False myths and true lies about the condition of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and their predicament are circulating as never before. Perhaps the most correct and intelligent thing to do would be to listen to the voice of those directly involved, without interposed media.
We are fortunate to be able to do so with an authoritative and qualified leader of those populations. He is a Brazilian lawyer colleague, Jonas Marcolino Macuxi, indigenous representative of the Amazonian Macuxi population. He is in Rome these days for a conference organized by the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute.
What he has to say deserves to be listened to carefully because it is the best answer to all those, including ecclesiastics, who would like have the indigenous people of the Amazon forcibly segregated into cultural apartheid and confined to a human zoo like objects of study by anthropologists or tourist attractions for urbanites looking for excitement and nostalgic for Rousseau’s ‘noble savage.’
Who Is Jonas Marcolino Macuxi?
I am Jonas Marcolino, a Macuxi Brazilian, and live in the indigenous land called Raposa Serra do Sol. Until the age of eighteen I had a hard time making ends meet and went hunting and fishing for a living. Although my parents were illiterate, I became a math teacher and completed my law degree.
What are the positions that you express at the public level as a representative of the Macuxi people, and which characterize the political action of your leadership?
In 2008, we participated in the seminar titled “Threatened Sovereignty Over the Amazon: Farce or Reality,” held in São Paulo on the initiative of a group of more than one hundred entities. During that seminar, as a Macuxi indigenous leader and representative, I said that I absolutely oppose closing up our peoples into gheto reservations. We, who oppose the demarcation of the reserve, represent 70% of the roughly 12,000 Macuxis living in Raposa Serra do Sol. We are the majority and nonetheless, the Worker Party’s socialist government and the Supreme Court would not listen to us.
What gives rise to your opposition to living according to ancestral traditions in direct contact with what many now love to call "Mother Nature", isolated from the "corrupt world" of white civilization?
We want to live with the comforts of civilization, use electricity, cars, buses, and make our villages productive. We want to have access to these tools and to make progress.
Yet they seek to keep you in your Eden without progress, in the state of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ‘noble savage.’
The problem is that some think we have to live in the chipped Stone Age. They think we have to survive by hunting and fishing. The FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) policy prohibits access to development. This policy condemns us to backwardness.
How and when did progress and culture arrive in the Amazon?
Over the centuries, pioneers, adventurers, captains of rescue troops, missionaries, naturalists, botanists, zoologists, ethnologists, anthropologists and scientists entered the Amazon. Many scholars saw the opportunity and possibility of giving the natives a new lifestyle. This whole process of cultural change tended to assimilate indigenous tribes into national society, leading to a process of interpenetration and fusion of cultures, traditions of feelings, attitudes of people and groups who, sharing the same experiences and stories, eventually incorporated into a common cultural life. This process was natural and not imposed.
When did the trouble start?
Unfortunately, this whole process of cultural interchange was poisoned by missionaries of the so-alled Liberation Theology, members of ecological and environmental movements, and by NGOs that raised millions on behalf of the Indians solely to benefit their own interests or those of their financiers. External influences were endless.
Since the mid-twentieth century, many indigenists, religious and civilians, politicians and even Indians, and national and international NGOs entered the scene.
You spoke of “Liberation Theology,” a concept that has returned to the media spotlight also because of the Amazon Synod which has just opened at the Vatican. Can you explain better the impact of this theological phenomenon and its harmful effects?
At the end of the 60s of the last century, missionary action in the Amazon changed radically, immediately adapting to the new perspective generated by the conciliar ‘updating’ of the Catholic Church, prophetically denounced by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveria in his 1977 book titled Indigenous Tribalism, the Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century. These new missionaries worked hard to realize precisely the false ideal Corrêa de Oliveira described: the absurd idea of “returning to the past and using aborigines as a model.”
Do you dispute this model?
We Indians do not want to go back to the past. We want to enjoy freedom and all other inviolable and inalienable rights indispensable to enjoy human dignity. Thousands of indigenous people are already integrated into universal civilization, no longer living in the chipped Stone Age or practicing anthropophagy. The few indigenous tribes that practice infanticide in Brazil today do it because they have received hints to continue the practice, which violates their inviolable right to life, liberty, security, and dignity.
Many practices among indigenous people in the Amazon such as long-distance walking, carrying manioc in a cart, timber and wood on the shoulder, straw on the head, etc., continue because they are necessary for survival and not because they are traditional or have cultural value.
Let us return for a moment to “Liberation Theology” missionaries. Some clearly them as having a political influence. Is it so?
As I said, the problems began at the beginning of the 1970s, precisely with the missionaries of Liberation Theology. They even broke God’s laws by legitimizing the theft of private property by inciting the Indians to illegally occupy the lands and businesses of non-indigenous people. Liberation Theology was nothing but a disguised form of communist ideology.
In a short time, they destroyed everything their missionary predecessors had built over a century in the name of an absurd primitivism. It really didn’t take them long to dismantle the prosperity that the integrated natives had achieved through a system based on economic freedom, private property, a market economy, and freedom to work.
They also used the technique of dividing villages to create ever smaller communities in ever larger territories, causing, among other things, the disappearance of small farms.
In the end, however, the experiment failed.
They were instilled with a communist utopia that dreamed of achieving a society without masters and subordinates, in which goods are common property. But, as Winston Churchill argued, “if the vice inherent in capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth, the virtue inherent in communism is the equal distribution of misery.”
