Critique of Anthropology

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The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0308275X03234001. 2003 23: 339. Critique of Anthropology. Stephen Grant Baines and Stephen ...

Critique of Anthropology http://coa.sagepub.com/ Photo-Essay : Makuxi and Wapishana Indians on the Brazil−Guyana Border Stephen Grant Baines and Stephen Nugent Critique of Anthropology 2003 23: 339 DOI: 10.1177/0308275X03234001 The online version of this article can be found at: http://coa.sagepub.com/content/23/4/339

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Article

Photo-essay Makuxi and Wapishana Indians on the Brazil–Guyana Border Stephen Grant Baines Department of Anthropology, University of Brasilia

Stephen Nugent Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London

Abstract  This article illustrates and discusses the situation of diverse Indian groups who live on the Brazil/Guyana border. Efforts to enforce legal claims to land are frustrated by the machinations of local politicians as well as the Brazilian state’s attempts to militarize the region through the Calha Norte project. The complexity of relations between different yet coexisting Indian groups challenges crude typologies based on ethnic authenticity and degree of assimilation. Keywords  advocacy and photographic images  Brazilian Amazon  indigenous rights

The struggle for indigenous rights in Brazil has been protracted, frustrating and – typically – has been met with indifference or violence by agents of the state and private interests. On the Brazilian side of the international border separating Brazil and Guyana, the first steps toward official recognition (demarcation) of the 1,678,800 hectares of the Raposa/Serra do Sol Indian Lands were acknowledged by the Ministry of Justice on 11 December 1998, and published in the official gazette of the Brazilian government on 14 December 1998. The process still awaits the final phase of official recognition – so-called ‘homologation’ – by the President of the Republic, a delay that weighs heavily on the approximately 15,000 Makuxi, Wapishana, Patamona, Ingarikó and Taurepang Indian peoples who inhabit this region. Thus far, pressure exerted by anti-Indian local politicians in the state of Roraima, backed by big business interests, has successfully dissuaded the federal government from completing demarcation, while at the same time local politicians have illegally set up a municipality in the Indian village of Uiramutã, and a frontier platoon of the Brazilian army has been installed – as part of the notorious Calha Norte Project – without consultation with Vol 23(4) 339–348 [0308-275X(200312)23:4; 339–348;036975] Copyright 2003 © SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)

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local Indian leaders. This project, mounted in secrecy in 1985, and still a robust feature of national development policy in the Amazon region, aims to militarize the northern frontiers of Brazil in order to provide ideal conditions for predatory, private expansion for large extractive industries regardless of the well-documented negative effects such expansion has on indigenous peoples of the region. Further south, in a patchwork of smaller areas of Indian lands along the border, the uncertainties of the demarcation/homologation process are revealed in the revision of limits of indigenous areas claimed and invasions of areas already homologated in the face of hostility and racism from many local ranchers. On the Guyana side of the border, community-based map projects and lawsuits have been strategies adopted by the indigenous peoples trying to claim land rights. Since the independence of Guyana on 25 May 1966, the Indian peoples of this border region have been subjected to government pressure to reduce the Indian lands recognized under the colonial administration and stimulate colonization by migrants from the densely populated coastal areas of Guyana. On both sides of the international border indigenous political organizations have been fundamental in the process of recognition of land rights, the Conselho Indigena de Roraima (CIR) (Indian Council of Roraima) playing a predominant role in Brazil. The decision taken on 26 April 1977 by Indian leaders in Maturuca village to say ‘No to alcoholic beverages and yes to the community’, with support from the Catholic Church, is seen today by most Indians as an historical benchmark in the struggle of the Indian movement in Roraima and creation of mass support for the establishment of the CIR. In the 1970s, Indian lands were overrun by cattle ranchers and garimpeiros (freelance miners), bringing alcoholism, prostitution and severe social disruption to the Indian villages. Indian peoples have made a remarkable recovery and have resisted frontier social engineering in a radically hostile and continuously violent environment. In Guyana, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), primarily an advocacy non-government organization, was formed in 1991 at a conference for Amerindian leaders in Georgetown. The APA has been constituted since 1992. The current situation reflects a complex interplay of indigenous, regional and national identities and interests. The photographs that follow show some of the dramatis personae.

