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Good principles, bleak reality

In theory, the government of Brazil recognizes indigenous people and makes them eligible for a range of wonderful benefits. What actually happens under the Amazon canopy is not that rosy.
The Brazilian constitution recognizes the rights of indigenous people to live in their traditional territories according to their lifestyle. It also states that the government is responsible for the demarcation of indigenous land and is in charge of providing bilingual education and health care adapted to indigenous needs and beliefs.

In practice, a different picture

There is however a gap between what is stated in the law and what is happening on the ground.

Although the most important indigenous lands are legally demarcated today, the government has not provided the needed money for education and health care. For this reason, indigenous people such as the Yanomami have high rates of children mortality.

Ongoing persecution

Some indigenous groups continue to face persecution in various forms. Poor migrant populations that are relocating from overpopulated areas to begin subsistence farming or in search of gold may infringe on indigenous territory, or compete for the same resources.

The expansion of the Trans-Amazonian highway and other development projects are creating a range of problems, which indigenous people face great difficulties to deal with.

The Yanomamo forest-dwellers

The largest remaining indigenous forest-dwelling group in the Amazon is the 15,000-member strong Yanomamo. They continue their indigenous practices, such as the use of hallucinogens to communicate with the spirit world, and the consumption of ashes (mixed in soup) of their dead. They too are now under threat from highway construction, which brings an influx of gold miners.1

1 Brooke, 1993 in Kricher, 1997

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