As I said, ideological indoctrination by these missionaries induced natives to steal, use violence, and even kill landowners, hating non-missionary “white men,” invading private property, refusing electricity, roads, laws, army, and so on. They went to the point of hating even family members. Some people among us still wonder how it was possible to reach the point of considering one’s brother, father, and brother-in-law as enemies. Dividing people is a typically satanic action.
Many dispute the claim that progress and civilization are fruits of a cultural imposition that erased the identity and traditions of the Amazon people.
I repeat. The process of integration between indigenous and white not did happen at all by imposition. In the first half of the twentieth century, the missionaries brought the proclamation of the Gospel, imparted the sacraments by baptizing, marrying and celebrating Mass, but spoke the Macuxi language perfectly, took part in local festivals, and helped the natives in agricultural work. It was thanks to those missionaries that hospitals and schools arrived, which gave many indigenous people the opportunity to graduate and thus develop their potential capabilities.
The idea that, in order to defend his cultural identity, Amazonian indigenous must continue to live in a primitive existential dimension in a sort of “human zoo” and cannot become a lawyer like me is a racist idea.
They also say that to protect the Amazon as a good of humanity, progress must not cross the threshold of the forest. Is this the price to pay for environmental protection –forcing men and women to live like savages? Don’t you, integrated Indians, care about your land?
We, natives and inhabitants of Amazonia in general, love this immense territory that we defend sword in hand because our lives and future generations depend on its water and mineral resources. But people also need to have a selfless spirit and give natives the possibility of taking advantage of a high-quality, technological, scientific and humanistic education, economic freedom, social security, peace and harmony, to guarantee the present and a secure future under the sign of progress.
It is true, however, that some indigenous people have rejected progress.
In reality this is not the position of populations but of individual ideologues often instrumentalized by politics. We have reacted to this by organizing from below. Let me give an example.
In 1993, the Contâo Indigenous Community was already usingelectricity, running water, and even a community dish antenna. That same year I received a document signed by the village chiefs and leaders of the indigenous community of Surumu in which they claimed to be against whites and politicians, against roads, electricity, the army, and alcoholic beverages. We, indigenous people who had enjoyed wealth for more than five years thanks to those things, could not keep quiet. In September of the same year, we therefore decided to establish the United Indigenous Defense Society of Roraima-SODIURR, to promote the socio-economic and cultural development of our communities.
However, they practiced this policy of division and isolation of natives throughout Brazil.
Are there still traces of this policy today?
Fortunately, only a few cases, but there are. I am thinking, for example, of some natives such as the Yanomami and the Waimiri-Atroari. But these natives are not at all free in their reserves, they are controlled by “indigenists” who enjoy privileges at the expense of the natives themselves.
In what sense are they not free?
I was able to personally verify the lack of freedom when I and two other Macuxis tried to go and live for a week among the indigenous Wamiri. As we arrived at the border post of the reserve, closely guarded, the head of the community, Mário Paroê, ordered us to go to the city of Manaus to ask for authorization to stay in the reserve, which was denied.
What is the situation like today, also in light of the new presidency of Brazil, and how is your role as representative of the native Macuxi people regarded?
Thanks be to God, our leadership is increasing and more and more native populations are becoming aware of the need to end this unfortunate dictatorship of CIMI (Indigenist Missionary Council), missionaries, and indigenist NGOs. Indigenous leaders like Raoni, who participated in a meeting with Pope Francis and French president Macron, no longer have a monopoly representing Amazonian populations, especially after the freedom obtained under the new government of President Bolsonaro.
Does the right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro support the indigenous people of Amazonia?
At the opening of the UN session on September 24, Bolsonaro brought along the indigenous Ysani Kalapalo with the support of the Indigenous Farmers and Producers Group, which already brings together no less than fifty-two native populations. The president sees this young woman as a representative of the indigenous Amazon world, a generational change with respect to the aforementioned monopoly of people like Raoni.
Is there hope that young indigenous generations will free themselves from the Marxist ideological yoke and finally overcome the imposition of primitivism?
Testimonies published by the magazine Catolicismo confirm the desire of the new indigenous leaders such as Kaynä Munduruku, to raise their heads asking for more freedom. This young woman has clearly said that the time has come to no longer accept anthropologists and indigenists to “impose our identity on us” because “we know well who we are.”
It is right and proper to give the indigenous people the same opportunities that all other Brazilians have in terms of work, education, progress, health, and safety.
Is this feeling shared by members of the populations?
The absolute majority of natives in the Brazilian Amazon aspire to full freedom and ask to be able to enjoy a high-quality education and to express their full potential, desires, attitudes, their own creative and entrepreneurial spirit, and to be able to produce wealth.
What is the status of the battle you are fighting to guarantee full rights and freedom to all the indigenous people of the Amazon?
All this will be possible if there will is a union of natives, blacks, whites, yellows and mestizos. We need to combine efforts, ideas, and resources to unite Brazilians and all those around the world who possess a spirit of humanity and virtue, which makes them capable of fighting for the freedom and dignity of every human being without any discrimination.
Since you are speaking of battle, let me repeat a quote that I love to use often. In the Piedmont campaign, Napoleon addressed his soldiers with these words: “You have won bloody battles without cannons, crossed rushing rivers without bridges, marched incredible distances barefoot, camped countless times with nothing to eat, all thanks to your audacious perseverance! But, warriors, it is as if we had achieved nothing, for there is still much to achieve!” We still have much to do to guarantee the Indians a life of peace, harmony and prosperity.
Author: Amato, Atty. Gianfranco
Editor: Fr. Gabriele Mangiarotti
Translated by the staff of Pan-Amazon Synod Watch
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