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INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: The Amazon as Seen by its Natives

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Your Eminence, Cardinal Raymond Burke,

Imperial and Royal Highness, Prince Bertrand of Orleans-Braganza,

Gentlemen of the panel,

I am very proud to represent the native Amazon peoples at this conference organized by the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute. I appreciate your invitation to speak in the eternal Rome of the ancient empire and of the Popes, a symbolic podium for the world.

Urî Jonas Marcolino, macusi, Brazilian, Maikan Pisi Wei Tî´pî po, tîko´mansen urî.

I am Jonas Marcolino, a Macuxi Brazilian, and live in the indigenous land called Raposa Serra do Sol.

Congratulations to the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute for lending a voice and a turn to speak to native Brazilians from the Amazon. Our leadership and struggle started a long time ago. 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 a director of the United Indigenous of North Roraima’s Defense Society (SODIU-RR), I said that 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. I, and our peoples, are totally opposed to the demarcation of our Reserve.

We are the majority and nonetheless, the Workers Party (PT) socialist government and the Supreme Court would not listen to us. Asked by the press, I was clear about the situation of the Macuxis living in that Reserve: We, who oppose the demarcation of the reserve, represent 70% of the roughly 12,000 Macuxis living in Raposa Serra do Sol.

We are integrated in society, use electricity, cars, buses, and have productive villages. We want to have access to these tools; we want to make progress. 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.

Ladies and gentlemen, I must briefly address this topic:

The Amazon from the point of view of the natives

An updated missionary Bishop

Some indigenous peoples were in the Americas long before the Portuguese and any other Old World nations. There they lived, got along, fought one another, some went extinct, and some moved about.

As is well known, pioneers, adventurers, captains of rescue troops, missionaries, naturalists, botanists, zoologists, ethnologists, anthropologists and scientists entered the Amazon. Those 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, which led indigenous society 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.

Unfortunately, this whole construction was dismantled by Liberation Theology missionaries, 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.

From the mid-twentieth century on, many indigenists, religious and civilians, politicians and even Indians, and national and international NGOs entered the scene strictly pursuing the communist-missionary ideal under the new ‘aggiornata’ or updated concept of Catholic Church, as Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira prophetically denounced in his 1977 work, Indigenous Tribalism, the Communist-Missionary Ideal for Brazil in the Twenty-First Century.

These new missionaries worked hard to achieve this false ideal, which Professor Plinio describes thus:

“The end is to retrocede, taking the aborigine as a model.

In order to retrocede, destroy.

To destroy: defame, divide and make war.”

But the Indians never intended to back down. They want to enjoy freedom and to conquer all other inviolable and inalienable rights indispensable to enjoy human dignity. The conflicts and wars fought in the past, upon the arrival of Europeans, are behind us.

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 jamaxin, 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.

In Roraima, the first permanent contact between Indians and whites came with the beginning of the construction, at the behest of the Portuguese crown, of Fort São Joaquim in 1775  at the confluence of the Uraricoera and Tacutu rivers, which form the Rio Branco. The construction was done with slave labor, including indigenous.

The São Marcos Farm was founded in 1787, also with the participation of the indigenous labor force of the region, forcibly recruited. The process of interaction between Indians and whites undoubtedly resulted in the reciprocal assimilation of the culture of both peoples and their later integration. Catholic and Protestant missionaries began the work of evangelization among indigenous peoples in the regions of Surumu and Cotingo, a work that became permanent from the second decade of the twentieth century.

Among Catholics, the one that stood out the most as a great missionary was Dom Alcuin. Mr. Ze Massaranduba recounts: “Dom Alcuin permanently lived with the Indians. He spoke the Macuxi language fluently. In addition to performing Masses, Baptisms and weddings, he worked in the fields, participated in Parichara, Hallelujah and Tukui dances, and gained the confidence of the Indians.” Among Protestant missionaries, Harold Burns stood out for remaining among the Macuxi from 1950 to 2006, and founding three major evangelical churches in Contão, Araçá and Pacu. In these indigenous communities, Christmas Lectures, and praise and worship of God replaced Christmas dance parties.

In 1939, the first local commerce was founded in Surumu, elevated in 1960 to the category of village.

