The Kayap¢ Indian Protests against
Darrell A. Posey
I ndians in Brazil have historically been considered, at best, as 'relatively incapable' human beings that must be 'protected' as wards of the federal government. The Brazilian Indian Foundation (Fundaçäo Nacional do Indio-FUNAI) serves as the official organ responsible for Indian affairs. Under past national constitutions, FUNAI was considered the only legal institution that could represent or defend native peoples. Land demarcation, sales of mineral rights and lumber, judicial proceedings, even labour contracts and agricultural sales were all conducted by -- and legally only by -- FUNAI officials.
With decrees such as those made in 1985 by Brazil's ex-President Figueiredo authorising the sale of mineral and other natural resource rights even within legally protected Indian reserves, FUNAI and other government officials came under increased pressure to 'help make the heads' of indigenous leaders so they would consent to mining and lumbering on their lands. In many cases, however, the Indian leaders were not even consulted on decisions to exploit their natural resources.
Claims of corruption within FUNAI have swollen to a level equal to accusations against its predecessor, SPI (Sociedade para Proteçäo do Indio), which was extinguished in 1967 due to scandalous deal-