By Harald Eraker
At the 24th of January, one week before the Aracruz-Indians was to go to direct action and reclaim the areas of 15.579 hectares from the Lorentzen-company, the President of FUNAI (the Directorate of Indigenous Affairs) came on an un-announced visit to the Indian villages.
FUNAI's President Sulivan Silvestre Oliveira threatened the Tupinikim- and Guarani indians during the meeting. He said that if they did not postpone the direct actions, the whole landclaim-process would be nilled.
"He threatened us to send the police in order to empede the realisation of the self-demarcation," the Indians write in a declaration after the meeting.
171 hectares only
A letter dated the 22nd of January was layed before the Indians by Oliveira during the meeting. In this letter FUNAI requests yet another report to study the land-conflict. This time, FUNAI shall study how large areas is needed by the Indians for agricultural means.
The FUNAI President argues that Aracruz hired the governmental agricultural agency EMBRAPA to study the same last year. EMBRAPA's conclusion was that the Indians needed 171 hectares only to sustain their agricultural activities.
This study did not at all consider the Indians Constitutional right to control areas large enough to maintain their traditional livelyhoods and culture. Their official land claim on 13.579 hectares is based upon the need for such ares to sustain activities like hunting, fishing and gathering of fruits, nuts and mushrooms.
"At the end of the meeting we decided to allow the Minister of Justice more 30 days of time to order the demarcation of our lands our land, making it very clear that this period is our final time limit." Declaration from the Tupinimim and the Guarani Indians, 28th of January 1998
The Indians, who at that time refused to co-operate with EMBRAPA saying that all important wiews upon this conflict already had been studied by FUNAI, reacted negatively to the conclusion. Even though they have now accepted yet another FUNAI report to be made, the Indian leaders write in their declartion after the meeting with the FUNAI President that the in no matter what so ever have given up the hope in their land-struggle against Aracruz:
"At the end of the meeting we decided to allow the Minister of Justice more 30 days of time to order the demarcation of our lands our land, making it very clear that this period is our final time limit. There was made a Term of Agreement which was signed by us and FUNAI. The only argument which was really important for us to take this decision was the commitment assumed by the President of FUNAI in Term of Agreement that, if the Minister does not take a decision until 24/02/98, we can demarcate our lands ourselves and FUNAI will undertake efforts to accompany the community and will avoid any act of violence, abuse or aggression against the Indians."
Bluff from Lorentzen
This declaration from the Indians is in deep contrast to what Erling Lorentzen just recently has said to Norwegian media that was covereing his 75 years birthday. He said to Aftenposten the 28th of January that international environmental activists have "rebbelled the Indians" and have been an obstacle to direct negotiations between the parties.
Lorentzen claims these negotations have now started. He therefore believes a solution to the conflict is that "the Indians are offered other, suitable areas".
Lorentzen also twists the history of this conflict radicaly in his statement to Aftenposten:
"Finally it seems the Directorated for Indigenous Affairs (FUNAI) will make a statement on the issue of ownership".
The truth is that FUNAI twice already have made thorough studies on the land-claim, both times concluding that the Indians have the law on their side.
In respons to a request from the Indians, a representative of The Future in Our Hands' NorWatch project will be present as a witness when the Indians take direct action to re-take the lands from the Lorentzen-company after the 24th of February.
Norwatch Newsletter 3/98