In 1949, the São José Mission, São Camilo Hospital, and Padre José de Anchieta School were established and manned mainly by missionaries of the Consolata Mission, starting a new phase in the history of the indigenous peoples of the State of Roraima.

That mission started well. Later, however, when the new Liberation Theology missionaries arrived, they used the same basis – Mission, Hospital and School – to implement a reverse policy to dismantle the local economy, based on livestock, irrigated rice fields, and subsistence agriculture.

The dismantling process of the 1980s culminated in the removal of farms in the 1990s, and of irrigated rice producers in 2005, after the ill-fated demarcation of the Raposa Serra do Sol Reserve.

Marshal Candido RondonIt is noteworthy that during this period, the Indians were practically integrated, an integration that saw its apex with the remarkable presence of Marshal Candido Rondon in the Macuxi indigenous villages of the State of Roraima. Rondon was a unique hero who, even after his death mobilized universities, professionals, academics, the army and navy to create the Rondon Project, which led university students to know the Brazilian reality and to participate in the development process of these distant regions. That institution was permanently established by the federal government in June 1968 with the motto: “Integrate Not to Surrender,” which replaced the earlier, “The Jungle is Not Our Enemy.”

All this refers to the great Amazon region. Although the Amazon belongs to Brazil, it is often not so beloved or wanted by most Brazilians. However, we Indians and Amazonians in general, inhabitants of this immense territory, love and unconditionally stand up in its defense because our lives and future generations depend on its water and mineral resources; in short, on its biome.

We need to unite selfless peoples to give Indians quality technological, scientific and humanistic education, economic freedom, security, peace, and harmony to ensure a fortunate and progressive present and future.

Let us now look at the influence of religious missions and NGOs.

The missionaries of the Consolata Mission came to the Rio Branco Territory in 1948 to take up the mission previously founded by the Benedictines, with the purpose of catechizing the Indians.

However, in the 1970s, new missionaries connected with Liberation Theology arrived and began to change things around, producing negative effects.

For example, the farmers made large investments to strengthen and grow the San Jose Mission. They donated 100, 200, and even 300 heads of cattle to the Mission. They could never imagine that the new missionary priests, whom they treated with the greatest respect and affection, would use these resources to expel them from the region.

They upended even the Commandments of God’s Law.

Mr. Edmilson das Neves, popularly known as Nego da Guanabara, says that in 1971, Father Jorge held his wedding at the Contão indigenous community. At the time Father Jorge preached the word of God, spoke about the Ten Commandments, which, as you remember, include ‘thou shalt not steal.’ In the mid-1980s, when Nego met this priest at the Canta Galo community, he asked why he had changed his preaching and made the Indians steal farmers’ cattle, undoing his initial preaching. Father Jorge replied, “There are many types of theft. Stealing out of necessity or because someone is a kleptomaniac…” Finally, Nego said, “The man spoke a whole lot … and almost convinced me that stealing is right.”

In the same vein, the Tuxaua Indian Hilario, of the Sugar Cane Community, said that after a Mass, Sister Augusta, still inside the church, asked Indians to expel the farmer from the Aratanha Farm. To do so they would have to cut the wire fences; if the farmer kept mending the fences, they were to kill his cattle until he left, and thus the Indians would recoup their invaded lands. There are many such accounts, which show the enormous about-face that took place with the introduction of liberation theology.

In addition to preaching theft, these people are suspected of betrayal and murder.

Grandma Monica, an elder in the Camararém community, tells for example that Father Jorge Dalden arrived in Maturuca and asked for permission to live there. In a humane gesture, the Tuxaua Indian Lauro Merikior welcomed him. After a few months, the priest disappeared from the community, taking Young Jaci with him. When they arrived back, the Tuxaua Lauro abruptly died. For Grandma Monica, Father Jorge him killed so that Jaci would take charge of Maturuca and pursue his agenda in the region. Lauro Merikior had inherited the sword of his father Meriquior, which the latter had received from Marshal Rondon.

In the face of these and other accounts of immoral deeds, it appears that the missionaries were propagating Liberation Theology under the aegis of Communism, or vice versa.

In three decades, these missionaries managed to undo everything that had been built in the State of Roraima in more than a century; a century of prosperity based on economic freedom, private property, founded on the principles of capitalist economics with an emphasis on the principle of freedom to work. In a short time, they destroyed everything in the name of primitivism.

