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The Brazilian Geography of Indianness

Author(s): Jonathan W. Warren

Source: Wicazo Sa Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, Indigenous Resistance and Persistence (Spring, 1999),
pp. 61-86
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1409516
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The Brazilian Geography of Indianness
Jonathan W. Warren

We have Africain our kitchens, Americain

ourjungles, and Europein our living rooms.
Nina Rodrigues, mulatto social scientist,
Os Africanos no Brasil, 1945

B tween 1992 and 1997, I spent more than twenty months con-
ducting an ethnographic study of Indianformation,white supremacy,
and its contestation in the Brazilianstates of Minas Gerais, Espirito 3
Santo, Rio de Janeiro,and southernBahia.'In this essay I detailone facet ;
of this research:the geography of Indianness.I examine how land is
linked to indigenousresurgenceand the territorializationof Indianness
and why land is of such centralconcern to Indiansin easternBrazil.


"The essential social fact of Brazil'scontemporary rural political econo-

my," as Biorn Maybury-Lewis notes, "is the monumental concentration
of land in the hands of a distinct numericalminority..... Indeed, Brazil
has one of the most inequitable distributionsof arableland in all the
world."2This grossly uneven distributionof territoryhas its origins in

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Portuguesecolonization. Individualhomesteadersand pioneers never
played a significantrole in the post-Columbussettlement of Brazil.In
contrast to the United States, Brazilwas colonized almost exclusively
by large slave-holdingplantationowners:

Brazilis a productof a particularcolonial legacy. That

legacy includesa class of wealthy landownerswho sup-
ported a highly centralizedand despotic Portuguesestate.
In turnthe state implanteda "latifundia" or plantationagri-
culturalsystem in Brazil.The plantationswere controlled
by patriarchswho exerciseda nearlyabsoluteauthority
over their dominions in a way similarto that of the king
over the realm.The Brazilianplantationlegacy was radi-
cally differentfrommost of Canadaand the northernparts
of the United States.There, a more egalitariansociety
arosebased firston small-scaleor petty bourgeoiscapital-
ism:familyfarms,urbanmerchants,and small industriesas
well as a less centralizedstate with a more decision-making
process. Even in the South of the United States,where
there was a plantationeconomy as in Brazil,there were
many small farmersand urbanmerchants,as well as politi-
cal, social, and religiousstructuresthat put a check on the
power of the large landowners.In a word, the Brazilian
system still had a foot in medievalfeudalism,as to some
extent did the AmericanSouth, whereasthe system of the
AmericanNorth and Canadawas a productof the modern
capitalistsocieties that were emerging in northernand
westernEuropeafter 1600.3

These different settlement patterns are reflected in the distinct

imaginingsof ruralityin the two countries. In the United States, espe-
cially in the early nineteenth century, small independent property
owners and farmerscame to be defined as the cornerstone of the na-
tion. And in the subsequentyears, small towns and rurallife have been
romanticizedas a wellspringof Americanvirtuesand values. In Brazil,
one of the primarymetaphorsof ruralityis the casagrande(big house)
and the concomitantsenzala(slavehut).4Thus, in the nationalimagina-
as it is often ominously called, is heavily associated
tion, the "interior,"
62 ? with slavery,inequality,exploitation, poverty, and so on. And not co-
incidentally,the few idealized symbols of rurallife are of "Indians" and
quilombos (formermaroon societies), both of which represent the ex-
ception to ratherthan the norm of mainstreamruralBraziliansociety.
After World War II, the skewed distributionof land was exac-
erbated. According to Maybury-Lewisthis was caused by large-scale
"developmentalism"5(unleashed under the presidency of Juscelino

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Kubischek in the 1950s), the emergence of a "modern mentality"
(which led to a growing disdain for those elites who perpetuatedthe
paternalisticlandlord-workerties of the past), the rise of the so-called
green revolution, and the state'scontinued prohibitionsagainstunion-
izing ruralworkers (even along corporatist lines). By furtheringthe
concentration of land into the hands of a few, "thenumberof landless
quadrupledin the 1970-1986 period,"and urbanizationwas greatly

Between 1960 and 1970, it is estimatedthat 12.8 million

people left the countryside for the cities. During the
1970-80 period, 15.6 million more followed.... In 1960
Brazilwas primarilya land of ruralpeople, yet by 1980 it
had changed into a nation where seven out of ten people
lived in cities.6


One consequence of large landholders'controlling such a vast propor-

tion of territoryin Brazilis that land can have a "de-Indianizing"
Indiansmust contend with a social-political milieu in which fazendeiros
(large landholders)control regions like personal fiefdoms. Maybury-
Lewisobservesthat "manyinternalmigrantsdid not leave the country-
side because of the proverbialbright lights and opportunities of the
cities. Nor did the urbanizationprimarilyreflect their desire to break
away from the circumstancesof the provincialpoverty. Ruralworkers
left because they were obliged to leave."7My interviewswith Indians
resonatedwith these findings.IsaniCanoeirarelatedthe following:

My grandparentsare CanoeirasfromAraquaf.8They were

born there. My motherwas born there too. That'swhy
she is registeredas "IndianCanoeiraAraauai."When my
motherwas two months old, their aldeiawas taken by 3
fazendeiros,so they had to leave. Thefazendeiros
asked them to leave and said if they didn'tthey would be
killed. They gave them three days to decide. So my grand-
parentswere afraidand left. The uncles and cousins of my
mother insisted on staying. They ended up being mur-
dered. Everyonewho stayed was killed. They killed many 3 63
Indians.So they had to leave so they wouldn'tbe killed.
So they fled, they fled to Bahia.9
The shift in recent years towardsa post-exorciststate (i.e., a cur-
tailment of state-led or -supported anti-Indianviolence) in eastern
Brazil'1has meant thatfazendeiroshave had to become somewhat more

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subtle and sophisticatedin their maneuveringswith Indianssince they
can no longer rely on the same degree of government support. The
strategy of appropriatingIndianland by simply riding into a commu-
nity and forcing people to leave at gunpoint is not as feasibleas it once
was." Nonetheless, fazendeiros do have a number of other strategies,
such as intimidation,terrorism,and blacklistings,which they do not
hesitate to wield against those, be they Indiansor non-Indians,whose
landsthey desire.
I got a small taste of the fear that thefazendeiros
can instill when
I visited the Kaxix6 community in the municipality of Martinho
Campos in Minas Gerais. The Kaxix6 are not a federally recognized
indigenous community,but a numberof the Kaxix6 have been strug-
gling for more than a decade to obtain federal recognition. Because
this would mean the loss not only of certainsmalltractsof land but also
of a cheap source of labor,the landholdersfear the recognition move-
ment and actively work to subvertit:

On January23 [1993], Jerry,19, was threatenedwith

death by thefazendeiro, FabianoFernandesCampos, carry-
ing a large caliberrifle,on the road to the riverwhere the
Indiansfish. On the 26th, Eva,50, was hunted by the
fazendeiro SebastiaoBarcelo.The Indianescaped by hiding
in a nearbyhouse. Such threatsbecame more intense be-
ginning in 1990 when the Indiansbegan seeking ethnic
recognition and demarcationof their land. Their land is
1285 hectares,which was traditionallyinhabitedby the
Kaxix6nation, and today is occupied by 16fazendeiros. On
April 8 [1993] Jerrywas beaten by thefazendeiro Fabiano
FernandesCampos, owner of the CriciumaPlantation,on
the street next to the Kaxix6reservationin the municipal
of MartinhoCampos. He grabbedthe Indianand hit
him in the head. He said that his father,PauloFernandes
Campos,was going to kill him.12
Becauseof these threatsto life and livelihood, many membersof
the Kaxix6communityare reluctantto supportthe recognition move-
ment or to even talk about the issue. Forexample, one afternoon I in-
u terviewed a woman whose husband had been working that day on a
64 3 neighboring plantation. Laterthat evening, after he returnedand dis-
covered that I had interviewedhis wife, he became infuriated.He came
looking for me to warnme to nevercome nearhis home again.At firstI
erroneouslyassumedthat he was upset simply because of some sexist
notion of his wife being his propertyand that therefore no one should
interview his wife without either his permissionor presence. Clearly
this was a factor,but it also became evident after he calmed down and