**** Makuxi and Wapishana Indians on the Brazil–Guyana border 1 Bullock cart at Lethem market, Guyana. Bullock cart arriving at Lethem market on the Brazil–Guyana border after

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travelling nine hours through the night over the savannah from the Makuxi village, Nappi, 25 miles away, to sell oranges at $10 Guyanese dollars each (about 20 oranges for US$1) ( January 2002).

2 Mr Muacir Baretto and Mrs Emiline Barreto, at their house at the Makuxi/Wapishana Zeriwa (St Ignatius) village, near Lethem, Guyana. Mr Baretto was the previous Chair of the Regional Democratic Council, Lethem, until April 2001 ( January 2002). ‘We feel at times we are Brazilian because we live so near the border. They come over this side, we go over to look for work’ (Mrs Emiline Baretto). ‘Amerindians don’t have borders. We cross freely. A lot of our people have migrated over there [to Brazil].’ ‘We admire Brazil as an economic giant beside Guyana. We see Brazil as a big success compared with Guyana.’ ‘My wife is Wapishana. My mother is Makuxi and my father was from Brazil. He didn’t know how to speak Makuxi or English. Maybe 40 percent understand Makuxi. We were brought up speaking broken Portuguese. . . . The people look upon themselves as Amerindians first and secondly as Guyanese.’ ‘We have been trying to instil nationalism in the people. . . . On this side, the long-standing issue is lands. Should we raise our hands in any form of conflict, that is an opportunity the government is waiting for, then we lose everything. We have to build our capacities in other ways through education, through unity. This is the importance of having relations with our neighbours in Brazil. We know what is happening to them and they know what is happening to us. I say being peaceful is not being cowardly. Just that we stand to lose more’ (Mr Muacir Baretto).

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3 Mr Olavo Manduca da Silva, Regional Coordinator of the Serra da Lua (Mountain of the Moon), and councillor of the Health Agency, at Assembly of Serra da Lua, at Jacamim village, Roraima, Brasil. He identifies himself as Wapishana ( January 2001). ‘I am not ashamed to admit, I was born and grew up that side, in Achiwib village (Guyana) in 1947. I lived four years in Aishalton. My wife is from there. I married there. Since 1976 I have never returned to live in Achiwib. I have one sister in Achiwib, one brother at St Ignatius, at Moco Moco. My daughter was born here’ (Mr Olavo Manduca da Silva).

4 Singing hymns in Wapishana and Portuguese at intervals during the Assembly of the Serra da Lua, Jacamim, January 2001. The persons appointed as catechists in their communities played a principal role in leading the hymn singing. The Indians struggle to have their rights recognized and claims for justice are often expressed in a religious language with symbols of Catholicism.

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5 Mr Casimiro Cruz Cadete, on right, and his younger brother Vicente, at his home in Canoanim village, Roraima, Brazil ( January 2001). Mr Casimiro Cadete, born in 1919, has spent one year in Rio de Janeiro, working as an informant for a doctorate thesis in linguistic anthropology and two years in São Paulo working with another anthropologist on Wapishana narratives. He lived in Guyana from 1949 to 1953 and his wife is from there. He was a teacher in Canoanim village and translates texts into Wapishana. He is currently translating the Bible into Wapishana. ‘The people who sing in Wapishana are all from Guyana. In Brazil few people speak Wapishana’ (Mr Casimiro Cruz Cadete).