Another tactic was to divide villages. The large malocas, described in the Diary of Rondon, were dissolved into numerous small communities with a view to occupying more territorial spaces and dissolving private properties, that is, farms.

The great Tuxauas thus ceased being great leaders because any head of a family could have the same power as a great Tuxaua. They were thus able to consolidate communism in indigenous communities after a brainwashing process requiring general assemblies of Tuxauas that would last for endless nights for many weeks, a process that went on for about five decades.

The idea instilled was predominantly communist, according to which there are no bosses or employees, and goods are common property. According to an English philosopher, “the disadvantage of capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth; the advantage of socialism is the equal distribution of miseries.” According to Dr. George Bry, one of the greatest defenders of the principles of freedom to work, “A society without freedom and property is immobilized in inertia and misery.”

As the Indians saw it, everything that developed among them at this time had no legitimacy. Ideologies of men religious such as Jorge, Sabino, Pedro, Tiago, and Sisters Augusta, Teresa and others, indoctrinated Indians into stealing, killing ranchers’ cattle, hating white non-priests, invading private property, refusing electricity, roads, armies, etc. and even hating their own blood relatives. Some Indians are still lamenting and wondering why and how their own brother, father, brother-in-law became their enemy. Dividing peoples is a typically satanic work; therefore, it cannot be the fruit of men and women of God.

The Funai (National Indian Foundation)

In 1993, there was already electricity, running water, and a community satellite dish in the Contão indigenous community. That same year I received a signed petition from the Tuxauas and leaders of Surumu saying they were against whites, politicians, roads, electric power, army, alcoholic beverages. We, Indians who had enjoyed these bounties for more than five years, could not be silent; we did not want to be isolated from our compatriots. In order to represent our interests, in September 1993 we created the United Indigenous of North Roraima’s Defense Society-SODIURR to promote socioeconomic and cultural development, among other things.

Bishop Aldo MongianoAt that time, the FUNAI agency of the Diocese of Roraima, under the coordination of Bishop Aldo Mongiano, the CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council, an agency of CNBB-the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil), the Roraima Indigenous Council, and other NGOs marched together with the same ideal of keeping Indians in reservations without the presence of whites. This isolation policy practically worked throughout Brazil and is still working with the Yanomai and Wamiri-atroari Indians.

The Indians in these reserves are not free but are controlled by Indigenists who enjoy privileges to the detriment of the Indians themselves. We verified this lack of freedom when I and two other Macuxi Indians tried to spend a week among the Waimiris. Arriving at the checkpoint, where the border closes daily from 6pm to 6am, leader Mário Paroê instructed us to go to Manaus to ask permission to stay with them. We went to Manaus and they did not receive us and, via intercom, refused permission, forcing us to leave the reservation.

In 1987 there was an episode even recorded in the minutes: At one of those Tuxaua assemblies in Surumu, the Indians were giving a challenge: Who would kill the most cattle from the farmers. Tuxaua Sivaldo, of the Ticoça indigenous community reports that when that challenge was made and the Indians went into action it was normal to find three or four dead cows hanging in their home community of Maturuca. Cows that belonged to farmers. This wave of ranchers’ cattle slaughter angered ranchers to the point that they reinforced farm security with civilian and military police officers, as happened in 1988 at the height of cattle thefts. In 1993, Mr. Jair Reis, considered one of the largest ranchers, told me they always stole an average of about 5% of his herd, but from 1987 onwards stole 50% of the herd. Under these conditions, he was no longer able to stay in the area.

That was the consolidation of Bishop Dom Aldo Mongiano’s strategic plan. He aimed to upset and destroy Roraima’s economy, and succeeded.

The Diocese of Roraima rejected the concept of integration or the idea that “to be a Brazilian, you must not be an Indian.” This is clear proof that the bishops and priests of Liberation Theology seek to separate Indians from whites in order to subjugate the Indians themselves. By their fruit, we know who is good and who is not. There are hundreds if not thousands of NGOs working in the Amazon, including Brazilian, indigenous, and foreign. Among the foreign ones stand out Greenpeace, the Club of Rome, Survival International; the Brazilians, Isa, MST; the indigenous, CIR, SODIUR, and others. Apparently, with the exception of Sodiur, all others swear by the gospel of the World Council of Churches, especially its document addressed to missionary organizations in Brazil, approved in July 1981.

