2004 Winner
Winners:
Pesqueira, PE - Brazil
2004
Publication:
The Public Management and Citizenship Programme in Brazil
Sponsored By:
The Public Management and Citizenship Programme in Brazil
Jurisdiction:
Brazil

More information in Portuguese about this award-winning program.

Although the Xukuru People had dispersed throughout the farmlands of the Pesqueira region, in the state of Pernambuco, this did not mean the loss of their tribal relationships. Family ties, the Tore (a sacred ritual dance) and institutions such as Pajelanca and Cacicado kept the Xukuru identity alive. The initiative to reunite the Xukuru People and reclaim their land, situated in the Ororuba Range in the Pernambuco back-country, is said to have begun with Xicao Xukuru, elected Head Tribal Leader in 1986. During this period, a series of initiatives carried out by the Xukuru transformed the occupation of this territory into a wide and integrated movement. The involvement of several leaderships had as consequence the formation of a Council of Leaderships, a Council of Teachers and a Council of Health.

Currently the Xukuru occupy 85% of the lands legally allotted to them (27,555 hectares). One form of taking back their lands was the retomada ("retaking"), where the Indians and their families would camp out on the land for days. Many times there was resistance by the farmers, even after the territory was legally returned to the Indians. This period of organization and land recovery had dramatic consequences for the Xukuru. Five leaders were murdered, among which Headman Xicao, in 1998.

At present there are over nine thousand Indians, distributed among more than two thousand families. Decisions are made in Assembly or by the Councils, which meet regularly and include members from each village. An internal commission executes these decisions. The Xukuru Association was created in the juridical sphere.

Female participation has been important since the territory was taken back, and women are present in all Councils. Youth presence in collective activities and in the Councils has also grown in recent years, perhaps because the current Head Leader is young.

After the reoccupation of their land, the Xukuru have reached a series of goals. In education, for instance, almost all teachers in Indian schools are Xukuru, a demand of the Xukuru Teachers Council. In 1997 the tribe published the book Xukuru, children of Mother Nature: a history of resistance and fight, with texts and illustrations by the Xukuru, and registering a number of almost-forgotten Xukuru words. Tribal festivities have gained new life. Clearings in the villages are used for rituals, such as the Tore, considered to be one of the traditions that maintained the unity and the ethnic identity of the Xukuru People during the years when they were scattered and turned from their lands.

Three health clinics attend the villages. Local Indian medical practices are given their worth, and there is a project for a book on Xukuru medicine. The shaman (paje) takes care of the simpler health problems, while the more serious are sent to the health clinics and the hospital in Pesqueira. Currently the Xukuru are discussing with the National Health Foundation (Funasa) the possibility of implementing the Indian Family Health Program (PSFI).

The Indians have currently a richer and more varied diet and, encouraged by the Councils, plan to develop community cultivation projects, aiming at selling produce to the region's supermarkets.

During the period of land recovery and the return of Indians living in towns and on farms, a form of governing the territory developed which involves both traditional indigenous institutions and forms of participation and decision-making characterized as democratic. Due to their innovative form of organization, the Xukuru brought a new dimension to the fight for land, incorporating demands for education and health policies, environmental recovery and other citizenship rights.