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explained to me why he was so irate, that he was fearfulthat thefazen-
deiroswould discover I had spoken with his wife about this subject and
that neither of them would ever be able to find work in the region
again. He concluded his scolding of me by stating, "Iknow we are
Indiansbut this talk of recognition will only bringus trouble."
A further de-lndianizing effect of the unequal distribution of
land is that Indiansmustcope with a large, landlessnon-Indianpeasant
populationwho often see Indianland as easierto appropriatethan that
of thefazendeiros.
DeusmarPankararudescribedthe following in an interview:

We left Pernambucobecause it was very dry there, it was

also very crowded.13The posseiros [settlers]were there
fighting with us over the land. So we left there and came
here to the outside. So we went to the aldeia[indigenous
community]of others. We stayed eleven years in Guarani.
There'sstill a lot of posseirosthere today that fight with the
Indians.The Indiansbuild a fence and they destroy it.
So it is very crowded there, so we left. When I was little,
there were alreadyposseiros there, but there were only a
few. So they lived together with us. There was no conflict.
Butthose posseiros went and broughttheir families,and so
now there'sno way. The posseiros want to control every-
thing. There'sthree thousandIndiansthere. And the
Indiansand posseiros fight a lot. There on my aldeiaFUNAI
puts up a sign, and those posseiros rip it down.'4

In this situation, at least according to Pankararu,the posseiros

acted without the assistanceoffazendeiros. Typicallythis is not the case.
Posseiros, lavradors(landless agriculturalworkers),and landholdersusu-
ally work in tandem to either confiscate more Indianland or prevent
Indians from reclaiming land that has been illegally appropriated.In
other words, a powerful anti-Indianfazendeiro-posseiro-lavrador alliance ,
often emerges, which results in a climate of intense anti-Indianhos- >

tility.15 The following excerpt fromJoao Xacriabaoffers a glimpse into

the dynamicsof this anti-Indiancoalition:

There was also a lot of dangerin the cities. Todaywe are

still a little deferentialin the cities. We'reafraid... espe- 3 65
cially in Tacarambi,where the majorityof the landholders
that were forced to leave our land live. We still walk with
fearthere. The court is there to protect us, to ensurethat
we have rights, that we have the freedomto walk in the
city. Butwe still don'thave much confidence. We still
don'tconverse with them. To them Indiansaren'tworth

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anything. Indiansdon'tassociatewith poor field hands
(lavradors) and smalllandholders(posseiros) because it was
them that accompaniedthe big landholders.They beat us.
They say they are going to kill us. This still scaresus ...
this still frightensus Xacriaba.They don'tlike to see us
there in the city, paying our bills. Those that murdered
Rosalino,murderedFulgencio,don'tlike to see us mixing
with the people.16They don't like us. They know who we
are, that we are the familyof the cacique. They know that.
Butthey never enter our land. Never.17

We see, then, how land can be a powerfulde-Indianizingforce.

The lack of land may, in certain instances, fuel anti-Indiansentiments
and violence, which in turn encourages "whitening,"the shedding of
Indiansubjectivitiesfor white or mestizo identities. This is what hap-
pened in southern Bahiaon one of the Patax6aldeiasin a dispute over
eyeing Indianland, led a mas-
land. In 1951, the surroundingfazendeiros,
sacre against the band. What the following comments by Silvana
Patax6underscoreis how this violence, this climate of anti-Indianter-
rorism,encouragedthe abandonmentof Indianness:

We lost our languageafterthat time, afterthe massacre

there at Patax6.They killed lots of people. Whoever knew
how to praywell, didn'tdie. Whoever knew how to pray,
they spilled into the shrubbrush,into the fine shrubbrush,
and fell into the forest.And those who didn'tknow, they
died. Many hid their childrenthere, in that jasminethere
at Patax6,creeping slowly to defend themselves from
death, but they had no chance, they murderedso many.
Becauseof this, many people there still have injuries.
They cut everyone up, they amputatedlimbs.The whites
beat and threw them. They threw them againstthings.
They mistreatedthem-trying to kill them. Some they
> killed at that moment. Others they kept alive so they
"t could torturethem. There were some that resistedand es-
- caped. I rememberone old Indianwhen I was a child. He
had escaped, but he was all cut up. He survivedbut he was
u all scarredup. And the Indianswho lived, they scattered,
66 ~ they fled and scatteredbecause they were afraidof dying.
i Evenas a child, I rememberthe cacique would say, "Listen,
when a plane comes, do not go up there on top of the hill
to see it. Becausethey could be here to murderIndians!"
a So everyone was scared.No one wanted to be
Indian.If you said that you were a caboclo,18they would
take you and murderyou. So everyone was frightened.No

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one wanted to be Indiananymore(at that time we used
the word caboclo),only if you were crazy. Only if you
wanted to die. They murdered... the whites would kill
you. If you said that you were caboclo,the whites killed
you. And if you spoke the language,they would kill you
too. That'swhy we lost our language.Becauseof this fear.
And you'reseeing this mixtureamongst the people. It's
because of this as well. At that time Dad was single. My
fatherwas single. My uncles were single at that time. So
they mixed (marriednon-Indians),so they wouldn'thave
to be Indian,because if you said that you were Indianthey
killed you. No one wanted to be Indianso Indiansmixed
with ... Indiansmarriedwhites. That'swhy there'sbeen
this mixture.The mother of my motherwas a pureIndian,
but her fatherwas black.19The fatherof my fatherwas
puretoo.... Buthis mother alreadyhad other blood. She
wasn'tIndian.So the whole world ended up mixed up
since the time of that massacre.Becausethere was this fear
of being Indian.20

Anti-Indian terrorism,which had been motivated (or at least

heightened) by a struggle for land, clearly motivated many of the sur-
vivors to abandonor conceal their Indianness.Out of fearof death and
starvation,Indianswere "enticed"to relinquishtheir language, marry
non-Indians,and raciallyposition themselvesas non-Indians.


We have seen how land can have a de-Indianizingeffect. The impact

of land on Indianformation,however,is not unidirectional.In fact land
can also have an "Indianizing" effect. That is, the scarcity of land can
also induce non-Indiansto reimaginethemselvesas Indians.
Indigenouscommunitiesare one of the few segments of the gen-
eral peasant population that have special legal rights to the land.21
According to Chapter VIII,Article 231 of the 1988 Constitution, in-
digenous peoples have a right to "theirsocial organization, customs,
languages,beliefs and traditions,and theoriginalrightstothelandstheytra-
ditionallyoccupy,it being incumbenton the Union to demarcatethem, B 67
to protect and ensurerespect for their goods"(my emphasis).

