News-Letter Nr. 506

The Kaingang call for expansion of the Votouro indigenous land

The president of Funai, Glênio da Costa Alvarez, promised this Wednesday, the 3rd, to set up a working group to review the demarcation of the Votouro indigenous land, where the Kaingang live, located in the municipality of Benjamin Constant, state of Rio Grande do Sul. Alvarez's decision came in response to a request from a delegation headed by chief Jaci de Paula, who came to Brasília this week to claim the expansion of the land through the addition of stretches of a traditional indigenous area, which today is occupied by non-indigenous farmers.

The 3,351-hectare Votouro land has a population of 1,350 engaged in agricultural activities (soybeans, corn, and Paraguay tea) and cattle-raising. Although it used to be much larger, it was demarcated for the first time in 1918, when it was given the name Toldo Votouro, with only 3,014 hectares. In those days, the then Indian Protection Service (SPI) adopted the policy of demarcating small indigenous areas to induce the integration of indigenous people into the surrounding non-indigenous population. At a meeting between the Kaingang delegation and the Cimi Secretariat on Monday, vice-chief Luís Tiago, who is in his seventies already, said that in exchange for the demarcation that reduced their indigenous territory substantially, the Kaingang provided services to settlers, including the opening of a trail over which the road connecting the municipality of Nonoai to São Valentim was built later on.

In the 1940s, the Votouro indigenous land suffered a huge population pressure when part of the Kaingang population that was expelled from the Serrinha, Ventarra, Caseiros and Lagoão areas moved to it after they were completely plundered by settlers. The highest pressure it suffered, however, was in 1962, when the then governor Leonel Brizola expropriated 1,032 hectares to settle farmers and 632 additional hectares to establish the Pinhal florest reserve. Part of the land was recovered later on, but not the reserve. Vice-chief Luís Tiago recalled that the old Kaingang cemetery used to be located right in the middle of the indigenous land, but today it is located next to its border.

In recent years, more problems arose after new municipalities were created in the region. The perimeter of one of them, Faxinalzinho, established 12 years ago, is completely inside the traditional indigenous territory.

The members of the Kaingang delegation explained that, in addition to a right, the expansion of the Votouro indigenous land is absolutely necessary to ensure to its population, which is growing very much, minimum living conditions according to its traditional customs and to avoid permanent tension and conflicts.

Brasília, April 4, 2002
Indianist Missionary Council - Cimi

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