Land Rights Now – Fabiana De Jesus Santiago – Kirirí people, Brazil

22 Nov 2018

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“I am a proud indigenous woman. In the face of difficulties and obstacles, I will not stop fighting for my people and my dreams.” ­Fabiana De Jesus Santiago

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© Lian van Leeuwen

My name is Fabiana. I am a 27-year-old indigenous woman from the Kirirí people in Brazil. I live in the Kirirí community, where we just created a Slow Food Presidium: Kirirí Manioc Flour. My people was afforded recognition by the government only after the creation of the Indian Protection Service (SPI), now called the FUNAI. My childhood was not easy, and my family always struggled to ensure that we would have a meal every day.

Since my people was recognized as Indigenous, conflicts started in our territory. During an 8 ­year period, our families were restricted from planting, hunting or fishing. We were given donation baskets made by FUNAI, since we had been told not to work in the fields due to the constant threat of attack and death. As for education during this period, there were almost no classes and my parents’ generation was almost completely illiterate. They learned to write only their names, and nothing else. Those who knew how to read taught those who didn’t, older people were learning to read and write under the trees. Then, a school was built, and I started attending at around six or seven years old. The classroom had students of different ages and the teacher was from our village. Initially, she didn’t receive a salary and the school was just a place to keep the children safe, since we could not walk freely in the village.

Today, we live on our land, where our leaders are always active, so that our rights are respected according to our needs. We don’t always get good results, but we are always trying to maintain dialogue with the government, as much as possible. Since 2009, I have been working in the community. My work within the territory is more focused on social issues, where I participate in meetings both within the village and outside. I discuss issues based on our culture and the problems that we face. Most people here in the village work in agriculture, in the winter, they plant beans, corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes, among others, and they store the harvest to eat during the summer.

I hope to see my community develop and create jobs for our families. IFAD and the current Slow Food Presidium project are providing our people with a great opportunity to develop and we are moving forward. Being indigenous and living in an indigenous village does not mean that we are inferior to others. We have the same potential as any white man, to be able to attend a college and win in life. I am Indigenous, living in a village which has a great potential for development, just like any other non­-indigenous community.

Written with Nancy Monperousse

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