By "originalrights,"the framersof the Constitutionmeant

that indigenouspeoples were the originalowners of the
land, and hence that their rights precede any administra-
tive act of government.The governmentis obligated to

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demarcatetheir lands,but the rights of indigenous
peoples are neithercreatedby governmentactions, nor
annulledby lack of it. Privatelandtitlesonindigenous
therefore in
nullified the text.... The new Constitution fur-
ther stipulatedthat the FederalAttorney General'sOffice
defend the interestsof indigenouspeoples in court. (my

The legal process of land demarcationfor indigenous communi-

ties is extremely long and arduous,23and even when a community has
successfully gone through all of the various legal and bureaucratic
stages, fazendeiros will only leave when forced to by the
and posseiros
police-an action that the police are often extremelyreluctantto take.
Furthermore,with the 1996 passage of Decree 1775, the government
of FernandoHenriqueCardosomade it much more difficultfor indige-
nous communitiesto have their territorieslegally recognized:

[T]he governmentof FernandoHenriqueCardosorevised

the rules for indigenous-landdemarcation,ostensibly to
protect due process of law for nonindigenousclaimants.
The effect, however,has been to give greatervoice to
the landed intereststhat have successfullyblocked demar-
cations or illegally occupied indigenouslands in the past.
Indigenousorganizationsand their allies suspect that
the revisionsaim to legalize theft. They arguethat since
the innovative 1988 constitution nullifiesprivatetitles on
indigenouslands, large landholdersand ranchershave at-
tacked and struckdown governmentdemarcationproce-
duresin orderto protect their illegal properties.Despite
government assertionsto the contrary,indigenous
organizations-and privatelandowners-expect the re-
vision to roll back the demarcationprocess.24

Thus, it would be incorrectto assumethat Indianscan easily ac-

quire land in Brazil.Nonetheless, there is no question that communi-
ties that are recognized as "indigenous"do have a legalistic means for
obtaining property and for achieving independence from local fazen-
deiros,which most non-Indiansof the same class do not have. Unlike
68 t
black, mestizo, or white-identifiedBrazilians,Indianshave a constitu-
tional right to land. This in turnaffordsIndiansan institutionalavenue
for securingand maintainingterritorythat is not availableto peasants
who are not officiallyrecognized as Indian.
Given, then, the paucity of land combined with this legal means
for Indiansto acquireland, it should be evident how land could act as
an Indianizingincentive. This is, I believe, the effect that land had on

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indigenousresurgenceamongstthe Xacriabaof northernMinasGerais.
All of the Xacriabawith whom I spoke explainedto me that priorto the
1980s individualsin their communitiesself-identifiedas "caboclos" and
not as Indians. In the words of Antonia Xacriaba,"Thereare lots of
Indians[in Brazil].There didn'tused to be. I didn'tknow I was Indian.
They called us 'caboclo.' I discovered, is the same thing
Butthe 'caboclo,'
as Indian."25
Cabocloness has multiple, sometimes contradictory meanings in
Brazil.It can be used to mean "adark-skinnedruraliteof indeterminate
race, usuallyengaged in subsistenceagricultureor day laboron planta-
tions, and forming part of the ruralcaipira (peasant, backwoodsman)
culture."26This was likely the meaning cabocloness had for the Xacriaba
(or at least a significantproportionof them). Caboclocan also refer to
a "civilized Indian or half-breed."When used in this manner, it is
the rough parallel of "mulattoness"vis-a-vis the Indian category. In
this parlance of the term, caboclosare considered a "racialhybrid"of
Indiannessand whiteness (both in termsof blood and culture-the for-
mer often inferringthe latter thanksto the legacy of scientific racism).
Finally,caboclocan be a synonym of Indianness.This was the meaning
Silvanarememberedit as having in southernBahiaand the meaning it
came to have for the Xacriaba.
As the Xacriaba'sstrugglefor territorycame to a head in the mid-
1980s, their fate came to hinge on a discursivebattle aroundthe legal
definition of cabocloness (as well as Indianness). In court, as Antonia
Xacriabaretells it,

The lawyer of Amaro (a localfazendeiro) said that there

were no Indiansthere, that they were all caboclos.
Then our
lawyeraskedhim, "What'sa caboclo?" He didn'tknow how
to respond. So then our lawyerexplainedto him that "a
caboclois the same thing as an Indian."27

The Xacriabaand their lawyerschose to fight for a definition of u

cabocloness as a synonym of Indianness,and fortunatelyfor them their >

interpretationwon the day. As a result the Xacriabanot only gained
control over thousandsof hectares of land, but they also came to real-
ize that as caboclosthey were Indians.
This, then, is why I contend that land can have an Indianizingef-
fect. For had the Xacriababeen able to get their land demarcatedas P 69
caboclos(as distinct from Indians),or if being Indianhad not facilitated
their acquisition of land, it seems unlikely that the Xacriabawould
have struggled to redefine cabocloness as a synonym of Indianness.
Consequently it is unlikely that the Xacriabawould have come to self-
identify as Indians.
Letme underscorethat I amnot suggestingin the reductivefashion

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of racial economism that land alone caused Indianresurgencein the
case of the Xacriabaor in any other instance.Nor is my point that indi-
viduals like Antonia Xacriabaacted as racial accountantswho simply
select racial identities based on which one will bring them the most
materialreward.Antonia'sracialtransformationwas clearly more of an
epiphanythan a strategiccalculation.What I am arguingis that land in
conjunctionwith other factorssuch as the move towarda post-exorcist
state, a changed symbolic context of Indiannesscreatedby the broader
Pan-Indiancommunityin easternBrazil,and epistemic shifts in anthro-
pological definitionsof ethnicity have spurredIndianresurgencein in-
stanceslike those of the Xacriaba.28
In concluding this section, I hope it clear that the impactof land
on Indian formation is complicated and may act as a double-edged
sword. On the one hand, it is a potential Indianizingfactor because as
Indians, individuals and communities have a legal and institutional
meansof obtaining land that is not open to non-Indians.On the other
hand, in those instances where peasants fight to protect their land as
Indians, a powerful anti-Indianhistorical bloc tends to emerge that
producesthe kind of anti-Indianviolence that underpins"whitening."I
would add, however,that as anti-Indianviolence has been temperedin
recent decades, as a direct consequence of the state becoming less ex-
orcistic,29the balancehas shifted to land being more of an Indianizing
ratherthan a de-Indianizingfactor.In other words, as the state has be-
come less tolerantof anti-Indianviolence, the impactof land on Indian
formationhas tipped in favorof its being, on the whole, an Indianizing


We have seen how land is linked to Indianformationin easternBrazil,

butwhy is landof suchcentralconcernto Indiansin this regionof Brazil?
Z Why do individualswho identifyas Indiancareso deeply aboutland?
As StephanSchwartzmanand colleagues note, "Forthe greatma-
jority of indigenouspeoples, securinglegal land rights to their lands is
the most pressingissue.... It is also what most united Brazil's206 in-
digenous societies, faced everywhere by outside interests that would
exploit, restrictor occupy their territory."30
In my conversationsand in-
70 E terviewswith eastern Indians,they consistently identifiedland and its
demarcationas a top priority.The decreasingamountsof land and the
encroachment of non-Indianson their territorywere always the first
issues raisedin pan-tribalconferences and meetings. Virtuallywithout
exception Indiansrepliedto the question,"Whatis the biggest problem
facing Indiansin Braziltoday?"with "landand its demarcation."
A popularperception of why Indianswant land is a direct out-

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growth of how geographies,race, and modernizationarewed in Brazil.
Despite the more complicated images that Braziliansreceive of the
United Statesvia television, films,music, and so on, most Brazilians(at
least those whom I met and interviewed) think of North America as
"modern"and "white."As a putative modern-white space, so the rea-
soning goes, the United States must thereforebe one big urbanmass.
Forexample,one evening I was relaxingat a botequim (a smallbar)
in Belo Horizonte with Helena and several of her friends. Helena, a
twenty-two-year-oldblack woman, is sporadicallyemployed with the
city government and supplements her income tutoring local school
children. During the course of our conversationthat evening, Helena
askedme what the region looked like where I lived. I proceeded to de-
scribe the geography of the Seattle region with its mountains,forests,
lakes, farmlands,and so on. After I finished, she said, "God, I never
imagined that there were farmland (roqa)and forests (mata)in the
United States!"
I was at first intrigued by Helena's amazement. I thought to
myself-with a tone of condescension-how silly a comment. But
afterwardsmy smugnesswas temperedwhen I recalled my shock, as a
high school student in ruralMichigan, when I watched a black-and-
white documentaryfilm about South Africa.Being from an "allwhite,"
segregationist town myself,3' I was not taken aback by an apologist
film for the apartheidregime-I had no clue what apartheidwas, let
alone where South Africawas situated.My astonishmentstemmed, in-
stead, fromthe images of urbanlandscapesin Africa.Workingwithin a
semiotic frameworksimilarto Helena's, I had assumedthat everyone
who lived in Africawas "nonmodern"(i.e., "primitives") and therefore
lived in huts in the countryside.
For many Brazilians,Indianness (like Africa for me as a high
school student and the United States for Helena) has a geographic
specificity.Indiansare imagined,as they are often referredto colloqui-
ally, as bichosda mata(creaturesof the forest). Indiansare not bichosna
mata,creatureswho are "inthe forest,"who happen to reside there, but
ratherthey areof it. Interestingly,then, this territorializationof Indians >
is essentialized. It is as if "theforest"(a metonym for nature)were seen
as partof Indians'essence-a partof their genetic makeup.
This ontological assumptionexplainswhy the concept of an urban
Indiancan be such an oxymoron for Brazilians.Urbanlandscapes,as we
saw with Helena, embody modernity and serve as the symbolic an- 71
tithesis of natureand tradition.SubsequentlyIndians,as "nonmoderns,"
as "creaturesof forest,"are considered out of their element in modern,
urban spaces. An urban Indian is so symbolically disruptive that it
becomes a ridiculousprospect. For instance, upon learning that I was
interviewing Indians in Belo Horizonte, a Braziliansociologist (who
teaches in California) immediately broke into laughter.The idea of

