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Chronology for Amazonian Indians in Brazil

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Amazonian Indians in Brazil, 2004, available at: [accessed 24 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1989 U.S. Congressional testimony statements reported that squatters, ranchers, and gold miners were entering designated indigenous lands and killing indigenous people. Moreover, much of the land was being deforested, which also harmed the traditions and lifeways of the indigenous inhabiting the areas, who were mainly in the Amazonian region of Maranhao. In response to these invasions, a Ka'apor headman named Petroi with twelve other Ka'apor Indians and twenty Tembe Indians protested the invasion of their lands by non-indigenous peoples in the town of Belem. FUNAI announced that it would investigate these charges and expel the settlers from the area.
1990 Raoni, chief of the Txukarramae tribe, travelled with rock star Sting to tell others of the destruction of the rainforest and about his people. He has organized programs to develop factories to produce peanut oil from the Amazon, which is now used by the Body Shop, Inc. and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.
1991 The American Anthropological Association began a commission to research the situation of the Yanomami. An interview was conducted with the leader, Davi Kapenawa Yanomami, in which he criticized FUNAI and said that their programs were ineffective. He also stated that FUNAI tried to restrict his travel and the travels of anthropologists and researchers to indigenous areas.
Oct 17, 1991 The Pope spoke with indigenous representatives and called for more humane treatment and policies toward these peoples. He also urged the Brazilian government to improve its policies toward indigenous groups.
Nov 1991 President Fernando Collor de Mello decreed the 19 islands of the Yanomami their official territory and ordered all gold miners off the land. The reserve also borders with a small park on the Venezuelan side of the border so that Indians can move freely. Reports estimate that over 100 miners remained on the land after this decree. President Collor also approved 71 other indigenous reserves, covering 42,471 square miles.
1992 An indigenous area was established for Awa Gauja Indians, who are one of the last remaining foraging nomads in the world. In response to large scale publicity of the human rights abuses against the Yanomami Indians, President Collor demarcated the Yanomami lands as an indigenous reserve.
Jun 1992 The Caiapo nation of Indians in the state of Para closed off all roads into their territory and trapped 3,000 non-indigenous settlers. The group was protesting the arrest of their chief.
Aug 1992 Paulo Paiakan, a Kaiapo Indian, was indicted on rape charges. This trial will set precedence in Brazil because Indians are not full citizens in Brazil and are not tried and sentenced in the same manner as citizens. During the same month, the Sarare Indians in the state of Mato Grosso have received a $205 million loan for natural resources management with the state of Mato Grosso.
Sep 1992 Rikbasta Indians in the state of Mato Grosso took 12 non-indigenous loggers hostage after the loggers tried to cut trees down on their territory. The hostages were released after negotiations with state officials.
Oct 31, 1992 Augusto Pereira Guajajara, a member of the Guajajara Indians, was assassinated by non-indigenous settlers, which sparked protests and violence between Indians and non-Indians in the region.
Nov 2, 1992 In response to the Brazilian government's failure to remove illegal settlers from their land in the state of Maranhao, the Guajajara Indians blocked a major highway and took 91 bus passengers hostage. The hostages were taken to the Cana Brava reservation. They released women and children and were not abusive toward the hostages.
Nov 10, 1992 The hostages taken in the Cana Brava reservation were released after negotiations with state officials.
May 1993 The Macuxi Indians were granted demarcated land in the area of Raposa/Serra do Sol. There are approximately 12,000 Macuxis in this region.
Aug 10 - 25, 1993 A Ka'apor village was burned down and 300 Indians were expelled from their homes by ranchers. After this event, the government and the Indians joined forces to evict non-indigenous settlers from the land. Violent conflict was reported in this region between the indigenous and non-indigenous people.
Aug 31, 1993 19 or more Yanomami were reported killed by gold miners in the Yanomami territory, located on the border with Venezuela. Approximately 36,000 square miles of land is reserved for the Yanomami. Gold mining lobbyists denied that the event occurred. The investigations into the event are difficult because the Yanomami do not speak Portuguese and were only recently contacted by non-indigenous peoples in 1987, when gold miners entered their land. Reports estimate that over 1500 Yanomami have died or been killed since 1987.
Sep 11, 1993 A panel of investigation of Venezuelan and Brazilian officials began to determine the specifics of the killing of 16 indigenous Yanomami people (although reports of the dead range from 16 to 100). It was suspected that these murders were perpetrated by gold prospectors. Brazilian officials denied that this occurred on Brazilian territory even though one of the suspects for the murders was located and arrested in the Brazilian state of Roraima. It was also suspected that 19 other miners participated in the murders.
Sep 16, 1993 Davi Yanomami and 200 other Indian leaders protested in warrior dress in front of the Congress against the invasion of their territories.
1994 2,500 gold miners re-entered the Yanomami land reserve in Roraima, causing a surge in Indian deaths due to the exposure to non-Yanomami people and their diseases. 26 Yanomamis died of malaria. The Sete Cerros guarani won a federal Supreme Court order to stop a local federal judge from granting ranchers the right to occupy demarcated land. FUNAI was order to evict the non-Guarani people from the land. Violent conflict rose between non-indigenous settlers and indigenous people. The Xerente Indians in Tocantins seized construction site to block construction of a state road leading into their territory. Eight Indian candidates ran for office, but none were elected.
Apr 1994 The Kayapo Indian village earned about $15 million by taking 15% of the gold that miners find on the tribe's land. The Brazilian constitution bans commercial use of natural resources by outsiders on Indian reserves unless those uses are approved by Congress. The extraction of profits from the reserve has caused a national debate. Due to this, landowners and miners are lobbying Congress to revise the constitution that gives Brazil's indigenous people approximately 198 million acres of land. Indians argue that making profits from development is the only mean they have to survive in their territories since the FUNAI has very little public funding.
Apr 12, 1994 The Indigenous Missionary Council reported that deaths of indigenous people had doubled since 1993 from 43 to 90.
May 1994 U.S. Congressional testimony reports that the undemarcated land of the Awl Indians was surrounded by loggers and ranchers and was under attack.
Sep 1994 Kayapo Indians forcefully expelled 2,000 gold miners form their territories.
Feb 16, 1995 It was reported that the government was reconsidering the demarcation of indigenous lands, which currently totals about 10% of the Brazilian territory.
Mar 1995 The U.S. Department of State Human Rights Report stated that the judicial process is slow and unfair toward indigenous people and often times violence is used by landowners to settle disputes. The poor and minorities (mainly indigenous and afro-brazilians) are reported to receive the most amount of police violence and disappearances. However, the report states that Indians are allowed partial decision-making power in issues affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and natural resources. However, the Catholic Church's Indigenist Council reported that over 7,400 Indians were trapped in forced labor camps - most of these people are Guarani Indians in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
Jun 10, 1995 The Uru Eu Wau Wau land in Rondonia was invaded by 50 armed non-indigenous men to establish settlements. The FUNAI observation post was destroyed and its officials were forcefully expelled from the land.
Jun 27, 1995 The government ratified the demarcation of 8 Indian territories. However, NGOs, representing the Indians were not satisfied because the courts referred the decision to the President, who announced that he was in favor of privatization of many of these lands.
Jul 4, 1995 It was reported that only half of the 557 designated areas of land demarcation for Indians had been completed, despite an October 1993 deadline. FUNAI leaders argue that lack of funding is one of the causes for the slow process of demarcation. They reported to have received only 16% of their budget for 1995.

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