After waiting seven years for the demarcation process of their lands to continue, a group of 180 Pataxó indigenous people retook the Santa Bárbara Farm, a territory that is located in the area that should have been demarcated as the Comexatibá Indigenous Land, in southern Bahia. The Detailed Report on Identification and Delimitation (RCID), published by Funai in 2015, recognizes the presence of this group in the region since the 16th century.
A week after entering the territory, the indigenous people are still apprehensive about the possibility of retaliation by the farmers in the region. “Right now, we are feeling cornered in the resumption because we know that the gunmen and the ranchers are organizing themselves, meeting in some farm with the proposal to attack us here”, says one of the coordinators of the movement. unjustified: in 2000, the violent action of the ranchers against a forthcoming resumption culminated in the death of an indigenous person.
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Even with the fear of retaliation, the indigenous people are cleaning the area of the former farmhouse, which is now abandoned. While some cut the weeds that grew around the buildings, another group collected the garbage. Through messaging apps, everyone contacted relatives from other villages and territory to join the resumption.
The farm is located in the heart of TI Comexatibá, where Rio do Norte, Rio do Sul and Rio Cahy meet. According to indigenous leaders, the area occupied by the farm is entirely within the perimeter of the Indigenous Land. They also denounce that the farm, which currently produces eucalyptus in partnership with Suzano Celulose, makes intensive use of pesticides that directly affect indigenous occupations and the quality of water courses. Another problem described by the indigenous people is the impact of this activity on the headwaters of the region. They claim that poor management by farmers threatens the water on the site.
For the leaders heard by the Brasil de Fato report, taking back the land is the beginning of a process that aims to increase the territorial and food security of the indigenous people, currently confined in small parts of the territory. “The land is our body, the rivers are our veins. Without it, the Pataxó people cannot live”, says a leader of the recovery. The group’s objective is that in a few years, this area will be recovered and with the forest reconstituted, in addition to housing a new village for the people. “In Brazil, indigenous people are the ones who demarcate land, not the government”, summarizes one leader.
In addition, the resumption seeks to draw the government’s attention to the conflicts and the need to proceed with the process of demarcation of the Comexatibá TI, carrying out the deintrusion of areas controlled by non-indigenous people. Another claim concerns the accountability of agents causing environmental impacts and compensation for damages caused. This compensation would be used to produce food and recover the area.
History of the Pataxó of Comexatibá
According to the Funai report, the Pataxó population has been suffering for five centuries with the expulsion from their lands and confinement in smaller and smaller areas of territory. In addition to conflicts with loggers and ranchers, the Pataxó of Comexatibá also found themselves involved in disputes regarding the creation of a Settlement Project (PA) by Incra and with officials from environmental agencies (first Ibama and later ICMBio) due to creation (1999) and subsequent implementation of the Discovery National Park. Pataxó leaders heard by the report say that their existence was never taken into account in the implementation of the settlement or the park.
Increasingly vulnerable and with their territory being expropriated and resources destroyed, the Pataxó resort, from 1999 onwards, to the strategy of retaking to regain control over significant parts of their territory. The repossessions quickly multiply, causing a violent reaction on the part of the farmers.
Pressured by the intensification of conflicts, Funai started the process of demarcating the Comexatibá Indigenous Land in 2005. The Report took 10 years to be published and, even so, the process of demarcation and the deintrusion of the Indigenous Land remain at a standstill. According to published article by the Instituto Socioambiental in 2016, one of the reasons for the delay in completing the process is its judicialization and the number of non-indigenous occupations in the area: there are 170 disputes and 78 occupations.
In a video released on Sunday (26), one of the leaders accuses Suzano Celulose of being one of those responsible for environmental degradation in the region and, particularly, in the territory of Comexatibá. The video, a manifesto of the resumption, demonstrates the Patoxó’s dissatisfaction with the destruction of their ancestral and sacred territory. Watch below:
Editing: Thalita Pires and Glauco Faria