Contacted and protected groups

Newly contacted indigenous groups fell under the protection of FUNAI, but the latter lacked a specific policy for these peoples, who ended up exposed to epidemics and land invasions, as well as the numerous problems brought by contact and sedentarization. Following an evaluation of the vulnerable situation experienced by these recently contacted groups, CGII began to provide special assistance to the Kanoê (four people) and Akuntsu (6 people) of Rondônia, contacted more than 10 years ago, as well as the Zo’é in Pará and a small Korubo group located in the Javari Valley (Amazonas).

The Zo’é, a Tupi-Guarani group located in the Cuminapanema river basin (PA), were contacted by FUNAI in 1989. However they had already maintained relations with Protestant missionaries since 1982.

The Korubo became famous in the media when a section of their population was contacted in 1996 by a FUNAI-organized expedition coordinated by the sertanista (explorer) Sydney Possuelo and accompanied by reporters from National Geographic magazine, who transmitted the event live and online to the entire world. Known as ‘warclub Indians’ because of their non-use of bows, the Korubo decades ago had engaged in a low-level war with the regional population, despite the numerous attempts to make peaceful contact with them. Part of the group was contacted and today numbers 25 people, having separated from the original group which remains in constant flight.


Recently Contacted Indigenous Groups Coordination Team: not implemented

The Recently Contacted Indigenous Groups Coordination Team, subordinated to FUNAI’s Directorate of Assistance and coordinated by anthropologist Artur Nobre Mendes, previously director of the Directorate of Land Matters/FUNAI, was created in July 2006 with the objective of “protecting indigenous groups and peoples contacted in the recent past and who live in a relative state of political-cultural autonomy and, at the same time, without full awareness of the dominant social forces that surround them.”

The text outlining the need for this specific coordination team classifies ‘recently contacted’ those indigenous groups that established permanent contacts with Brazilian national society after the creation of FUNAI in 1967. It also explains that the numerous contacts undertaken in the 1970s and early to mid 1980s occurred in situations of extreme vulnerability for these groups due to the pressure from the country’s expanding economic frontiers. Without specific policies for these populations, the vulnerability continued as these groups failed to gain much headway within FUNAI compared to other, better organized Indians.

Various factors contributed to this. In almost all the government programs directed towards indigenous peoples, the mechanisms for consulting the latter generally involve the formation of councils and the organization of seminars and hearings without the reality of these Indians being taken into account. The fact that most of the groups are monolingual and unaware of the codes and mechanisms for taking part makes the presence of these Indians in the consultations merely decorative, or involves the participation of their younger generation, the only people who speak Portuguese, but have less influence in the group’s internal political composition. In other cases they are ‘represented’ by Indians who they do not know or to whom they never conferred any power of representation. Another negative factor were the public policies of social inclusion that failed to take into account the impacts of these policies on culturally semi-isolated communities.

The Coordination Team intended to develop and implement a Protection Policy for Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples, proposing methodologies for consulting them in an appropriate way, as well as internal training mechanisms for FUNAI staff working with them. It also intended to stimulate scientific research among these peoples and coordinate assessments with other government agencies prior to the implementation of any universal public policies relating to these groups, as well as create mechanisms for periodical assessment of the living conditions of these peoples.