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Agricultural Census Gives Visibility to Production of Indigenous Peoples

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More than collecting data, the Agricultural Census 2017 also helps to know more about the indigenous peoples, who have their day celebrated on April 19. By the end of 2019, the IBGE will publish a special publication with information on the agricultural production of the traditional communities of the country.

In Maranhao, during the work of collecting data for the Agro Census, the enumerators traveled through several indigenous lands and verified the peculiar way in which this population deals with the land. Despite the difficulties faced, such as deforestation and other forms of destruction, these communities struggle daily to keep alive the traditions inherited from their ancestors.

Besides traditions, another fundamental point is the search of these traditional peoples for social rights. This is the focus of Indian Day, celebrated in the country on April 19, as well as in other Latin American countries such as Argentina and Costa Rica. Adopted officially in Brazil in 1943, the date is a reference to the first meeting between authorities and indigenous representatives in the Inter-American Indigenous Congress of 1940.

One of the villages visited by the enumerators in Maranhao was Axinguirenda, located in the municipality of Centro do Guilherme, about 440 km from São Luís. It is located in the indigenous land of Alto Turiacu, where the Ka’apor Indians live.

It is not easy to get to where the community is located. They are about 20 kilometers away between the central area of ​​Guilherme Center and the village, this way done all the time by a side road and, in some places, in the woods.

The difficulty of arriving at the site indirectly helps in preserving the culture of this people by alienating visitors. However, the location was not enough obstacles to prevent the action of loggers, who caused the deforestation of the region.

The indigenous people of the Axinguirenda Village survive from subsistence agriculture, fishing and also hunting, which in turn is done within the closed forest. Animal husbandry is very restricted.

On a day-to-day basis, members of the community often have to travel to the central region of the Guilherme Center in search of some kind of food. All this information was passed on to IBGE census takers by the village officials, since only men speak Portuguese. Women and children under five years old speak only Tupi-Guarani.

The community still retains much of the traditions of its ancestors, which can still be seen in the division of labor, for example: while men are responsible for hunting and fishing, women are engaged in household chores and agriculture. During data collection, for example, a group of women produced flour, from the cutting of cassava to the final product.

Other customs that are part of the culture of the community are still maintained and continue to be handed down from generation to generation. “We also hold feasts, weddings and baptisms,” said Ximy Ka’apor, village chief. However, the natives of the locality have already faced threats to their traditions.

Threat of loggers

According to the National Foundation of the Indian (Funai), Maranhao today has 22 indigenous lands scattered throughout its territory, where ethnic populations such as Ka’apor, Guajá, Tenetehara, Kanela, Kricati and others live. Many of these spaces have already been and continue to be devastated by the action of non-indigenous people, causing damage — in many cases irreversible — to these traditional communities.

In the Axinguirenda Village, one of these situations is directly related to the presence of loggers in the region that, with the illegal extraction of wood, caused immeasurable damages to the community. As a result, conflicts between the Indians and the invaders were frequent.

“Today, there is no longer as much logger as before,” said Ximy Ka’apor. This is due to the monitoring that is being done in the region to prevent the activities of clandestine loggers and illegal deforestation. However, the consequences of the devastation are still present in the indigenous land, and only time will cause the forest to recover again.

Another consequence of the non-indigenous action in the territory is the pollution of many of the reservoirs of the land that is part of the village, caused by the illegal ‘garimpeiros’ acting in the locality. Despite adversities, the community is managing to overcome obstacles to keep its traditions and cultures alive.