The country’s indigenous population exceeded 1.6 million people in 2022, which represents 0.83% of the total population. In 2010, in the previous census, there were 896,000 indigenous people in the country. This is equivalent to an increase of 88.82% in 12 years, a period in which this contingent almost doubled. The growth of the total population in the same period was 6.5%.
The expressive increase is due to the change in the methodology of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). In the most recent census, the question “do you consider yourself indigenous?” was carried out not only in indigenous lands, but also in territories delimited by the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai), the indigenous groups identified by the IBGE and other indigenous localities, which are scattered residential occupations in urban or rural areas with a proven or potential presence of indigenous people.
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In an interview with Brasil de Fato, anthropologist Monique Rodrigues, who researches the relationship between indigenous peoples, territorialization, the State and politics, explains other reasons why indigenous identity is more in evidence now and the reasons for the erasures of ethnicities in other periods .
A PhD in Anthropology from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), a wild card specialist in Theater of the Oppressed and a sociology professor at the state education network in Rio, Monique places the opening of the BR-101 highway in the Rio de Janeiro context as triggering processes of visibility of indigenous peoples.
Check out the full interview:
Brasil de Fato: What is the importance and impact of the IBGE survey?
Monique Rodrigues: The policies for forming censuses and mapping populations by the State have, throughout their formation, gone through several changes. There are moments in which the erasure of these populations was favored and other moments, such as the present ones, in which, with all the questions that we can still ask, they bring new perspectives in which ethnic-racial identity is an important demarcator.
Even needing to be attentive to sub-data, that is, to aspects that are sometimes not measured, we know that this mapping guarantees the promotion of public policies and the construction of discourses that favor the struggle of indigenous peoples, both in the Brazilian territory and their intertwining with the network international support for native peoples.
We have, for example, the 9th of August as the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, showing that the struggle for the recognition of traditional populations and the construction of a new discourse, which includes the creation of a new civilizing framework, goes beyond borders.
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The new IBGE survey and the demonstration of a significant increase in the indigenous population in the country in relation to the previous census strengthen our view of this population and its historic struggle for recognition of rights and overcoming the margin of invisibility that sometimes wants to be established.
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Is there a change towards recognition and self-recognition of indigenous peoples?
To reflect on this point, it is important first of all to think about the formation of identities (all of them) not in a plastered and essential way, but in its historical aspect. Many peoples, as a survival strategy or as a relative success of the whitening policies that went through the erasure of diverse identities in the national territory, did not declare themselves indigenous in previous censuses, mainly in a pre-Constitution context of 1988, which favored guardianship and extermination of the indigenous population across the country.
With the new possibilities arising from our current Constitution, linked at the beginning of the 21st century to the ownership of governments that strengthened policies of recognition and historical reparation of these populations, such as the strengthening of policies for the demarcation of indigenous lands and affirmative action policies, there was a strengthening of of the struggle for recognition, which involves the affirmation of these multiple identities, especially in the case of traditional populations.
In this context, we can link the emergence of new identities and the reorganization of existing ones.
I think that indigenous populations follow this path of strengthening the recognition of their identity.
Is there any policy to demystify the idea that indigenous people are just people who live in villages? Is there a cultural change about this in recent years?
I think that, unfortunately, society still has a very strong mystified idea about indigenous populations, full of different stereotyped aspects about these populations. We have to keep in mind that when we talk about indigenous peoples, we are talking about more than 300 peoples, each with its own culture and specificity.
At the same time, one of the things we can observe is this essentialized idea about these populations, as if they remained frozen in time, like an original framework, without understanding that groups change over time, living in the same historical time as we do. .
Indigenous people are increasingly seeking to claim their occupation in multiple areas of society that go far beyond the limits of their villages.
That is, recognition of this identity permeates this experience as a villager or not. It goes through a whole process of rescuing and acknowledging its history as a people, whether in rural or urban areas. Affirmative action policies reinforce this need for indigenous people to occupy different spaces. This is a very strong demand currently, generating a change in this look, even if still in an embryonic way.
I think that this is also our role as educators, academics and occupants of different activities: to demystify this idea about indigenous identities, whether in schools or in the multiple spaces that we come to occupy.
His doctoral thesis in Anthropology from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF) is entitled “‘Indios PT in Maricá?’: Conflicts, stigma and territorialization strategies in the Guarani village Mbya Ka’Aguy Hovy Porã”. Can you comment on the case of this municipality, specifically the relationship of the municipal administration with the indigenous issue?
Maricá today has two indigenous villages, both belonging to the Guarani-Mbya people: the Ara Hovy village, located in the Tiririca mountain range in Itaipuaçu, and the Ka’Aguy Hovy Porã village, located in the Environmental Protection Area (APA) of Maricá, which the one I had the most contact with. This village brings a differentiated data.
The group, which at the time was occupying an area on the coast of Niterói in Camboinhas, received an invitation from the mayor at the time (Washington Quaquá) in 2013 to occupy an area of the city and build their village there. This is a very different fact: a mayor invites an indigenous group to occupy his city at the time of his administration. This was done and the group began to occupy an area of the Maricá APA.
The group, therefore, now has the various public policies developed in the city: such as the Bolsa Mumbuca Indígena (a kind of municipal Bolsa Família with a differentiated value for indigenous peoples), Escola Multiseriada (offering children’s education and part of elementary education) and Posto of Health within the space of the village.
At the same time, the group today suffers from the existing territorial conflict due to the construction project of the tourist-residential complex Fazenda São Bento da Lagoa. The area they occupy is claimed by the Spanish company IDB Brasil for the construction of the development’s residential complex. The work at this moment remains with the license suspended. There were protests this year around the village when the development began its works, when the license was in effect.
A relevant fact to mention is that part of the complex that makes up the large enterprise is now called Maraey. The term comes from the concept “Yvy mara’ey” (land without evil), which is a term of great importance for the construction of the Guarani Mbya identity. The term is later used by the company after its contact with the village. What seems contradictory is that it is precisely in relation to a group of the Guarani Mbya people that the conflicts over the construction of the resort are established.
How is the situation of indigenous peoples in other regions of the state of Rio?
With regard to indigenous villages, Rio de Janeiro had, in 2020, according to data from the National Indian Foundation (Funai), six villages: three regularized villages, one in the delimitation phase and two in the study phase. We know that there are more villages in the state, such as the villages of Maricá, that have not had or are still in the initial process of demarcating their lands, also the result of a whole policy of freezing these processes, organized in the previous government.
Most of the villages in the state are made up of Guaranis, in this case the Guarani Mbya. Several academic works, such as the doctoral thesis by Luis Carlos de Oliveira Lopes (2019) will show how Rio de Janeiro goes from a state in which the extinction of indigenous peoples is declared (as seen in the 1970s) to a process of ethnic-political emergency linked to the construction of the BR-101 highway.
The fact is that there have always been indigenous peoples in the southern coast of the state, and the construction of the highway promoted the visibility of the traditional populations that occupied the space.
This context of threat to permanence in the place ends up forcing the indigenous people to mobilize and take part in numerous processes of territorialization in the 1980s that culminate in the demarcations initiated in the 1990s.
It was there that the demarcation process began, such as what happened in the village of Paraty-Mirim, followed by Araponga, Bracuí and Rio Pequeno, for example. In addition to the aforementioned villages, it is worth remembering that there are several urban villages, such as Aldeia Maracanã, and several indigenous residents and occupants of different spaces in the city.’
Source: BdF Rio de Janeiro
Editing: Mariana Pitasse