territory, which is 504,800 km²). According to data from 2001, Brazil has 580 indigenous areas, and in the period from January 1995 to April 2001, 99 areas were designated indigenous, making a total of 30,028,063 hectares (300,280 km²). Likewise, 140 indigenous lands were approved, totaling 40,965,000 hectares (409,650 km²). The Government has innovated by entering into partnerships with indigenous organizations and in support of Brazilian Indians to carry out, in a decentralized manner, the physical demarcation of these lands. This is the case of the area located in the Rio Negro region, in the state of Amazonas, which, adding up to more than 11,000,000 hectares (110,000 km²), was demarcated in a partnership that involved FUNAI,
The Brazilian Government has encouraged and supported promising initiatives that promote territorial management by the communities themselves, through sustainable practices that guarantee the economic return to meet their needs together with the maintenance of the ecological balance of their lands. One of these initiatives is the Forest Management Plan developed by the Xikrin do Cateté Indians, whose lands are located in the state of Pará, aiming at the sustainable exploitation and commercialization of timber and non-timber resources. The project has the support of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Environment, being financed with resources from the Vale do Rio Doce Company and the Pro-Management (included in the Pilot Program for the Protection of the Tropical Forests of Brazil – PPG7).
The recognition of indigenous lands is one of the main policies that the Brazilian state has been implementing so that these communities can recognize in it a channel of dialogue. In this sense, the Federal Government promotes a discussion with civil society regarding actions to support and value indigenous peoples. The participation of non-governmental organizations has been fundamental in this matter, and very positive results have been achieved.
Brazil’s support for its Indians
Externally, Brazil develops extensive cooperation on indigenous issues. The agreement signed with Germany, within the scope of the Pilot Program for the Protection of Tropical Forests in Brazil (PPG7), gave new impetus to this exchange, particularly with regard to the demarcation of indigenous lands. The Integrated Project for the Protection of Indigenous Populations and Lands in the Legal Amazon (PPTAL), implemented by FUNAI, is the result of a partnership between the Brazilian Government, the German government and international technical and financial support agencies, such as the United Nations Program for Development (UNDP) and the World Bank. Its objective is to improve the quality of life of indigenous populations and promote the conservation of natural resources by guaranteeing the demarcation of 160 indigenous lands in the Legal Amazon, covering a total of 45 million hectares. The PPTAL encourages the participation of indigenous communities and organizations by supporting Projects for Monitoring demarcations in progress and Surveillance Plans for already demarcated lands. It also provides for support for training actions linked to management and territorial protection by the Indians of Brazil.
Other examples of this effort are the Vãfy and 3rd Grade Indigenous Projects. These two have the educational issue in common. The first project involves FUNAI, Regional University of the Northwest of the State of Rio Grande do Sul -UNIJUÍ, University of Passo Fundo – UPF, and aims to better serve the indigenous community, ensuring quality education and the appreciation of the traditional language and customs.
In the coming years, the project should train 100 teachers qualified for teaching in education for the first grades of elementary school. This new team will meet the growing educational demand from the region’s indigenous communities. In the state of Rio Grande do Sul, for example, there are 37 indigenous elementary schools. The second project offers Full Degree Courses and aims to train indigenous teachers in three areas: Mathematical and Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Languages (Portuguese and the language of ethnicity), arts and literature. Today, Brazil has 3,041 indigenous teachers, who teach in 1,666 special schools.
The Government prepared, with the participation of indigenous experts and teachers, the National Curriculum Reference for Indigenous Schools (RCNEI), which allows the development of differentiated pedagogical and curricular proposals for indigenous peoples. In addition, a General Coordination of Indigenous School Education was created within the Ministry of Education, in charge of the policy for indigenous schools and the training of their teachers. A program to finance education projects for Brazilian Indians was also organized, mainly aimed at serving civil society organizations in support of Indians and universities. Finally, resources from the National Education Development Fund (FNDE) were allocated to support states that implemented initiatives in this area.
The provision of health services to Brazilian Indians through the Special Indigenous Sanitary Districts, linked to the National Health Foundation (FUNASA), provided indigenous peoples and their organizations with unprecedented conditions for monitoring and social control in the field of public policies. The 34 existing districts are organized based on socio-cultural, geographic and epidemiological criteria, observing the situation and conditions of the population to be served, which inverts the traditional logic of organization and provision of state services. Representation in the district’s decision-making body is equal, being distributed among Brazilian Indians, service providers and health professionals.
The organization of the districts allowed a significant improvement in health care for the Indians who, in many cases, assumed, through their own organizations, the provision of services. To this end, FUNASA has already entered into approximately nine agreements with indigenous organizations alone, in addition to 19 others with support organizations for Brazilian Indians. FUNASA’s agreements provided approximately US $ 43,290,000.00 for health care in the villages.
It is through all of these actions that Brazil seeks a relationship of mutual respect between its diverse ethnic communities. Such attitudes, alongside concrete policies that are already being adopted in the areas of land demarcation, health and education, represent effective actions for the recognition of the citizenship rights of the people and the indigenous peoples of the country.