Brazil was awarded Guideline No. 4; Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia, Guideline No. 1, 2 and 3, respectively; and other South American countries, Guideline No. 5.

Paragraph A says that the entire Amazon, the largest area of which is in Brazil but also comprises part of Venezuelan, Colombian and Peruvian territory, is considered as a World Heritage Site. The possession of this huge area by the countries mentioned is merely circumstantial not only by decision of all the organizations present at the Symposium but also by the philosophical decision of the more than one thousand members that make up the various Councils of Defense of Indians and Environment. Let us look at some excerpts:

– It is our duty to keep the Amazon rainforest and its living beings, such as Indians, wild animals, and ecological elements, in the state in which nature left them before the arrival of Europeans.

– It is our duty to ensure the preservation of the Amazon territory and its aboriginal inhabitants from their exploitation by great European civilizations, whose natural areas are reduced to a critical limit.

– The Indian must see and be aware that the missionary is the only salvation.

Although in 1987 the National Congress considered the document apocryphal, it is fully in force in the Amazon. In indigenous communities, hostile behavior toward any non-indigenous and love of priest-missionaries; preservationist speeches on the environment; demonstrations against opening roads in indigenous reserves; and everything that civilization calls progress are public and notorious.

CIMI-led NGOs pressured Brazilian constituent legislators to approve Chapter VII of the Federal Constitution, which resulted in Articles 231 and 232 on Indians.

For legal scholars, Art 231 put an end to Marshall Rondon’s integrationist policy. Article 231 says, literally, “Indians are recognized for their social organization, customs, languages and traditions, and original rights over the land they traditionally occupy, and it is up to the Union to demarcate, protect, and enforce all their property.”

To interpret this article literally is at the very least to defend the stratified ills happening among indigenous peoples for the past five centuries.

I will now conclude.

Our leadership has been growing and managing to get other native peoples out of this unfortunate dictatorship of CIMI missionaries and indigenous NGOs. The monopoly of chieftains such as Raoni, who was with Pope Francis and French President Macron, does not represent the peoples of the Amazon, and even less so with the freedom they have achieved under President Bolsonaro’s new government.

At the opening of the UN Session on September 24, the Brazilian president took along the Indian woman Ysani Kalapalo with the support of the Indigenous Farmers and Producers Group, which already brings together at least 52 indigenous peoples.

Testimonials obtained by the magazine Catolicismo confirm the desire of new Indian leaders such as Kaynä Munduruku. She shows that the situation of indigenous peoples has changed. They are awakening, seeking more freedom and do not accept anthropologists and Indigenists to “impose an identity” on them: “we know who we are.”

Kaynä concludes: “What needs to be done for indigenous peoples is to give them the opportunity to work. Who can buy things and have a good and healthy life on welfare? No one. The Indian needs to produce. He is not lazy; he is capable and has great intelligence. He knows how to plant and produce; he just needs the opportunity. With their work, the indigenous will make a major contribution to Brazil’s economy.”

In conclusion, the absolute majority of Indians in the Brazilian Amazon aspire to full freedom to promote quality education and have their potential, willpower, aptitudes, and creative and enterprising spirit developed to a maximum, thus becoming great entrepreneurs with their own businesses, and producing their own riches.

All this will be possible if Indians, blacks, whites, yellows, cafuzos and mamelucos unite and pull together their efforts, ideas, and resources; in short, if Brazilians and foreigners unite with a spirit of humanity and virtue, fighting for the freedom and dignity of all without discrimination.

I close congratulating the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute once again for giving a voice to native Amazonian Brazilians. I regret the fact that the Pan-Amazon Synod beginning tomorrow has not invited any Indigenous leader in disagreement with the communist missionary current.

In the Piedmont campaign, Napoleon addressed his soldiers with these words: “You have won bloody battles without cannons, you have crossed rushing rivers without bridges, you have 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. Thank you!

Translated by the staff of Pan-Amazon Synod-Watch.

© Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged.

Positions and concepts emitted in signed articles are the sole responsibility of their authors.

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