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Indians living in a city in one of the most "modernized"regions of
Brazilwas a preposterousnotion for this sociologist-as it would be to
many in Brazil.32
It is noteworthy that I often encounter elements of the bichoda
mataconstructin the United Statesas well. Forexample,despitemy best
pedagogical efforts, I frequentlyreceive essays from North American
studentswho write about Indiansin the following manner:

The Cofans [an indigenouspeople who reside in the oriente

of Ecuador]have lived for centuriesin harmonywith the
naturalenvironment:the forestand the animals.Theyare
inherently intrinsic In Western
culture(or the "developedworld")as a whole, the majority
of humanbeings have separatedthemselves fromtheir
naturalenvironmentso much, that we now are researching
ways to live withoutdestroyingit. Incontrastto the Cofan,
we are trying hardto accomplishsomething that for them
is natural.At their core, they understandthat without
the forest, they would not be alive. As Westernerswe are
obviously blind to it or we would not be thinkingof inno-
vative ways to "savethe environment"(fromourselves).
(my emphasis)

This excerpt, taken froma senior thesis, parallelsthe "creatureof

nature"idea of Indiannessin that Indians,positioned in binary oppo-
sition to an undifferentiated"WesternCulture,"are situated in "the
naturalenvironment: the forest and the animals."Furthermore,this
geography of Indiannessis essentialized: the Cofan'srelationship to
natureis "inherent,""natural," and "apart of their core."Thus, in line
with how many Braziliansconceptualize Indianness,the Cofan are de-
finedas of the forest.


At certainhistoricalmomentsthis ontological assumption,this particu-

lar territorializationof Indianness,has had devastatingconsequences
for indigenous people-especially when the jungle, the forest, has
been imaginedin the following manner:33
It is almostunbelievableto those who are unacquainted
with it, yet the jungle is an irrationalfact, enslavingthose
who go into it-a whirlwindof savage passionsconquer-
ing the civilized person possessed with too much self-
confidence. The jungle is a degenerationof the human
spirit in a swoon of improbablebut real circumstances.

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The rationalcivilized man loses self-respectand respect
for his home. He throws his heritage into the mire from
where who knows when it will be retrieved.One'sheart
becomes morbid,fillingwith the sentimentof savagery,
insensibleto the pureand great things of humanity.Even
cultivatedspirits,finely formedand well-educated,have

It should be evident how such an imaginingof the physical ter-

raincombined with the bichodamataconstructcould prove a lethal mix
for Indians.If Indiansare "ofthe forest,"areof putative"savagespaces,"
then (as the logic dictates) they must be savages. If Indiansare of an
"irrational,uncultivatedand uncivilized"domain, it then follows that
they are "uncivilized,irrationaland uncultivated"and therefore no
more entitled to civil rights or claimsto specific territoriesthan are the
other creaturesof the forest.
Accordingto MichaelTaussig,RogerCasement(the Irish"muck-
raker"of the rubber-boom massacres in southern Colombia in the
early twentieth century) understood how the "creaturesof the forest"
construct coupled with such visions of nature bolstered the "savage
jokes" he witnessed and documented. Consequently, he attempted,
without success, to discursively deterritorializeIndianness from the

[T]o Casementthe cruciallyimportantaesthetic-political

principlewas . . . separating
[Indians]decisively as creatures
of beauty and capableof artistryfrom thedarkdespair ofthe
forest.Theywerecreatures inthewild,notof it:"WhileNaturein
her garbof lofty trees was gloomy, overclothed and silent,
the Indianwas laughing, naked,and readyto sing and
dance on the slightest provocation."... The violent harsh-
ness of the materialityof the jungle providedthe contrast-
ing backdropto the spritelikedelicacy with which they
playedwith the barsof their forestprison.(my emphasis)35

Casement'sdiscursive move, however, has had few disciples in

Brazil. In fact, instead of attempting to "separateIndians from the
wild,"the emergence of the green movement has spurreda revisiting
and revitalizationof the bichodamataprecept-albeit in Noble Savage 73
form.36As Alcida Ramosobserves, a numberof environmentalNGOs
"naturalizethe Indian, reducing him to yet another endangered
species, or to the role of custodian of nature."37
A subtle example of
this "naturalization" of Indians is how IBASE(Instituto Brasileirode
AnalisesSocias e Economicas),a nongovernmentalorganizationin Rio
de Janeiro, catalogued its video collection. Any video dealing with

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indigenous people was categorized as "MeioAmbiente" (the Environ-
ment), and not under a possible "Indian"category or any of its other
subheadings such as "Racism," "Violence,""Health Care," and so on.
EnvironmentalNGOs are, of course, not the only ones respon-
sible for the "naturalization" of Indianness.Ordinarycitizens arejust as
likely to use the "creature of nature" precept.This was the case with the
organizers of a parade I attended in Vasalia(a small town in northern
Rio de Janeiro).EveryAprilVasaliahas a festivalthat includesa parade.
In 1992, to commemoratethat year'sforthcominginternational"Earth
Summit"conference, the parade'sobjective, according to the two gay
white men (one a dentist, the other a high school teacher) who orga-
nized it, was to promotea "militantenvironmental"message.
The parade was broken up into three subsections ordered ac-
cordingly: People of the World, Technology, and the Animal World.
Dressedin greencostumeswith darklypaintedfaces,carryingbows and
arrowsaswell as torches,andperiodicallybreakinginto Hollywoodesque
"Indian"cries and dances, the "Indians"were placed in the "Animal
World."Thus the "Indians" were situatednot among the "Peopleof the
World"(reminiscentof Disney's "It'sa Small World")but ratherin na-
ture, in the domain of undomesticated animals. Separated from the
other peoples of the world, fromtechnology (i.e., "modernity"), Indians
were partof the "wild"animaldomain-a metonym, like the forest, for
Priorto the parade,its organizersexplainedto me that their peda-
gogical strategy was to be didactic. "Ourgoal,"they explained, "isto
not be carnivalesque.We want to be more political and less frivolous."
So when I saw the parade,I was surprisedby how understatedtheir en-
vironmentalmessage was. The entire "militant"green critique hinged
on the audience,or at least a significantproportionof it, havinga primi-
tivist reading of the "creaturesof nature"precept. The organizersevi-
dently assumedthat merely representing"Indians" (whose authenticity
was putativelyassuredby their attire, screams,dances, and location in
"nature") as bichosdamatawould evoke the imageryof an environmental
paradise lost (or in danger) and concomitant guilt around (as well as
political opposition to) ecological disaster.38
The irony is that the "creatureof nature"construct undermines
ratherthan promotes a green agenda. As we have seen, the Brazilians
whom I encounteredsymbolicallylinked modernizationwith a physi-
74 : cal terrainthat excludes nature. Therefore, as long as nature is con-
sideredantitheticalto modernity,as "inthe way of progress,"the envi-
ronmental movement will likely encounter difficulties in generating
grassrootssupport.Yet instead of "naturalizingmodernity,"the "crea-
ture of the forest"iconography, however noble it may be, simply re-
inforces the idea that nature is the topography of "primitive,""non-
modern"peoples. That is, it reinscribesthe idea that natureis a space

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separatefrom civilizations ("thepeople of the world")and modernity
("technology"),which in the end cannot but impair a green politic
given how anxiousmost Braziliansare to "modernize."