6 Mr Jacir Barnabé de Almeida, tuxaua (headman) at Lamero, Makuxi village beside the River Maú, Brazil, in the Indian Area Raposa Serra do Sol, near the town of Normandia, Roraima, Brazil, on the Guyanese border. On the other side of the river is Guyana, and the town of Karasabai is a few hours walking distance. His wife, Mrs Almerinda da Silva Almeida, speaks English, was born in Guyana, and married in Brazil. They have a daughterin-law born in Guyana who lives at their house, and a daughter, Delezia, married to James (his Brazilian name)/Trevor (his Guyanese name)

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Gomes, a Makuxi man from Guyana who is also residing at their house ( January 2001). ‘Here Wapishana and Makuxi are all mixed.’ ‘Our community (Lamero) is small. In my community there are six men who are heads of families. More people are coming. We have about 30 cows. There is rustling here. They steal cows in Guyana to sell here. My gardens are half an hour down river on the Guyana side’ (Mr Jacir Barnabé de Almeida).

7 The tuxaua Mr Orlando Pereira da Silva, at his home in Uiramutã village, in the Indian Area Raposa Serra do Sol, Roraima, Brazil, with some of his daughters, sons and grandchildren ( January 2002). The village has been invaded by army barracks and the imposition of a municipality by the state government of Roraima, illegally within the Indian lands, openly disrespecting Indian rights guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution. ‘. . . they brought the army barracks, they brought the North Basin Project [Projeto Calha Norte – a military project, started secretly in 1985, to set up an infrastructure and promote the occupation and large-scale economic development of the northern frontiers of Brazil for big capital interests], without consulting us. . . . The presence of the army barracks in our village of Uiramutã without consulting the tuxaua or anyone from the area. For us it represents a threat to our lands, to our dignity as Indians and to indigenous rights. . . . They made a referendum in which the few brancos [i.e. ‘White men’, non-Indians] of this so-called ‘settlement’ [illegally built within demarcated Indian lands] participated, and Indians recruited from Guyana by local [Brazilian] politicians [in some cases in exchange for Brazilian identity cards], together with some of our relatives who have been bought by the brancos. We don’t accept this referendum. . . . The arrival of all these people invading our lands has brought a climate of violence, aggression and danger to our lives, against the communities, alcoholic beverages which our relatives become addicted to, promoting prostitution and sickness. . . . We Indian peoples are waiting for our lands to be regularized through homologation and we are amazed and threatened by the way the army have built barracks within our village in Indian lands

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which have already been demarcated [by the Federal Government, by means of edict no. 820 of 11 December 1998, which declares the Raposa/Serra do Sol Indian Area, a continuous area of 1,678,800 hectares, as being reserved for permanent occupation by its Indian inhabitants]’ (Mr Orlando Pereira da Silva).

8 In the village of Canapã, Guyana, on the opposite side of the River Maú to Uiramutã village. Mr Orlando Pereira da Silva (wearing dark glasses), tuxaua of Uiramutã village, with tuxaua Arlindo Luíz (far left) of Canapã village, Guyana. ‘My father is from here, old Humberto . . . he was born in Brazil. Nobody can say that I am Brazilian. All of us here have Guyanese identity cards. Some have Brazilian identity cards too’ (Mr Arlindo Luíz).

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Makuxi and Wapishana: images and advocacy In the struggle over indigenous rights, antagonists understandably resort to images and projections that seem best suited to their respective interests. From an assaulting government’s point of view, for example, it is often – and obviously – useful to portray uncooperative Indians as cannibals, fierce savages, immoral, pagan kidnappers of children, and so on. From defenders’ positions it is often useful to underscore the assaulted as pristine innocents and, playing to audience expectations, portray them in a way that doesn’t jar. And this may present contradictions. Should an image including information that dilutes a simple, accessible message be suppressed in favour of one that achieves communicative efficiency? At the time of protests over the proposed construction of the Xingu/Kararão hydroelectric dam complex (c. 1989), various representatives of indigenous groups appeared in the UK media (e.g. Paulo Payakan, Davi Yanomami, Raoni) as icons of Amazonian indigenous peoples in a successful – thus far – campaign of resistance. What impact the engagement of such images (pristine, first nations representatives) had is not measurable, but a common assumption is that a vital authenticity is lent by the appearance of unambiguously ‘native’ representatives. At about the same time, questions about the fit between image and message were starkly illustrated by the dual media profiles of Chico Mendes, late leader (assassinated in 1988) of the Acre-based Rubber Trappers’ Union (RTU). Mendes was a member of a group whose implementation of extractive reserves in Amazonia serves as one of the most progressive models of resistant-development to occur in the region. In large part, however, the success of the RTU depended on situating itself on an international platform, a possibility afforded in significant part by the support of groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) whose campaigning in North America achieved notable visibility and effect; but it entailed a selective representation of Chico Mendes and the RTU: in North America, the representation of Chico Mendes/RTU was ‘green’; in Brazil/Amazonia, Mendes/RTU was decidedly ‘red’. An exchange in the pages of The Nation (22 May 1989: 695–702) between Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn (authors of Fate of the Forest) and Stephan Schwartzman and Bruce Rich (of the EDF) disclosed a core issue: according to the EDF (Schwartzman/Rich), the prospect of advancing the cause of the Rubber Trappers’ Union by accurately depicting Mendes as an unapologetic leftist rather than an ideologically unencumbered environmentalist was defective. From the Hecht/Cockburn position, the misrepresentation of the social basis of the Mendes/RTU antagonism toward Amazonian depredation did not disclose the real basis of the struggle in Amazonia. These are high(ish) profile examples of an issue that pervades and bedevils anthropological work: how are ethnography and advocacy calibrated? Do accurate images, from an informed ethnographic perspective,

