Foto: Beto Ricardo, 2002


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Indigenous associations


The initiative of forming associations means, above all, the Indians’ attempt to gain autonomy in the administration of community interests which connect directly with the public and private institutional world of the national society. In the last several years, five associations have been created in the Xingu Park and, apparently, this number is increasing. Out of the existing associations, three are connected to local interests of specific villages: Mavutsinim, of the Kamaiurá; Jacuí, of the Kalapalo, as well as the association of the Wauja. In 1994, Atix (the Indigenous Land Association of the Xingu) was created, which includes 14 ethnic groups of the Park, which serves interlocal interests. On its agenda, there are projects for cultural revitalization, protection and fiscalization of the territory, besides  educational and health programs and economic alternatives. The Atix has the institutional support of the Rainforest Foundation of Norway with the ISA as consultants.

The associations, in general, are equipped with an administrative structure which does not exist in the traditional forms of political organization of the indigenous societies. The assimilation and administration of an associational model with bureaucratic trappings enters into conflict with traditional politics, as it presupposes command of the Portuguese language, mathematical operations, legislation and inter-institutional relations that govern the universe of private law entities. Consequently, an indigenous association doesn’t always succeed in reconciling the traditional politics of the village, which is generally controlled by the elders, with the political administration of matters that connect with the national society, which in practice is being monopolized by younger individuals. It is these younger individuals who dominate the new knowledge which is indispensable to this interface.

The sustainability of an association with the broad profile of the Atix, which manages a diversified set of projects, requires partnerships that, at least in part, support its operation. As the Atix incorporates people of different ethnic groups among its personnel, its headquarters is not localized in a single village but on the Diauarum Indigenous Post, with sub-headquarters in  the city of Canarana (MT). This situation demands, undoubtedly, exclusive dedication of the majority of its members, who, besides other things, have to take up residence near the headquarters of the Association. Hence the difficulty of guaranteeing the operation of an association of this type without institutional support.

Another important aspect for the maintenance of the associations is the question of the training of its members in order to adequately  manage administrative and financial  aspects, as well as relations with the outside. Towards this end, the Atix, with the assessment of the ISA, has sought to put into practice an intense and continuous effort at training its staff, Since 1995 it has been sponsoring and participating in various courses, such as mechanics (in partnership with the Senai-PA), computer training for the directors, self-schooling and the preparation, administration and accounting of projects.

In the context of the Park, where the administration of the Funai, since 1985, is in control of the Indians, the growth of the Atix means, in a way, a new administrative alternative that is revealing the contradictions of a process in which the Indians were raised up from the condition of conduits of the actions of the state, without having been given the conditions necessary for assuming this role with autonomy.

[André Villas Bôas]