Some of the majorproblemswith the bichoda mataprecept are that it

essentializes Indianness in the tradition of primordialismand it re-
establishes Indiansas "traditionaland nonmodern"peoples in binary
opposition to "modernity." Furthermore,this simulationof Indianness
is frequentlyused to deem Indians"racialcharlatans."EasternIndians'
criticismsof this precept, however, are limited. Typically they restrict
their concerns with this territorializationof Indiannessto those in-
stances when it underpins explicit claims of racial "inauthenticity."
That is, eastern Indians'challenges of the bichoda mataconstruct are
usually confined to those cases when it is used to suggest that to be a
real Indianone must be "of the forest."Yet, when the same precept is
employed to supportor call forth Noble Savagery,criticismsarevirtu-
ally mute.
This is not to suggestthat the bonsauvage is without Indiancritics.I
frequentlyheard the Patax6 and Pankararujoking among themselves
with comments such as: "Whatis this business of Indiansbeing envi-
ronmentalists?When we see a bird fly by, we imagine a necklace."
Nonetheless, although at times mocked, the "creatureof the wild"as
Noble Savageis less publicly,less frequently,andless harshlyscrutinized.
There are, I believe, three principalreasonswhy easternIndians
are mildly complicit with the "creatureof the forest"a la primitivism
despite its serious pitfalls. First, positive images of Indiansin eastern
Brazilare few and farbetween.39Forthe most part,Indiansare consid-
ered to be both biologically and culturallyinferior.Therefore, within
such a context, it is understandablewhy Indiansmight latch on to, or
at least would be less reluctantto challenge, Noble Savagerygiven its
implicationsof "Indiansuperiority"on a numberof axes.40 u

Political pragmatism is also no doubt a factor behind the timid >

critique of the bichoda matain Noble Savage form. The idea that Indians
represent an Edenic world, that they are "at their core" environmental-
ist, has enabled Indians to generate public support and the alliances of
international and national environmentalists.41 Thus, in terms of the '
realpolitik it may be unwise for Indians to contest images that underpin 75
much public sympathy as well as important political alliances. More-
over, because eastern Indians do not control large territories with sig-
nificant amounts of natural resources, their material interests have not
(and are not likely to) come into direct conflict with primitivist imbued
understandings of Indianness.42
This lack of conflict is increasingly less true for some indigenous

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communities in northernBrazil,who do control large areaswith rich
naturalresources.They are findingit increasinglydifficultto negotiate
the semiotics of Noble Savagery.On the one hand, the "creaturesof
the forest"precept has enabled them to defend their territoriesfrom
fazendeirosand settlers by generating popular sympathy and political
support. On the other hand, it limits how they can use their land. For
example, whenever a particularIndian community decides to clear
largeforestedareasfor cattle ranchesor sell off timberas a meansof de-
veloping economically (i.e., when they choose to act in ways counterto
the romanticized territorializationof Indianness),they find that the
supportof the public and environmentalgroups begins to erode. In a
sense, then, they are symbolicallytrapped.They can remainpoor and
thereforehighly vulnerableto the forces of the internationalcapitalist
economy (as well as very dependent on the state for their well-being),
or they can attempt to develop economically, to assert their sover-
eignty, and to become more financiallyautonomousbut ultimatelyrisk
losing their territoryby jeopardizing the symbolic foundation upon
which their control of these landsis partiallycontingent.
Another likely reason that eastern Indiansare less critical of the
Noble Savage territorializationof Indiannessis linked to the fact that
eastern Indiansare more "environmentalfriendly."The Atlantic rain
forestused to define the physical geography of much of easternBrazil.
As a result of massive deforestation,only about two percent of it re-
mains,makingit one of the most devastatedforestsin the world. More-
over, garbage,untreatedchemicals (used in mining), and raw sewage
are dumpedinto riversso that most riversare essentiallydead. Even in
remote, mountainousnon-Indiantowns, I was surprisedby how rareit
was to see any tracesof wildlife. FranceWinddanceTwinewrites:

The nakedhills ... of northwesternRio de Janeirowere

once partof the Atlanticrainforest... [T]herehas been...
[an] eliminationof most wildlife. This elimination,which
31 includesbirds,is dramaticeven in comparisonto urban
i> areasin the western United States. The only birds that
one sees are the caged ones that many residents keep in
their windows duringthe day and that small business
ownerskeep in frontof their shops and storefronts.43

76 s This environmentaldestructionstands, as Twine notes, in sharp

distinction to U.S. geographies. It is common knowledge that ninety-
five percentof the old-growthforesthas been destroyedin Washington,
z Oregon and northern Californiasince World War II. However, what
is so strikingwhen comparedto eastern Brazilis that there is (at least
in relative terms) a tremendous amount of regrowth that has taken
place. In other words, that ninety-fivepercent of the land that has been

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deforested does not remaintreeless. This is not true for easternBrazil.
When travelingthrough this region, I am always shocked by the vast
stretchesof territorythat had at one time been rainforestbut now stand
barren-littered only by tall grass(capoeira)and an occasionalcow.
EasternIndianterritoriesproved to be one of the rareexceptions
to this rule. Indian territory was noticeable because the areas con-
trolled by the Indianswere more forested,whereasnon-Indianterrains
were treeless. Lands were cleared for farming and grazing, but re-
growth was valued and actively encouraged. Subsequently,in Indian
country, I would frequentlysee various forms of wildlife that I never
came acrosselsewhere in Brazil.
The different relationships to the environment manifested in
subtlerways as well. These were reflectedin the knowledge and stories
associated with the forest. In general non-Indiansknew little of the
medicinal value of plants, and typically the only word they had for
plant life was mata,which means "forest"as well as (perhapsonly co-
incidentally)"tokill or to destroy"in the third-personpresent.Eastern
Indians,on the other hand, tended to be much more knowledgeable
about plant life and were very proud of this fact. For example, when
walking in the countryside, they would constantly point to certain
vegetation, give me its indigenous name, and explain to me how it
could be used.44
Another matterthat underscoredthe contrastingrelationshipto
the land was the namesthat were given to the surroundinggeography.
In other places I have lived in the world, be they in Europeor North
America, people have tended to name surroundinghills and moun-
tains. This was not true of non-Indiansin eastern Brazil.Wherever I
would go, I would point to a hill or small mountain and ask what its
namewas. The look I would receive for a responsewas one of, "Areyou
crazy?"EasternIndians, in contrast, frequentlynamed their hills and
other significant geographical sites. And even in those cases where
they had no names for places, the question I posed did not seem to
raise doubts about my sanity as it did for non-Indians.Instead they w

would explain that they did not know their names because they had >

only lived in the region for a few years.

