On August 30, 2023, Minister André Mendonça, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), cited in his vote in favor of the time frame thesis several names of Brazilian indigenous people and their works in order to provide theoretical support. The time frame thesis is under discussion in the STF and, if it passes, it will make the demarcation of indigenous lands throughout the country unfeasible, in addition to allowing the review of lands already demarcated.
Among the anthropologists cited by the “terribly evangelical” minister are Darcy Ribeiro and Berta G. Ribeiro. The couple of anthropologists, who were married for 25 years, dedicated their life and work to the defense of Brazilian indigenous peoples and are mistakenly cited by the minister who clearly demonstrates ignorance about Darcy Ribeiro’s theory and Berta G. Ribeiro’s studies on the peoples indigenous people from the upper and middle Xingu and the Upper Rio Negro.
:: Repeating arguments of ruralists, Mendonça votes in favor of the time frame in the STF ::
Minister André Mendonça cites the definition of “Indian” given by Darcy Ribeiro, in the 1950s, based on the definition drawn up by participants in the 2nd Inter-American Indigenous Congress, which took place in Peru in 1949, and which was created to discuss policies to protect for the rights of indigenous peoples in America.
It is important to remember that the term “Indian” has been abandoned by the indigenous movement and its supporters, due to its pejorative and generalizing nature. The term “indigenous” is currently adopted, which encompasses the diversity of Brazilian original peoples. Therefore, the concept mentioned next to the name of Darcy Ribeiro dates from the beginning of the last century and no longer meets the debates on contemporary indigenism, being mistakenly used by the minister.
Darcy Ribeiro was an anthropologist, indigenist, politician and educator. One of the protagonists in the demarcation of Brazil’s first indigenous land, the Xingu Indigenous Park, in 1961. Alongside Orlando and Claudio Villas Bôas, Doctor Noel Nutel and anthropologist Eduardo Galvão. He was one of the founders of the Indian Museum in Rio de Janeiro alongside Mal. Cândido Rondon, in 1953; in addition to having been an employee of the former Indian Protection Service, in the 1940s, he has always defended the rights of indigenous peoples and the demarcation of their lands.
:: Time frame and the consecration of violence against indigenous peoples ::
Minister André Mendonça also cites the work “The Indian in the History of Brazil”, by the anthropologist – and not a historian, as he cites her, perhaps because he is unaware of her trajectory and work – Berta Gleiser Ribeiro, published for the first time in 1983. The book is It deals, as Berta wrote in the Introduction, “with an attempt to expose to the wider public – mainly high school teachers – the tragic history of the primitive inhabitants of Brazil and their progressive, historical, geographical and cultural marginalization”.
Berta also wrote: “This little book is just an invitation to meditate on the indigenous issue. It’s about the debt that the Brazilian people owe to the people who lived here millennia before the arrival of white people. It is necessary to settle it, before it is too late.”
Therefore, it is a work of scientific dissemination of Brazilian Ethnology and Anthropology for high school students and teachers, in the 1980s, 40 years ago. The book, which is prior to the date suggested for the time frame, has concepts and expressions that have already been revised by Anthropology and the indigenous movement, but, despite being a dated work, its contribution in favor of Brazilian indigenous peoples, as well as their objectives contrary to those of the minister’s vote, which, by focusing on the time frame, ignores the history, existence and struggle of Brazilian indigenous peoples prior to the 1988 Constitution.
By presenting an overview of the lands occupied by indigenous peoples that the Portuguese encountered when arriving in what would become Brazil, Berta is compiling “secondary sources without interpretative or theoretical intentions”, as the author points out in the book.
:: Article | Darcy Ribeiro, our hidden friend ::
Who was Berta G. Ribeiro
Berta was an anthropologist, ethnologist, researcher and writer who dedicated her life to Brazilian indigenous people. She was a passionate activist for the indigenous cause. She believed in the social use of indigenous technology for a more sustainable life and defended the preservation of indigenous knowledge, their culture and their lands.
He concluded “The Indian in the History of Brazil” by saying that “the lesson that tribal communities can give humanity today is of an ecological and social nature. Firstly, his respect for the integrity of nature, as the source of all the benefits of the earth. Secondly, the democratization of human relations and property, which, having occurred until now only within the narrow scope of micro-ethnicities, may, tomorrow, become a reality for all peoples”. In other words, Berta was in favor of the demarcation of indigenous lands. Her work is cited out of context and frivolously by Minister André Mendonça.
If she were alive, approaching her 100th birthday in 2024 (Berta passed away nine months after Darcy Ribeiro’s death in 1997, suffering from brain cancer), she would probably be offended to have such an exquisite work cited to justify a vote against human rights. of the Brazilian indigenous peoples to whom he loved and dedicated his life and work.
Darcy is the author of the famous phrase: “There are only two options in this life: resign or be indignant. And I will never resign.” If he were alive, he would be outraged by the mention of his and Berta Ribeiro’s names to justify an anti-indigenous vote.
*Bianca Luiza Freire de Castro França is a historian and PhD in History from the Postgraduate Program in History, Politics and Cultural Assets (PPHPBC/CPDOC) at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV), where she defended her doctoral thesis “’A plant civilization ‘: Berta G. Ribeiro’s contribution to Brazilian anthropology in the 20th century”.
**This is an opinion piece. The author’s view does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper Brasil de Fato.
Editing: Rodrigo Chagas