World Rainforest Movement

Brazil: Tupinikim and Guarani indigenous peoples vs Aracruz Cellulose

Thanks to the letter campaign and the pressure from Brazilian and international organizations and institutions, FUNAI (the State Agency on Indigenous Peoples issues) published in the official gazette -with considerable delay- the identification reports on the extension and demarcation of the indigenous lands of Tupinikim and Guarani on January 13th. Eight days later Aracruz Celulose filed its response, aimed at proving that the company is the legitimate owner of the land presently claimed by the Tupinikim. The company choses to ignore history, since the Tupinikim already occupied a vast territory -that is currently part of the States of Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Bahia- when the Portuguese arrived at the beginning of the XVI century. In 1610 the Portuguese Crown gave back to the Tupinikim one “sesmaria” of land they asked as first people in the region. The presence of Tupinikim in the area was also already recorded in reports of 1912 and 1919 by the Indian Protection Service. Since 1934 the Brazilian Constitution guarantees the rights of indigenous peoples to the possesion of their traditional lands, which cannot even be handed over to third parties. In 1960 a group of Guarani arrived at the region in their search for “the land without evil”, they were received by the Tupinikim and stayed there since. A number of national and international organizations -as well as the Government of Espirito Santo- support the indigenous peoples claim for a further 13759 hectares, situated next to their present reserves. Due to the expansion of eucalyptus plantations following deforestation by Aracruz Celulose, the Tupinikim had been forced to abandon part of their ancestral territories, which are now being claimed as necessary for the maintenance of their traditional subsistence economy and livelihood based on forest resources. On April 22nd, the WRM Secretariat sent a letter to FUNAI expressing our support to its decission in favour of the indigenous peoples claim and one to the Minister of Justice of Brazil asking him to finally establish the limits of the territories according to Tupinikim and Guarani legitimate rights. Representatives of these indigenous peoples are up to travel to Great Britain and Norway, during two weeks, to let NGOs, governments and companies know their points of view and details of their struggle. On arriving back home a press conference will be held.

Source: Based on information provided by CIMI, May 1997.