|Makuxi children at Uiramutã, Raposa Serra do Sol, Brazil © Fiona Watson/Survival|
After years of conflict and tension, rice farmers are finally leaving the indigenous territory known as Raposa-Serra do Sol (the Land of the Fox and Mountain of the Sun) in northern Brazil.
‘Now we have the right to fish in our rivers once more without fear of being shot at by the farmers’ gunmen,’ said one Makuxi leader.
The farmers, with the support of politicians in Roraima state, had challenged the government’s official recognition of the indigenous territory in Brazil’s supreme court. In a historic judgment the court ruled in March that the farmers had to leave and that the indigenous peoples have the exclusive right to occupy and use the land in the territory, which is home to some 20,000 Indians belonging to five tribes.
Police are in the area to oversee the operation. CIR (the Indigenous Council of Roraima) reports that the removals have been peaceful so far. Its coordinator Dionito José da Silva said, ‘We are going to live how we are and not how others order us to.’ A few farming families remain, and have been given 10 more days to harvest their rice.
The governor of Roraima state, José de Anchieta Júnior, who supported the farmers against the Indians, declared in a highly inflammatory and derogatory statement that the territory ‘will be transformed into a human zoo.’ He continued, ‘With no means of survival, and without contact with white people, what we will see there will be human animals.’