World Rainforest Movement

Brazil: The Pataxo’s struggle for their territory continues

The Sixth Assembly of the Pataxo Front for Resistance and Struggle met at Monte Pascoal, Bahia, on 19 August to assess the problems they are facing as a consequence of insufficient land, impairing their sustainability and culture.

The history of the Pataxo and their uprooting goes back to 1861, when together with other indigenous communities they were evicted from their lands by the government of the Province of Bahia, to gather them in a single locality.

Later the Pataxo managed to occupy an area in the Mata Atlantica that stretches between the base of Monte Pascoal, the coast, the Cariaba River and the Corumbau River, known today as Barra Velha, where they took refuge and managed to remain in relative isolation.

However, in 1961 the Federal Government converted 22,500 hectares of land traditionally occupied by the Pataxo into conservation units of what became the Monte Pascoal National Park. The Pataxo were violently evicted and found that overnight they could no longer circulate within their own lands.

In the Special Bulletin on the Pataxo that we published in the year 2000, we stated: “The rest of what was once the vast Mata Atlantica continues to be systematically destroyed by various non-indigenous actors, while the Pataxo are denied the right to their own lands, allocated – by force – to preservation. An unjust situation that could not last.” And that was what happened. On 19 August 1999, numerous indigenous Pataxo people travelled to the foot of the mountain where they declared that ‘Monte Pascoal belongs to the Patoxo’ reclaiming their territory in order to, as they stated at that time, “transform what the authorities call Monte Pascoal National Park into an indigenous park, the land of the Pataxo, to preserve it and to rehabilitate it.” In October that year a WRM representative visited the Park and offered support to the Pataxo. Since then the Pataxo have been struggling to get the Government to recognise their rights.

In other areas of Bahia, other indigenous Pataxo peoples have been faced with eviction and also struggle to recover their lands. This is the case of the Pataxo families in the Prado municipality and the Pataxo-Hã-Hã-Hãe people in the southern region of the State of Bahia, where their ancestral lands cover 53,000 hectares of what were once dense forests of “Mata atlântica,” presently illegally occupied by cattle ranchers and converted into pasture lands and cocoa bean plantations. .

Harassed by constant stress due to the lack of land, by “sustainable development” projects that only generate internal tension and conflicts, the Pataxo gathered and issued the following declaration:

The Territory of Monte Pascoal is a historic right of the Pataxo people

We, members of the Pataxo Front for Resistance and Struggle, gathered in Monte Pascoal, the heart of our territory, on 17, 18 and 19 August 2007, to hold our Sixth Assembly, representing the villages of: Corumbauzinho, Tauá, Craveiro, Pequi, Tibá, Alegria Nova, Aldeia Nova do Monte Pascoal, Meio da Mata, Boca da Mata, Cassiana; with the presence of our allies Anaí, Cimi, Cese, Cepedes, Banking Trade Union, CUT-Bahia, Fetag and the Apoinme indigenous organization, and the communities of Coroa Vermelha, Tupinambá da Serra do Padeiro and Pataxó Hã Hã Hãe, have assessed the situation of our territory and the difficulties we are facing as a result of the lack of land to guarantee sustainability and the valuing and strengthening of our culture, insist on the following demands:

1 – The immediate demarcation of our territory as a continuous area, respecting our traditional rights. For this reason we have decided to launch an international campaign for the demarcation of our territory. We will not accept any kind of negotiation aimed at reducing our territory and we reject the persecution and criminalization of our leaders who are struggling for our legitimate rights;

2 – A specific policy guaranteeing our communities’ sustainability, together with our peoples’ food security.

3 – The guarantee of a health policy respecting our peoples’ diversity and specificity as set out in the Federal Constitution, promoting efficient and agile medical and hospital care while valuing and respecting traditional medicine practices;

4 – A specific educational policy that respects our socio-cultural situation, guaranteeing facilities by building schools and providing equipment, suitable teaching aids, teacher-training and the participation of the communities in the definition of a differentiated, communitarian and quality education;

5 – The immediate implementation of a basic housing and sanitation policy, as a human right.

6 – We insist on the eradication of monoculture eucalyptus plantations and of any other monocultures on our lands, and reaffirm our commitment to defend the environment and self-manage our territory.

Considering the harsh situation we have lived through over the years, struggling against policies negating our identity and the right to our territory, against social discrimination and exclusion, we affirm that we will continue to resist all forms of injustice affecting our people, including exploited and excluded sectors of our society such as the quilombolas*, the landless people, small farmers, fisher-folk and others. We insist on receiving attention to our demands as a way of respecting our constitutionally guaranteed rights.

For justice and demarcation of our single territory of Monte Pascoal: we will go forward!

Monte Pascoal, 19 August 2007

*Translator’s note: Quilombolas: descendents of African run-away slaves