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serve to educate or do they confirm entrenched stereotypes? Is an image of an Indian wearing clothes and strumming a guitar evidence of his nonIndianness or does it reveal a complexity to modern Indianness that confounds expectations? As Baines’s comments on the photographs indicate, the simple contrast between pristine Makuxi/Wapishana and assimilated Indian barely encapsulates what is at issue. Muacir Baretto (photo 2), for example, married to a Wapishana, is Makuxi, Guayanese and Brazilian (through his father) and, like his co-residents, a bearer of a far more complicated notion of indigenous identity than is easily expressed in the international discourse about indigenous rights. The amalgamation of two ethnic identities has occurred over the past 30 years, in part as a consequence of the Indian political movement, Indian education and urban migration. While in the far south of the region ( Jacamin) a majority would identify themselves as Wapishana, and in the far north (Uiramutã, Willimon) as Makuxi, the vast majority of communities are now seen as being mixed. Many people from the younger generations are children of mixed marriages – making any distinction even more ambiguous from the point of view of an outsider – but not from their point of view: they switch between ethnic identities as relevant. The multiplicity – and pliability – of ethnic identities in local, Roraima terms often ill-serves Indians in the sphere of national discourse dominated by military and big business interests. From the point of view of the latter, for example, ethnic complexity leads to portrayals of the Makuxi and Wapishana as artful, shrewd, ‘civilized’ Indians who are taking advantage of ‘real’ Indian identity in order to gain undeserved rights to land. Thus while the Yanomami (equally beset by the machinations of the state and sanctified business interests) may retain an image of authenticity, the Makuxi and Wapishana are portrayed as mere caboclos who wish to pass as Indians. What is certain, however, is that from the point of view of the Brazilian state ‘indigenous’ identity guarantees indifferent protection under a constitution that on paper confers rights. The Indian is ‘protected’ by the same body of law that sustains military and commercial abrogation of that ‘protection’.  Stephen Baines has been carrying out research among indigenous peoples of Brazilian Amazonia for over 20 years as well as doing comparative work on indigenous peoples of Australia, Canada and Brazil. His main work has been with the Waimori-Atroari, from whose land he was expelled by the Brazilian Indian service (FUNAI). He teaches in the Anthropology Department at the University of Brasilia. Address: Department of Anthropology, University of Brasilia, 70910, Brazil. [email: [email protected]]

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348 Critique of Anthropology 23(4)  Stephen Nugent is the author of Big Mouth: The Amazon Speaks (1990) and Amazonian Caboclo Society: An Essay on Invisibility and Peasant Economy (1993) and co-editor of the forthcoming Some Other Amazonians: Perspectives on Modern Amazonia. He convenes the MA in Visual Anthropology programme at Goldsmiths, where he is a Reader in Anthropology. Address: Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK. [email: [email protected]]

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