Finally,many of the stories that non-Indianshad about the forest
were associatedwith negative events. It seemed that non-Indianswere
living with a residualnotion of naturethat had been forged in the era
of Indian exorcism, whereby nature as forest was imagined as some- 77
thing ominous, dangerous.45 In non-Indian folktales and stories, the
forestwas almost alwaysa space where horrificevents occurred:rapes,
murders,abductions, and so on. Thus, despite eastern Brazilhaving
moved toward a post-exorcist state, it appearedthat non-Indianatti-
tudes toward nature were still being informed, albeit faintly, by the
legacy of colonization.46

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With eastern Indians, by contrast, I never had the impression
that their imageryof the forest was being affected by a "demonic,sav-
age"vision of the wilderness.Indianshad a wider rangeof stories asso-
ciated with the forest-both positive and negative. An exampleof this
range is the central deity of the Patax6, Pai da Mata (Fatherof the
Forest). Pai da Mata is a tricksterfigurewho is responsible for certain
mischievousevents, such as huntersgetting lost for days on end. Buthe
is also considered to be a source of power to whom one should pray
and pay respect.
In short, then, I would concur with Arei Patax6'sdescription of
the differencesbetween Indians'and non-Indians'dealing with the en-
vironmentas one of preservationversusdestruction:

Listenwell. The perspectiveof Indiansis like this.... The

white wants to take land ... the Indianswant to conquer
the land and preservethe nature:the game, the rivers,the
birds.So the vision of the Indianis such, they want to
preserve-but whites don't ... they want to destroy.I'ma
real Indian,and I have alreadytraveledto many places ...
and we only see deforestation.Here no, not on our aldeia.
We have lots of forest, lots of birdsand game. Yousee that
here the birdscome and eat fruitat the door of our homes.
So it'swonderfulthat we see the birdssinging here so
happy.Butyou leave here and in many places you don't
even see a little bird,you see no game, you don'tsee any-
thing, becauseof the vision of the white, because the busi-
ness of him is to deforest.So the vision of the Indianis
more aboutpreservation,to preservenature.Butthe white,
no ... they are about depreserving.47

Ultimately,of course,the fact that Indiansaremoreconservation-

ist in orientationhardlysupportsthe propositionthat Indiansare"ofna-
ture."Forto presumethat Indiansarebichosdamatasimplybecauseeast-
> ern Indiansare "moreenvironmentallyfriendly"would be the logical
equivalentof assertingthat North Americansare "creaturesof nature"
becausethey are"lessenvironmentallydestructive"than Brazilians.48
Nonetheless it is easy to imagine how such different "perspec-
tives"and concomitant treatmentof the naturalenvironmentcould be
78 ? interpreted as supporting ontological assumptions about Indians as
"creaturesof nature."The ethic of preservationin contrastto depreser-
vation could, with but a bit of conceptualslippage,be takenas evidence
of Noble Savagery.Thus, the fact that easternIndiansmore closely ap-
proximatein practiceNoble Savage ideals does not in any way "prove"
Indiansto be bichosdamata,but it is probablyone of the reasonswhy the
bichodamataa la Noble Savagerycomes underless scrutiny.

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As I have detailed, a common perception of why Indianswant land is

shaped by the territorializationof Indiannessas "creaturesof nature."
As SusannaHecht and AlexanderCockburnput it, Braziliansperceive
"nativepeoples ... to lie in the same relationshipto natureas a tapiror
deer."49Consequently many Braziliansassume, much like one might
presume that a deer (or some other undomesticated animal) would
want to be "innature,"that easternIndiansdesireland so much because
as bichosdamatathey need to be close to nature,to be in the forest, to
be next to the land.
Even contemporaryIndianscholarshave a tendency to flirtwith
the bichoda mataprecept when explaining indigenous people's attach-
ment to the land. For instance, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, a Mexican
scholar of Indians,writes: "(O)ne of the fundamentalelements of in-
digenous identity in the Americasis its territoriality:To belong to an
indigenousgroup means to have the consciousness of possessing a ter-
ritory and of maintainingspecial ties to the land."50It is impossible to
know what precisely Stavenhagen is implying here by "specialties
to the land,"since he does not elaborate, but it certainly hints at the
notion of Indiansbeing "ofnature"-"of the land."
Most contemporaryacademics,however,would shun these sorts
of essentialist implications to explain why indigenous people are so
concerned with land. More common is the position that such a desire
is embedded not in Indians'"nature" but in their culture.That is, it is ar-
gued that indigenous people have a strongerbond to the land due to
their epistemic makeup.For example,John Gabrielarguesthat one of
the principalreasonsland is so significantto indigenouspeoples has to
do with their "verystrong spiritualconnection to the land, a relation-
ship which is reflectedin numerousways but particularlythrough pre-
It is of course possible that different culturalassumptionsvis-a-
vis natureare driving indigenous people'squest for land in other parts 3
of the Americas.But this was not what I discovered to be the case in >
easternBrazil.Although, as I discussedearlier,Indiansdid treatthe en-
vironmentdifferentlyand did have a differentland ethic, these charac-
teristicsarenot what I found to be behind easternIndians'strong desire
for land.
A likely symbolic factor involved has to do with the fact, as 79
Stavenhagen notes, that to belong to an indigenous group means to
have "theconsciousnessof possessing territory."That is, becauseof the
way in which Indiannesshas been constructedon the nationallevel, an
Indianmust have an aldeia,a territory,a homeland. If one is unable to
claim that one has a territory,an aldeia,one will be less likely to be
taken seriously as a real Indian-a deep concern for eastern Indians

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given the contestedness of their racialidentity claims. Furthermore,as
I have outlined in detail, Indiannessis territorializedas being "of na-
ture."Within this symboliccontext, one can easily imaginehow Indians
would almost feel compelled to have a territory,a land, a nature in
orderto demonstrateracialauthenticity.
Another reasonwhy easternIndianswant land is that it provides
a means of physical survival-of bettering one's materialconditions.
Thus, eastern Indianscrave land for precisely the same reasons that
so many other peasantsin Brazilare fighting for land. It enables them
to produce food to eat and to generate some income. PuhuiPataxo, a
vice-caciqueand Indianactivist,expressedwell this particularmotivation
for land in one of his poems:

Patax6and Xacriaba,we can'tget discouraged.

We'regoing to push forwardtogether, workingand
We can'tget discouraged.
Forour IndianbrothersKrenakand Maxakali,for
our land,
We have to resist.
Forour land, we have to insist.
Todaywe live without land to work, to plant,
So that we could harvest,eat and sell.
Becauseof this I want us to unite, to organize, to gain
our land.
To be able to plant everything in her,
It is becauseof this that we must organize.
Let'scome together to fight for our land.
Patax6,Krenak,Maxakali,Xacriabaand Kaxix6all in one
battle together.

Finally, as the following description of the struggle of one

Pankararufamilyfor their own aldeiasuggests, the quest for land is very
much about a quest for space for identity.In the 1970s Deusmarmoved
her family from their aldeiain Pernambucoto be near her father,who
was imprisonedon what today is the Guaraniindigenous reserve.As
time passed, it became impossible for them to returnto their commu-
nity in Pernambucobecauseit had been overrunby posseiros. At Guarani
80 s they had sufficientland to farmso that they could physically survive.
They were not under the hostile gaze offazendeiros, and there were no
posseiroscompeting with them for land. There was an abundance of
wildlife, which allowed for hunting and fishing. They also had access
to many of the plants and dyes they needed for their rituals. None-
theless they were profoundlyunhappyon the Guaranialdeiabecause it
was not "theirspace"-the reserve was controlled by the Patax6 and

