Géraud de Ville

The Open University, Department of Engineering and Innovation
London, UK

Returning to traditional lands

Field Report n°3

March 6, 2012

This is a personal account from COBRA project member Vasco Van Roosmalen (ECAM) who participated in a partners meeting in February 2012.

Project Cobra - Creative Commons

Santarem, Brazil, March 2012 – Last week I was in Santarem to participate in the first partners meeting called by a new indigenous Association IAKATUK which represents three indigenous groups of the Brazilian Calha Norte region who are returning to their traditional lands. In the late 1960s they were removed from these lands by missionaries and relocated to large missions. The Kaxuyana were relocated to Missao Tiriyo which today is located in the Tumucumaque Indigenous Lands protected area. The Kahiyana were removed to the Wai Wai regions of Mapuera and the Tunuyana moved further north into the forests and eventually into Guyana. They speak numerous languages of the “Karaiwa” the non-indians including Portuguese, Dutch, English and Sranan Tongo, in addition to the numerous Karib languages of the region.

Since 2003, these indigenous groups have started returning to their traditional lands which lie between the Tumucumaque Indigenous Lands protected area to the east and the Wai Wai lands to the west in a corridor which covers over 30 million hectares of protected lands. They have already established 6 villages in what is today a state extractivist reserve. The Brazilian government has recognised their claims to their traditional lands and has established a working group to demarcate their lands.

In 2012 these groups created their own representative institution and they are partnering with government agencies, NGOs and international funders to help them implement health, education, alternative income and environmental programs. They have mapped their traditional lands and have supported government teams in surveying their traditional lands which are reachable only by long journeys in long canoes crossing numerous waterfalls and rapids.

It is these type of movements that characterize this culturally and biologically diverse region which to this day is still one of the most remote regions in the world. The meeting was a success. The state government and others present committed to supporting IAKATUK to implement the programs set forth by the indigenous leaders. Much remains to be done and we will continue to work closely with them as these people return to care for the forests of their ancestors.

Missao Tiriyo is one of the focal points of the COBRA project where indigenous representatives are recording in audio and video how their communities are reacting, resisting and adapting in the face of changing conditions imposed by climate change, population growth and new opportunities for support for environmental management. These lessons will be crucial as the Kaxuyana and other communities develop their own management plans for their traditional lands and ensure that they are well managed and protected.



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