The Tapeba are one of 15 Indigenous ethnic groups in Ceará state. They live in the municipality of Caucaia, in the Fortaleza metropolitan area. There are 8,010 Indigenous people, in 17 villages which lie within the 5,294 hectares of the Tapeba Indigenous Land. One of the Tapeba’s land conflicts is with the Arruda Coelho family, who are among the Caucaia elite. The family alleges to own a farm inside the Indigenous Land.
According to one Tapeba, João Kennedy, the struggle for the Tapeba land began in the 1980s, when their leaders spoke out to claim that there were Indigenous people in Ceará. The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) responded in 1985, by initiating studies for the identification and delimitation of the Indigenous Land.
In 1997, the first declaratory order for the Indigenous Land was issued. However, the Caucaia Municipal government, led at the time by José Gerardo Oliveira de Arruda Filho, contested the order, alleging that the municipality had not been convoked to participate in the demarcation process.
It wasn’t until 2001 that the National Indian Foundation established a new team to continue the demarcation. In 2006, the Circumstantiated Identification and Delimitation Report of the Indigenous Land was published. In 2017 the declaratory order was issued.
The Arruda family remained in power during this period. In fact, Gerardo Arruda’s wife, Inês Arruda, became mayor. Once again, the municipality fought the demarcation using the same allegations.
This made it necessary to initiate a new phase in the struggle. In 2010, another team resumed the demarcation study. Since, at least for the time being, the Arruda family no longer held control over the municipality and the new mayor had good relations with the Indigenous people, there was no further interference from the municipal government.
In 2013, a new declaratory order was issued. However, the Arruda family filed a new suit, not on behalf of the municipality, but as individuals holding land in the Indigenous Land. Thus, the Tapeba’s struggle against the Arruda family reignited and a negotiation process began that ended with the Tapeba having to give up 10% of their land. This process, which involved many meetings, took about a year. The Indigenous people who lived in the village of Ponte were the most affected.
During the process, Pajé [shaman] Raimunda, the Tapeba’s top leader, decided it was better to complete the demarcation than to continue fighting for the entire area, and announced he would cede the 10%, equalling 544 hectares. In 2015, an accord was reached with the Caucaia municipal government, the Ceará state government, the Public Defender, the Public Ministry, and the Justice Ministry.
According to information from Instituto Socioambiental, “The agreement provides for the recovery of lands along the Ceará River, the relocation of Indigenous families who are currently in risk areas, a sewage system, the construction of schools, houses and health clinics,” as well as the construction of access routes to the river and the roadway, allowing travel to other communities. It was also agreed that the demarcation would proceed quickly.
Despite this, the declaratory order wasn’t issued by Justice Minister Torquato Jardim until 4 September 2017. This was a victory for the Tapeba, but the struggle isn’t over. The physical demarcation of the area still must be completed, and the approval decree signed by the president of Brazil, before the area can be cleared and good faith improvements paid for by a number of squatters.
ASSOCIAÇÃO PARA DESENVOLVIMENTO LOCAL CO-PRODUZIDO. . Tapeba. Available at: http://adelco.org.br/centro-documentacao/terra-indigena-tapeba/. Accessed: 15 Mar. 2020.
ASSOCIAÇÃO PARA DESENVOLVIMENTO LOCAL CO-PRODUZIDO. 2019. Situação dos povos indígenas do Ceará. Fortaleza. Available at: http://adelco.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Livro_Diagn%C3%B3stico.pdf. Accessed: 31 Oct. 2019.
SOUZA, Oswaldo Braga de. 2017. Terra Indígena Tapeba (CE) é a primeira declarada pelo governo Temer. São Paulo, Instituto Socioambiental, 5 set. Available at: https://www.socioambiental.org/pt-br/noticias-socioambientais/terra-indigena-tapeba-ce-e-a-primeira-declarada-pelo-governo-temer. Accessed: 15 Mar. 2020.
|Indigenous Lands impacted||Tapeba|
|Period of Violation||18/03/2020|
|Type(s) of population|| Urban|
|Source(s) of information|| Book|
|Other sources||Entrevista via WhatsApp com a liderança João Kennedy Tapeba, coordenador da Articulação dos Jogos Indígenas Tapeba (AJIT)|
|Cause(s) of violation|| Land conflicts|
|Specific materials|| Land |
|Company(s) and government entity(s)||Família Arruda Coelho|
|Relevant government actors||Caucaia Municipal government, Ceará state govenment, Public Defender, Public Ministry, Justice Ministry, National Indian Foundation.|
|Type(s) of financing|| National|
|O estado da mobilização diante da violação|| High (general organising, en masse, violence, prisons, etc)|
Medium (street protests, visible organising)
|Group(s) that are organising|| Scientists / local professionals|
Local government / political parties
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
|Positive progress in the violation process||Demarcation of the Tapeba Indigenous Land and the signing of an accord for the recovery of lands along the Ceará River; the relocation of Indigenous families in risk areas; installation of basic sanitation; the construction of houses, schools and health clinics.|
|Negative progress in the violation process||A 10% reduction in size of the Tapeba Indigenous Land, equivalent to 544 hectares.|
|Viable alternatives for a solution to the violation||A speedy conclusion to the demarcation of the Tapeba Indigenous Land and the removal of the non-Indigenous occupants.|
|Date form filled out||18/03/2020|