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Krenak. They became so dissatisfied and desperate to find a place
where they could have their own aldeiathat they considered leaving
before finding another location to settle. Finally, in 1994 they were
granteda few hundredacresby an ItalianCatholic bishop nearAracuaf
in Minas Gerais.
Once there, with some financialhelp fromNGOs and FUNAI,52
they immediatelybegan constructing a new aldeiaaccording to what
they defined as a "traditionalPankararuvillage."The six houses were
placed to form a large rectangle about two hundred yards long and
eighty yards wide. In the center of this rectangle were placed a large
area for ritualand ceremonial dances, a spiritualhouse, and an edifice
for meetings. These communal structureswere made out of "tradi-
tional"building materials:bamboo with grass roofs. The houses in
which they lived were made out of clay bricksand red tile roofs (which
is typical of homes in this region) and had indoor toilets and showers.
They modified these buildings by adding a large extended front ve-
randa, where they could socialize and make their artesenato (handi-
crafts)to sell. Finallythe village'sentrancewas specificallyconstructed
to face the sun as it rises.All of these modificationsand specific designs
were defined by them as "importantfeaturesof a traditionalPankararu
Why this family left their formerhome and what they did once
they arrivedin their new territoryunderscorewhy I arguethat land as
space for identity is what fuelsmuch of the passionthat easternIndians
have for land and its demarcation.What seemed of centralconcern to
the Pankararuwas not the opportunityto fulfilla spiritualconnection
to the land but ratherthe chance to have a space that they could cul-
turallydefine.They alreadyhad land fromwhich they could physically
subsist, that allowed them to be close to nature,that enabled them to
symbolically distinguish themselves as Indians, and so on. But what
they most longed for was land on which they could enact a Pankararu
world. That is, what seemed most importantto them was the opportu-
nity to be able to define a geographicspace with architectureand daily 3
ritualsso as to articulateand naturalizea distinctive Pankararuway of >

being and seeing the world. l


1 I conducted in-depth interviews Worker's TradeUnionMovement, 81

with more than fifty Indians and 1964-1985 (Philadelphia: Temple
seventy non-Indians. Interviewees University Press, 1994), 27. "[I]n
were from both urban and rural 1985, 50,105 property owners
areas, and the majority earned be- (individuals and legal entities),
tween $50 and $300 per month. totaling only 0.84 percent of all
property holders in Brazil, con-
2 Biorn Maybury-Lewis, ThePolitics trolled 43.8 percent of the nation's
of thePossible:TheBrazilianRural farmland in holdings ranging from

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one thousand to several million lion ruralworkerswithoutland

hectares each. At the same time (29).
52.9 percent of Brazil'sproperty
holders, numbering just over 10 7 Ibid.
million (probably most individu-
8 Araquaiis a smallcity locatedin
als), controlled 2.6 percent of
Brazil'sfarmlandin parcels of ten
theJequitinhonha valleyin north-
hectares or less"(27).
9 IsaniCanoeira,interviewby
3 David Hess and Roberto da
author,Belo Horizonte,Minas
Matta, eds., TheBrazilianPuzzle:
ontheBorderlands Gerais, July 1995. Isani was
Cultures of theWestern nineteenat the timeof this inter-
World(New York:Columbia
view andworkedas a wet nurse
University Press, 1995), 4-5. in BeloHorizontewhileattempt-
4 Gilberto Freyre, TheMastersand ing to complete her high school
theSlaves:A Studyof theDevelopment equivalencies.
of BrazilianCivilization(Berkeley: 10 Jonathan W. Warren, "The State
University of California Press, of Indian Exorcism: Violence and
1986). Racial Formation in Eastern
5 "'Developmentalism'is a term Brazil,"Journalof HistoricalSociology
used... to indicate the ideology 11, 4 (Dec. 1998): 492-518.
of development that has perme-
11 To reiterate, this change applies
ated the thinking of important
to eastern Brazil. In the north, it
elite groups in much of the post-
seems that this strategy is still
war Latin America. It is an ide-
ology that privileges the advance-
ment of 'great projects' and 'grand 12 HojeemDia, untitled, 1993, 13.
gestures,' often accompanied by
populist rhetoric, as opposed to a 13 Drought is a problem that pri-
more genuine brand of develop- marily affects Indians (as well as
ment that promotes the values of non-Indians) in northeastern
democratic participation, equi- Brazil. It is feared by some that
table distribution of the costs and this area could become Sahara-
benefits of a given initiative (as like as a consequence of defor-
opposed to the norm of socializa- estation in the Amazon region.
tion of costs and privatization of
benefits), respect for the environ- 14 Deusmar Pankararu,interview by
ment, and social responsibility (as author, near Aracuaf,Minas
opposed to limited liability for a Gerais, March 1995. When I in-

given undertaking, with unlimited terviewed Deusmar, she was fifty-

U rights to private property)" eight and was living with five of
(Maybury-Lewis, ThePoliticsof the her adult children and their
(A Possible,247); see also Arturo spouses in a three-room cabin as
0 Escobar,Encountering Development: they awaited the completion of
N their new homes near Aracuaf,
4 TheMakingand Unmaking of theThird
World(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Minas Gerais.
82 t3 University Press, 1992). 15 Thus far this anti-Indian bloc has
0) 6 Maybury-Lewis, ThePoliticsof the not emerged at the national or
Possible,29. According to Maybury- state (at least not in eastern Brazil)
Lewis, Jose Francisco da Silva, levels. Nor has it formed, at least
president of CONTAG (National not to nearly the same degree, in
Confederation of Agricultural regions where current Indian ter-
Workers), estimated that there ritory had been controlled either
were between ten and eleven mil- by the state (e.g., Aldeia Guarani)

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or by the church (e.g., Aldeia power of prayer represents her

Apukare) prior to its coming religious conviction and is an
under the limited sovereignty of attempt to illustrate the veracity
Indians. Instead this historical and superiority of her faith by
bloc has been restricted to the suggesting that only crentes(funda-
local politics of a city or a county mentalist Christians) survived.
where Indians are struggling to
reclaim land fromfazendeiros or 21 The others who have these special
who have illegally con- rights are quilombocommunities-
fiscated Indian lands (e.g., the descendants of runaway slave
Maxacali and Kaxix6 aldeias),or communities. Article 68 of the
where an Indian community has Transitory Clauses of the 1988
recently been successful in remov- Constitution assures the descen-
ing non-Indians from its lands dents of "quilombos"the possession
(e.g., the Xacriaba, Krenak, and of the land they occupy. In 1995 a
Patax6 Hae-Hae-Ha aldeias). community in Boa Vista was the
to receive title to its
first quilombo
16 Rosalino and Fulgencio were two land as a consequence of this new
of a handful of Xacriaba murdered article. Bernadete Toneto and
in the mid- 1980s byfazendeirosand Paulo Lima, "O Axe de Zumbi,"
posseirosin the struggle for recog- SemFronteiras, Nov. 1995.
nition and the demarcation of
their territory. 22 Stephan Schwartzman,Ana Valeria
Araujo, and Paulo Pankararu,
17 Joao Xacriaba, interview by au- "Brazil:The Legal Battle over
thor, Belo Horizonte, Minas Indigenous Rights,"NACLA:Report
Gerais, 1995. Joao, age 45, had ontheAmericas,1996 24, 5: 39.
two small children and worked as
a small farmeron the Xacriaba 23 Paulo Machado Guimaraes,
aldeia. Demarcacdo dasTerrasIndgenas:A
Agressaodo Governo(Brasilia,DF:
18 I will discuss the meanings of CIMI, 1989).
caboclolater. Note here how it was
used as a synonym of Indianness. 24 Schwartzman, Araujo, and
19 Often "blacks"are categorized
and referred to as a subset of 25 Antonia Xacriaba, interview by
"whiteness."Within this concep- author, Belo Horizonte, Minas
tualization of whiteness, there Gerais, June 1995. Illiterate and
are white whites, black whites, orphaned as a young girl, at age
mulatto whites, and so on. When fifty-three, Antonia managed to
used in this manner, whitemeans piece together a $500-per-month 3u

non-Indian. salary for herself and her two ul

children by working seven days a oe

20 Silvana Patax6, interview by au- week as both a domestic servant

thor, Carmesia, Minas Gerais, July and a beautician.
1995. Silvana was born and raised N
in Bahia. A thirty-five-year-old 26 George Reid Andrews, Blacksand -C

mother of five, she and her hus- Whitesin SaoPaulo,1888-1988

band survive on $50 per month, (Madison: Wisconsin University
which they earn by selling their Press, 1991), 279. 0\
arts and crafts and doing various a%
27 Antonia Xacriaba, interview.
part-timejobs. Silvana is a Baptist
fundamentalist and attends 28 Jonathan W. Warren, Contesting c:
weekly Bible meetings and sings WhiteSupremacy: in
IndianResurgence C,

in the church choir on the aldeia. Brazil,forthcoming.

