Brazil's indigenous population

The Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock of Brazil (CNA) has just released the results of a survey commissioned by Datafolha on indigenous peoples. The survey was done with a universe of 1,222 interviews in 32 villages with over 100 inhabitants, covering 20 ethnic groups who speak Portuguese. The idea was to provide a comprehensive profile of indigenous peoples in Brazil.

According to the editorial in the latest publication of the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) of Brazil, the survey covers interviews which were conducted between June 7 and July 11 2013 and occurs exactly at the moment when the territorial conflict between Indians and farmers in Mato Grosso do Sul wins the attention of the newspapers and the public.

How much land?
Among the survey findings, there is the statement that "the territorial situation also causes concern, but it is not the biggest problem, as stated by NGOs, social movements and certain areas of government. The implicit argument is that, given the existence of other desires and needs defined from a generic profile of indigenous peoples, the territorial demands are not justified. From the research, the main problems of the Indians are others, such as health and education.

However, the same survey shows that the territorial issue is the second most important for indigenous people, with 24% of respondents, second only to health (29%), but ahead of 14 other subjects, such as food, employment or education. When asked, the majority (57%) stated that the size of their land is less than necessary.

In the case of the Southern Region, which has 8.7% of the national indigenous population, but only 0.18% of the area classified as indigenous, this percentage reaches 92%. In the Northern Region, which is home to 38.2% of the population and 81% of the area, 44% consider it of a smaller size than necessary.

The Amazon concentrates 98.4% of the 112.8 million hectares of all indigenous lands and 42% of the total indigenous population of the entire country, more than 896 000 people. That is, 58% of the indigenous population spread across the rest of Brazil comprises a territory which corresponds to only 1.6% of the total area of ​​indigenous lands.

Indian issues, answers by whites
Some media outlets claim that the Brazilian Indians would be integrated into the urban way of life and have less concern with the land question. This would be evident by the desire to consume goods such as TVs and DVDs, by the aspiration of a university education and a supposed high adherence of indigenous respondents to the Family Grant Program.

That indigenous societies are increasingly interested in the acquisition of goods called the "white world", is not new. Like the rest of Brazilian society, they are also increasing the consumption of goods such as television or radio. But then to assert that this is a sign of "urbanization" and that, therefore, they no longer need more land to hunt, fish and plant is a huge jump.

The fact that electricity and televisions exist in some homes at all means a sign of "urbanization", just as there would be in the case of a farmer who lives in a small place in the countryside. Rather, the very research indicates that most respondents depend on indigenous resources provided by their territories to survive - 94% of respondents practise agriculture and 85% hunt in these areas, which is totally incongruous with urban lifestyles.

It is important to note that the figures for government welfare programs, especially those that provide food baskets, are consistent only with regions of the country where indigenous people have less and less land and therefore are more dependent on these policies. The Northeast and South boast the largest number of beneficiaries of food baskets, 76% and 71%, respectively, contrary to what happens with people who live in the North, which concentrates most of the classified land, where only 7% receive benefit.

The conclusion reached is that, where there is land in size and suitable environmental conditions, the Indians are less dependent on government aid because they can provide for their own livelihood through traditional activities which are anything but urban.

The source of this article is www socioambiental org and the original is on the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru

Translation by

Ekaterina Santos



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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey