Dislocation of Indians Compared to Genocide

Sunday, July 8, 2007

COLIDER, Brazil -- Researchers in the state prosecutor's office in Cuiaba, surrounded by annotated maps of central Brazil and stacks of file folders, believe they have a pretty good idea why the reclusive Kayapo Indians emerged from the forest: Many of the "uncontacted" tribes of the area are on the run from loggers and land-grabbers.

Mario Lucio Avelar, the state prosecutor, said logging interests have squeezed several indigenous groups in the area so much that their traditional ways of life are vanishing. It's genocide, he said, and he intends to prosecute accordingly.

Avelar is pursuing genocide charges against a group of loggers and businessmen that he says have caused a group of 18 to 25 uncontacted Indians -- called the Rio Pardo tribe -- to abandon their traditional lives as planters and become nomads.

"We are not necessarily talking about assassination, but they are making the survival of the tribe's way of living impossible," Avelar said. "The loggers invade, prevent them from growing crops, hunting or practicing their culture. Without those things, the tribe cannot survive."

It's a new approach to protecting uncontacted tribes, but it is still unclear whether it will work. Avelar has frozen some assets of the loggers; formal charges are still a couple months away, he predicted.

Though the Kayapo Indians showed themselves in a protected area believed to be free from logging, Avelar said they might have been similarly dislodged from a traditional lifestyle elsewhere.

"There is a lot of pressure in that area for wood," he said of the region in northern Mato Grosso and southern Para states.

-- Monte Reel

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