Socio-environmental racism, overlapping of lands and criminalization of leaders

The Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal Indigenous Land is located in the municipalities of Prado, Itamaraju and Porto Seguro in the far south of the state of Bahia.  It has historically been inhabited by the Pataxó people and is comprised of 12 villages: Barra Velha (the main village), Boca da Mata, Meio da Mata, Guaxuma, Trevo do Parque, Pé do Monte, Aldeia Nova, Águas Belas, Corumbauzinho, Craveiro, Cassiana and Bugigão.

Monte Pascoal is described in Pero Vaz de Caminha’s famous letter about the Portuguese “discovery” of Brazil.  According to historic records, it was the first land that the Portuguese invaders saw upon arrival here in 1500. This place is still the sad stage for rights violations against the Pataxó, who, as everyone must be aware, originally come from this region. Expulsions of Indigenous people and different agrarian conflicts have historically taken place here.

The Parque Nacional do Monte Pascoal (PNMP) [Monte Pascoal National Park] was created by Decree nº 2.729/1943 signed by then President Getúlio Vargas.  It governed the first phase of the Park’s creation, which took some time to get off the drawing board. It is an established fact that, a few years later, the Prado and Porto Seguro police committed a criminal act against the Pataxó, which led to their diaspora and remains important in their memory. Known as the “Fire of 51”, it is considered to be one of the bloodiest massacres ever, and the Pataxó remember it with great sadness. Many people were killed, persecuted and brutally beaten.  They were compelled to flee to other areas.  The violence also led to the forced separation of numerous Pataxó families.

Physical implementation of the 22,500 hectare Monte Pascoal National Park didn’t occur until 1961.  It greatly changed the routine of the Indigenous families who inhabited that important piece of land, long occupied by Indigenous people. From the very beginning, the establishment of the Park ignored the presence of the Indigenous people in the area. This created strong tensions between the Indigenous people and the environmental authorities, which continues until today.

The Monte Pascoal National Park was created because of the great diversity of flora and fauna of the Atlantic Forest biome found there. However, implementation of the Park directly affected the lives of the Pataxó, who have inhabited the area for hundreds of years. They became unable to plant their crops and occupy areas that had previously been at their disposal. This greatly altered their socio-cultural situation.

In response to this instability, vulnerability, insecurity and neglect by the Government, the Pataxó, and the Pataxó Hãhãhãe, began to organize.  Their goal was to return to the areas that they all understood to be part of their traditional lands. This led to land retakings, considered to be an important tool in the struggle.

On 19 August 1999, the Pataxó executed an important retaking in the Monte Pascoal region, in an attempt to gain control of the park. This led the Ministério Público Federal [Federal Public Ministry] to recommend that the National Indian Foundation (Funai) reassess the boundaries of the Barra Velha Indigenous Land.  As a result, on 29 February 2008, the Relatório Circunstanciado de Identificação e Delimitação (RCID) [Circumstantiated Identification and Delimitation Report] for the Indigenous Land was published in the official federal register, the Diário Oficial da União.

As can be seen, since the establishment of the Monte Pascoal National Park, the Pataxó have been waging a difficult fight to remain in areas inside the park where they were the original inhabitants.

Logging company activities in the Indigenous Land also directly threaten the Indigenous people. The loggers move in with force, destroying forests and compromising the lives of communities that depend on its natural resources to produce handicrafts and for their daily sustenance. There is also a conflict with non-Indigenous farmers who allege they own land in areas proven to be occupied by the Pataxó. Most cultivate cacao and coffee, others practice eucalyptus monoculture, which destroys water sources and forests and pollutes the rivers, soils and the entire ecosystem.  This directly harms the Pataxó who live in the region.

It is important to note other instances of territorial overlapping faced by the Barra Velha Indigenous Land. In addition to the conspicuous case of the National Park discussed above, there is the Caraíva/Trancoso Environmental Protection Area (APA) and the Museu Aberto do Descobrimento [Open Air Discovery Museum]. Strong persecution persists against leaders of this Indigenous Land. For instance, Joel Braz, an important Pataxó leader, suffered intense persecution and reprisals, and had to take shelter in different communities, while fleeing

charges of theft and kidnapping, in a clear case of criminalization. Joel Braz spent 11 years under house arrest  until 2017 when a jury absolved him of murder charges relating to the 2002 death of a gunman, which took place during a conflict between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the area.

Currently, Covid-19 poses yet another threat to this population, highlighting the neglect of government agencies responsible for enforcing Indigenous rights. The residents of the Indigenous Land have been abandoned by the government.  There are no hospital facilities near the communities to handle a possible need for treatment.

The Indigenous population which resides in the Barra Velha Indigenous Land has suffered from the virus ever since it began to spread among the municipalities in the region.  Indigenous people need to visit cities such as Itamaraju, Itabela and Porto Seguro, to buy food and have access to services and commerce in general.

According to special bulletin nº 18, published on 28 September 2020 by the Associação Nacional de Ação Indigenista (Anaí) [National Association for Indigenous Action] and the Movimento Unido dos Povos e Organizações Indígenas da Bahia [United Movement of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Bahia], the village of Barra Velha (with the second highest Pataxó population in Bahia) is currently registering an alarming increase in cases, totaling 110. This represents about 20% of all Indigenous cases in the far south of Bahia since the first Indigenous cases were recorded. This rise in cases is due to the arrival of many tourists, who have direct contact with Indigenous people who depend on craft sales near the village, as at Caraíva.

Thus, the pandemic has increased Indigenous people’s fears. According to the leadership, this is because they receive no support from government agencies such as: Funai, the Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena (Sesai/MS) [Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health], the Centro de Referência de Assistência Social (CRAS)  [Reference Center for Indigenous Social Assistance], or the governments of the municipalities where the Indigenous Land is located.

Peoples impactedPataxó
Indigenous Lands impactedBarra Velha do Monte Pascoal
StateBA
RegionExtremo Sul
MunicipalityItamaraju; Porto Seguro; Prado
Period of Violation De 1500 até os dias atuais.
Type(s) of population Rural
Source(s) of information Scientific Article
Site
Instagram
Cause(s) of violation Land conflicts
Biodiversity / conservation conflicts
Tourism and recreation
Specific materials Celulose
Timber
Tourism services
Land
Company(s) and government entity(s)Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), fazendeiros, prefeituras municipais de Itamaraju, Porto Seguro e Prado
Relevant government actorsNational Indian Foundation, Federal Public Ministry, Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health
Type(s) of financing National
Public
Private
O estado da mobilização diante da violação High (general organising, en masse, violence, prisons, etc)
When did the organising start?Os indígenas da região se mobilizam há várias décadas. Esse processo se intensificou a partir da criação do Parque Nacional (Parna) do Monte Pascoal (PNMP), que impôs regras que atingem diretamente o modo de vida e o contexto sociocultural dos indígenas que habitam a região. As tensões aumentaram quando as retomadas de terras se tornaram recorrentes, e se inflamaram expressivamente logo após a publicação do Relatório Circunstanciado de Identificação e Delimitação (RCID) da Terra Indígena (TI) Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal. Com a eleição do atual presidente da República, que já declarou ser totalmente contrário aos povos indígenas, a situação se tornou mais conflitiva. Recentemente, com a chegada da Covid-19, os indígenas estão em estado de alerta.
Group(s) that are organising Scientists / local professionals
Local organisations
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Other groups Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi), Associação Nacional de Ação Indigenista (Anaí)
Form(s) of organisingAs comunidades se articulam em reuniões com as lideranças das comunidades que compõem a Terra Indígena (TI) Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal, em que há ainda um conselho de lideranças. A mobilização se estende a Salvador (BA) e Brasília (DF), com a participação em audiências públicas com o governo do estado e com o governo federal, assim como em outras reuniões e manifestações.
Environmental impactsVisible
Health impactsPotential
Socio-economic impactsVisible
Positive progress in the violation processThe publication of the Circumstantiated Identification and Delimitation Report of the Barra Velha do Monte Pascoal Indigenous Land in the Diário Oficial da União in 2008, represented significant progress in the struggle to guarantee ancestral lands. Another advance, although provisional, was the suspension by the Federal Supreme Court, more specifically by Judge Edson Fachin, of all judicial proceedings in Brazil regarding land repossessions and annulments of Indigenous Land demarcations, until the end of the pandemic
Negative progress in the violation processOne setback in this process is the government’s mobilization against Indigenous people, not just by the police, but also by the Chico Mendes Institute for the Preservation of Biodiversity, [responsible for conservation districts in Brazil]. This organization, and its agents, almost never consider the specific situation of the Pataxó people, who inhabited the area long before the creation of the Monte Pascoal National Park. It always tries to impose its nature conservation policies, without understanding that Indigenous people are important allies in this process, and have a strong interest in conserving natural resources. The actions of the mayor of Prado are another impediment. She has repeatedly declared herself to be against the demarcation, alleging that she supports businesses and tourism in the municipality
Viable alternatives for a solution to the violationOne of the main demands of the Indigenous people of Bahia is the guarantee of their territorial rights. One viable option would be the demarcation of the state’s Indigenous lands, since this would certainly greatly diminish the existing conflicts and allow Indigenous families to live with dignity and feel protected on their lands. Access to basic public services would be reinforced by demarcation, guaranteeing communities their rights to education, health, and security, among other things. The federal government and its various agencies are directly responsible for the tensions created by the recurring violations committed by the Brazilian state against Indigenous people, especially the Pataxó. Another viable option would be for the Chico Mendes Institute for the Preservation of Biodiversity to develop a better understanding of the rights of the Pataxó to access the Monte Pascoal National Park area, where these Indigenous families long ago developed their daily activities, respecting natural resources and understanding their cycles
Date form filled out01/09/2019

Daniel da Silva

Daniel da Silva

Daniel da Silva é jovem do povo Pataxó, da Terra Indígena Comexatibá, aldeia Kaí. Graduando em Geografia na Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA).