Saturday, September 26, 2009

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September 26, 2009 - Continuation of Attempted Assassination

When Marcos arrived as the home of the Indian helping him, he took off his clothes to look for any other injuries. While he had cuts from barbed wire, He had not been shot. His ear was torn and bleeding a lot, and he had other deep cuts on his face from falling and from barbed wire fences. He was taken to the local hospital in Pesqueira where his deeper cuts were stitched and bandaged. He was given sedation and taken to his mother’s house on Indian land. According to Marcos, he slept for at least eight to ten hours.

During the time Marcos slept, the indigenous community reacted out of anger and fear. They had lost five individuals (leaders, a lawyer, and Xicao Xukuru in 1998), and from their perspective they could not restrain their emotions. While Xicao (Marcos' father) and Marcos were both caciques (chiefs), they spoke of non-violent social activism and encouraged peaceful practices during their ratonada (regaining their land by occupying it (camping on the land) and refusing to leave. The assassination of Xicao occurred during this time. Such land occupations are dangerous for indigenous peoples, who often have waited for several years (actually since the 1988 constitution) to have their lands returned.

While Marcos was at his mother's house sleeping, the indigenous community revolted by setting fire to the house of an indigenous leader who had historically sided with non-indigenous landed elites (apparently he was paid for his collaborations), and according to indigenous leaders participated in the attempted assassination of Marcos. In addition, they burned his car/s and other personal property, ending by running him (his name is Bio) off indigenous land. He currently lives in the city of Pesqueira, and maintains relations with political leaders and local businessmen, who want to build a religious tourism site on a sacred land where Xicao Xukuru (the previous leader who was assassinated)was interned (the Xukuru say they "plant" their dead). A majority of the leaders, according to Cacique Marcus Xukuru, do not want such a site to be built, which would consist of a multi-storied hotel and "cultural center" that would demonstrate indigenous religious practices.

The Federal Police (FP) arrived on the scene of the murders (of the two young Xukuru men accompanying Marcos), and the scene of the revolt that resulted in the burning of Bio's house and property. The FP focused attenion on the riot, and deemed the two murders of the Xukuru youth to be an internal dispute, and not an attempted assassination of Cacique Marcus Xukuru. Due to the FP investigation, Cacique Marcos Xukuru was found guilty of inciting the riot, and existing evidence of his alibi (staying with his mother in a sedated state and with evidence of the medical care he received at the hospital)was ignored. A pre-trial hearing determined he was guilty and a suggested sentence of 10 years and 4 months was determined.

He is currently not imprisoned, but is awaiting a repeal of the suggested sentence, and a trial by jury in the near future. Law student, Joseph Mandala will be adding his legal opinions, ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. I would appreciate questions from readers, especially my students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Dakota. This blog is intended to assist in the dissemination of information regarding the Xukuru and other indigenous peoples and explore ways in which international human rights documents can be applied to assist them in their struggles for basic dignity and respect. Students ideas, questions, opinions (as long as they are respectful) are welcomed, and such input will assist me in thinking about how to work with social action research here in Pernambuco.


  1. Here is the link to the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

    But, does it have any legal teeth in Brazil (or anywhere else for that matter)?

    "Article 40
    Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts and
    disputes with States or other parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual and collective rights. Such
    a decision shall give due consideration to the customs, traditions,rules and legal systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international human rights."

    "Article 43
    The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the

    Also, would a regular citizen of Brazil get a similar sentence that Cacique Marcos Xukuru got?

  2. Blog Reply to Tasha Spawn – 10-2-09

    Good Point Tasha - In this sense, I would also like to get some definitions of diversity. What does this word mean, not only in social science, but in popular every-day discourse? In other words, are we talking about genuine differences between actual individuals, or are we trying to define who "we" are as cultural beings across locations, or are we seeking to discover how we come to know who we are?

    As far as the nation-state is concerned, there have been many discussions about the actuality of its permanence or legitimacy (in that it is a social construction and a historical process-in-and-of itself). Since the nation-state is a political organization by a body of people who traditionally shared common cultural notions of self and environment, it is a created entity, and as such, can be re-created. I tend to think of the state as political and geo-political constructed identity, and the nation as a cultural and ethnic constructed identity. All of these definitions also refer to legal constructions in international law vs. private law (international law = relates to the conduct of states within the international community and often impacts multinational corporations...AND individuals through International Human Rights Documents, vs. private law = state laws - laws related to sovereign states with defined territorial boundaries ). This is a long way of saying that human rights documents, covenants, treaties, etc. are NEW tools for wrangling with human (state-to-state, nation-to-nation, and nation-state to nation-state) conflicts. Of course, as you know human rights documents struggle with the notion of diversity, with human differences at both the individual level as well as the collective level. Human rights documents struggle to re-define our notions of self and others at the local and international spheres.

    So, how can we understand the actuality of the political, geopolitical, and socio-cultural constructions of nations, states, nation-states, and collective and individual identities (ethnicity, gendered and sexual identities, "race", age, -- you name it)?

    This explanation then, relates to the constructed realities of indigenous peoples and non-indigenous peoples (colonizers, capitalists, socialists, communists, fascists, libertarians, democracies, chiefdoms, or any other form of collective governance) within the "nation-state" that has appropriated them, and within the sovereign territories and governments of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

    Indeed, how do we discuss such deeply accepted and cultural absorbed notions of our own identities as individuals who comprise our various "nation-states" and sovereign territories? My questions involve the very transient, yet concretely felt and experienced realities of every-day life. How do we un-lock "what we think we know" in order to discover "what we don't yet know?"

    If we can discover this process, we can address the last have of your question. How can we get "indigenous people" (which actually translates to all people) to take part in discussing their constructed realities that actually create their and our everyday sense of the concrete world.


WDAZ TV Xukuru Research Synopsis