Silvana'sstatement about the

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29 Warren, "The State of Indian hope to mankind at the same time

Exorcism." that they constituted a powerful
counter-example to existing
30 Schwartzman, Araujo, and
Europeancivilization.... The
Pankararu,"Brazil,"39. primitivist tradition did not create
the favorableversion of the Indian;
31 By "allwhite" I mean non-black.
rather it shaped the vocabulary
Asians, Mexicans, and Indians
and the imagery the explorers and
were allowed to live in this town,
settlers used to describe their ac-
but blacks were not.
tual experience in the New World
32 Belo Horizonte is located in the and the lifestyles they observed
region of Brazil that is considered among its peoples" (Robert E
the most economically and tech- BerkhoferJr.,TheWhiteMan's
nologically "developed"part of Indian:Imagesof theAmerican Indian
the country. This geographic imag- fromColumbus to thePresent[New
ining of Indianness is so ubiqui- York:Vintage Books, 1978],
tous in eastern Brazil that Indians 72-73).
who reside "outside of the forest,"
34 Michael Taussig, Shamanism,
especially in urban spaces, are Colonialism
commonly regarded as racial
charlatans. It is as if one could not Studyof Terror
Chicago University Press, 1987),
possibly be (or at least remain) a 82.
"realIndian"once removed from
nature, from the forest-from the 35 Ibid., 80.
essence of Indianness. Warren,
ContestingWhiteSupremacy. 36 The "Noble Savage"tradition has
"long been an accompaniment
33 By primitivism I am referring to of the Golden Age or paradisiacal
"theJudeo-Christian and Greco- mythology of Western civiliza-
Roman traditions of Eden and tion" (i.e., primitivism). "Asinfor-
Arcadia, or Paradiseand the mation about the inhabitants of
Golden Age, [which by the time the New World became better
of the Renaissance] had combined known in the Old, Native Ameri-
in a myth of lands lying far away cans entered the literary and
to the west or long ago in the
imaginative works of European
past whose citizens dwelt in an writers, particularlythe French. In
ideal(ized) landscape and gentle this way the American Indian be-
climate in harmony with nature came part of the bon sauvage or
and reason. Usually without prop- Noble Savage tradition,"of which
3: erty, injustice, or kings, and often there have been various versions:
w without work or war, these fortu- the rational savage, the romanti-
nate people possessed just those cist savage, and so on (Berkhofer,
virtues so many commentators TheWhiteMan'sIndian,73-76).
found lacking in their own times: Environmentalists and their sym-
sexual innocence, equality of con- pathizers are not the only individu-
6N dition and status, peaceful sim- als and institutions responsible for
plicity, healthful and handsome the contemporary production of
84 3 bodies, and vigorous minds unsul- the Noble Savage trope in Brazil.
V7 lied by the wiles, complexities, But I did find them to be the
a\ and sophistication of modern civi- principal actors involved in the
m lization. In short, primitivism pos- maintenance of this particular
tulated people dwelling in nature construction of Indianness.
0r according to nature, existing free
V) of history's burdens and the social 37 Alcida Ramos, "The Hyperreal
complexity felt by Europeans in Indian,"Critique
the modern period, and offering 2(1994): 164.

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38 Ibid., 163. 44 The majority of the indigenous

words that have survived in east-
39 Warren, Contesting ern Indian communities are the
40 Here are a few of the examples of vocabulary for plant life.
how the Noble Savage trope sug- 45 The savagery of conquest is often
gests Indian superiority. Accord- projected onto the colonized as
ing to the enlightened savage, well as the landscapes they inhabit.
"primitivepeoples [apprehend] As at the time of the Putamayo
the laws of nature more clearly massacres of the Huitotos Indians,
than civilized man since they [are] the physical environment "of the
less corrupted by the practices Indian"was described as savage
and prejudices of civilization and space. A similar imagery was pro-
more creatures of instincts consid- jected onto the pampas, the plains
ered natural"(Berkhofer,TheWhite of Argentina, as the nascent
Man'sIndian,76). The romanticists
Argentina was exterminating the
argue that Indians, as creatures Pampa Indians. In 1845 the
of nature, are "ableto experience
Argentine Domingo Faustino
life in a more direct or immediate Sarimiento published Civilization
way"because they are less hin- andBarbarism: Lifeof JuanFacundo,in
dered by social rules and civiliza- which he wrote: "The extent of
tion (ibid., 79). And both would the pampas are so prodigious that
hold that due to the virtues of the to the north they are bounded by
naturalstate (they are, remember,
palms and to the south by eternal
"creaturesof nature"),Indians are snows.... [I see] immensity
more humane and whole and everywhere: immense the plains,
therefore can "guide others to the immense the forests, immense
true and beautiful"(SusannaHecht the rivers."He imagines them as
and Alexander Cockburn, TheFate "the ill from which the Argentine
of theForest:Developers, and
Destroyers Republic suffers."They provoke
Defenders of theAmazon[London: "confusion,"he says, and when
Verso, 1989], 11). the inhabitants of the pampas are
41 Schwartzman, Araujo, and included, terror (Mary Pratt,
Imperial Eyes[London: Routledge,
1992], 186). Interestingly both
42 Indians have the legal rights to the Argentine pampas and the
"about 11% of the national terri- Colombian jungle-two very dis-
tory, much of which is rich in tinct topographies-were imag-
naturalresources. Nearly 99% of ined as spaces of terrorat moments
indigenous land in Brazil is in the when Indian exorcism flourished.
Amazon, occupying more than Thus, it would seem that regard-
18% of the region, but little more less of the actual physical terrain, LU


than half of the indigenous popu- geographies come to embody the

lation lives there. In the densely atrocities of conquest.
populated south, east and north- 46 For instance, one important leg-
east of the country, almost half N

end in the region of Vasalia was -C

the indigenous population lives
that of Cruz da Ana. There are
on less than 2% of the indigenous 85
a number of interpretations of
land"(Schwartzman, Araujo, and
this story. When it was originally
Pankararu,"Brazil,"36). a%
coined, immediately after the 0\

43 France Winddance Twine, Racism abolition of slavery, the subtext u

in a RacialDemocracy:TheMainte- revolved more closely around the z

nanceof WhiteSupremacy in Brazil politics of race. In more recent a.

(New Brunswick,N.J.: Rutgers times, it centers around the poli-
University Press, 1997), 18. tics of gender. According to most

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women who "knew"the story, Ana damata.Thatis becausethey are

was the wife of an abusive hus- territorialized
as "creatures
band, who eventually murdered nature," andbecausethey have
her. The men described the mur- identitiesthatpositionthemas
der as justified because she had guardiansof nature,whichno
been adulterous. In any case, in doubtaffectstheirpracticesvis-a-
both accounts, Ana was eventu- vis the environment.
ally brutally murdered by her hus-
band in the forest. And it was in 49 Hecht andCockburn,TheFateof
the spot where her husband quar- theForest,
tered her that water (which has
50 RodolfoStavenhagen,"Indigen-
great healing power) sprung forth. ous Rights:SomeConceptual
(Note that in the original story
Problems,"in E.JelinandE.
Ana was a white virgin that a mu-
latto fugitive noticed washing Hershberg,eds., Constructing
Democracy: Rights,Citizenship
clothes by the river. He abducted
andSociety (Boulder,
her and she resisted. Her resis-
tance irritated him such that he
eventually quartered her in the 51 JohnGabriel,"Initiatinga Move-
forest.) ment:Indigenous,Blackand
GrassrootsStrugglesin the
47 Arei Patax6, interview by author,
Americas,"RaceandClass35, 3
in the municipality of Carmesia,
Minas Gerais, July 1995. Patax6 (1994):8.
was 36 when I interviewed him. 52 FUNAIstandsforFundacao
He had three children and lived Nacionaldo fndio(National
by selling his arts and crafts. Foundationof the Indian).It is
the governmentagencythatis
48 That eastern Indians are less
responsiblefor Indianaffairs-
environmentally destructive is muchlikethe Bureauof Indian
probably at least partially due to Affairs(BIA)in the UnitedStates.
Indianness being defined as bichos


86 i



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