Greenpeace commends the Deni for protecting their land from illegal logging
Manaus, Brazil, 18 October 2001: After a two year struggle supported by Greenpeace, Missionary Indigenist Council (CIMI), and Operacao Amazonia Nativa (OPAN), the Deni Indians of the Brazilian Amazon won formal recognition of their rights to their traditional land.
The land will now be held for their sole occupation and use, and industrial exploitation, such as logging and mining, will be prohibited.
The Decree, signed by Brazil's Minister of Justice Jose Gregori last week, was officially published on October 16 in Brasilia.
The Deni's land is inhabited by 670 people and spans 1,530,000 hectares in the remote southwest of the Amazon.
According to the Brazilian Constitution, all Indian lands should have been demarcated by 1993 and the Deni themselves were first promised this in 1984. Of the 580 Indian territories identified in Brazil, only 360 have been formally demarcated.
In 1999 Greenpeace first learned that the Malaysian logging giant WTK had purchased 151,000 hectares of land that overlapped with the Deni's traditional territories. Greenpeace went to the area and met with the Deni, who until that time were unaware of the threat.
Subsequent visits by Greenpeace, CIMI and OPAN led to the Deni asking for help to mark the borders of their land and to have this recognised by the Brazilian Federal Government.
"The Deni, after years of broken promises from the Federal Government, decided to take control over the fate of their tradition lands," said Greenpeace campaigner Nilo D'Avila. "And they succeeded. We are proud to have played a small part in their great victory."
Over the past month volunteers from Greenpeace, CIMI, and OPAN supplied technical and logistical support to the Deni as they marked their most vulnerable borders, cutting 53 km of trails through thick jungle, and 218 km along the banks of rivers and creeks. Along the routes, the Deni posted signs reading "Entry Prohibited. Deni Land."
A letter dated 30th September, 2001, from 10 Deni leaders to FUNAI, Brazil's Indian Agency, stated ''Deni waited a long time for the demarcation, but the demarcation did not happen. Deni decided to do the work. Deni will only halt the work if FUNAI gives a precise date of the beginning of demarcation and accepts the work that Deni has already completed".
On October 9, FUNAI accepted the demands of the Deni, and one week later the Minister of Justice signed the Decree.
"The Brazilian Government must now, as a priority, keep their promises to the Deni. They must legally recognise the work done by the Deni, and complete the demarcation of all Deni lands, under the supervision of the Deni themselves," said D'Avila.
Greenpeace also calls on the Government of Brazil to, with urgency, meet their constitutional, social and moral obligations to demarcate all Indian lands in Brazil. 20% of the Brazilian Amazon is Indian land.
Greenpeace's support for the Deni's demarcation is part of a campaign to protect the world's remaining ancient forests. Some 80% of the world's ancient forests have already been degraded or destroyed and only 20% remain intact. Time is running out unless governments around the world take swift action to ensure the future of the ancient forests.