More than a week after the Brazilian Police’s Shock Battalion evicted indigenous and allied protestors using tear gas, pepper spray and batons from a contested site in Rio de Janeiro near one of the country’s top sports stadiums, attorneys for the Tamoio Movement of Original Peoples (TMOP) have filed suit at the Federal Public Ministry to halt the eviction and prevent the demolition of the old museum.
On March 22, close to 200 agents of the Shock Battalion marched into the area and attacked the gathered protestors with tear gas and pepper spray, forcing the removal of the last residents of the Aldeia Maracana and arresting at least six indigenous people from the area.
The TMOP, representing the various Indigenous Peoples who have been settling around the former Indian Museum in Rio de Janeiro, filed the lawsuit and issued a press statement on Monday, April 1st. In their statement the TMOP gave an overview of their activities in the area and their negotiations with local and federal authorities.
The conflict over the site dates back to 2006 when Indigenous Peoples began to occupy the area around the museum which had been closed and abandoned, by building huts and reclaiming the area for its historical and spiritual significance to indigenous people in Brazil. The former Indian Museum sits on property next to the Maracana Stadium, one of the sites for the upcoming 2014 World Cup soccer games.
Since the occupation, the TMOP asserted that indigenous activists have developed programs for use in local schools and universities for the purpose of “…deconstructing the distorted history of our peoples in the majority of textbooks…” as well as start to build a small community dedicated to preserving indigenous history and culture. The community members of the TMOP are from the Pataxo, Tukano, Guarani, Puri, Apurina, Tupinamba, Kaingang and Satere-Mauwe peoples and they refer to their settlement as the Maracana Village.
The press statement also noted the reaction of the Indigenous Peoples to the actions of the Shock Battalion troops.
“We want to reaffirm that we repudiate the barbaric and inhuman way that we were treated by Military Police by order of the government, disrespecting that which was established in the document of reintegration… While the military police used pepper spray, tear gas bombs, rubber bullets and sonic weapons against us, all we had to defend us were only our maracas and our songs evoking our ancestors.”
The TMOP activists also said that they were approaching various government officials, such as the Minister of Agriculture, to negotiate a way of preserving the contested area to include a possible indigenous reference center.
They also noted that, “…the property of the old Indian Museum, located in the historic center of resistance Tupinambã¡ and Tamoia against the Portuguese invasion… There were the spirits of our ancestors and it was time to return home.”