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Indigenous community faces loggers
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Natives confiscated truckloads of illegally extracted timber from their territory.

Tired of the logging of their forests, members of the indigenous community Pukobjê-Gavião, from the Brazilian northeastern state of Maranhão, decided at the end of January to seize four trucks and one tractor with some 20 cubic meters (700 cubic feet) of illegally logged timber from their territory.

The indigenous reserve Governador, in the southwest of Maranhão, is the boundary of the eastern Amazon region with the Cerrado savanna. It is an area with many trees, such as the trumpet tree, supucaia, aroeira, copaiba, and cerejeira tree.

“We got tired of reporting so we decided to take our own measures,” said the cacique Evandro Gavião to the International Press Service. “We would see the trucks in the reserve. What would have happened if we did not do anything?”.

Since 2009 the community has been reporting the illegal logging in its territory, an activity that is closely linked to road construction and migration since road access facilitates entry into the forest. According to police authorities, there are at least seven large sawmills in the Pukobjê-Gavião territory.

The Pukobjê-Gavião indigenous have in vain requested the presence of governmental organizations such as the National Foundation of the Indian, or FUNAI, the Brazilian Environmental Institute, and the Federal Police.

“What we did was dangerous, but it was the only way to get the attention of the responsible authorities,” pointed out Gavião.

The indigenous have received threats, which they attribute to the process approved in 1980 of changing the boundaries of the reserve. Because parts of the original Pukobjê-Gavião territory were left out of the demarcation process and were occupied by ranchers, the indigenous solicited limit revisions in 1999, which could expand the territory from the current 42,000 hectares (105,000 acres) to 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres).

Illegal logging is a common practice in Maranhão. According to the Missionary Indigenist Council, or CIMI, which is linked to the Catholic Church, timber exploitation “is out of control. The indigenous do not know where to turn to, they risk themselves to defend their territories, and if the authorities do not act, the consequences could be disastrous.”

According to the CIMI, the invasion of the indigenous territories is a daily reality in Maranhão. The Tentehar/Guajajara, Krikiati and Awá-Guajá communities, the latter in voluntary isolation, have suffered attacks and occupation of their lands by loggers and ranchers.

The FUNAI assures that Maranhão is the place where it has the most problems in protecting the indigenous territories.

“Of the 20 most deforested areas of 2011, five were in Maranhão,” affirmed Thaís Dias Gonçalves, general coordinator of FUNAI’s Territorial Monitoring, in statements to the press.

The CIMI exhorted the federal government “to assume constitutional responsibility and take the reasonable and necessary measures to protect the Governador indigenous territory from invasions, and to arrange immediate physical protection for the Pukobjê-Gavião community, who is victim of threats, violence, and human rights violations by loggers and local dealers.” —Latinamerica Press.

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Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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