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The Kamaiurá Brazilian Indigenous People and Sustainable Development

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Curi, Melissa Volpato
Conference: Commons Amidst Complexity and Change, the Fifteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Conf. Date: May 25-29
Date: 2015
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/9851
Sector: Social Organization
Region: South America
Subject(s): sustainability
anthropology
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "This study aims to analyze the importance of the recognition of legal pluralism in promotion of cultural and environmental sustainability. Through the Legal Anthropology discipline, we intend to present some of the standards of the Brazilian indigenous people Kamaiurá, concerning land use and the use of natural resources. The Kamaiurá people live in the southern part of the Xingu Indigenous Park, in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso and have a population of approximately 523 people. They are part of the Tupi linguistic branch and speak the indigenous language Kamaiurá. Due to their contact with non-indigenous people, most of the population also speaks Portuguese. Despite the presence of some Western values, such as consumer goods - clothes, motorcycles, stereos etc., the Kamaiurá people preserve their social organization and their unique way of relating to the natural environment. To understand a little of the Kamaiurá universe, it is necessary to understand the importance of myths to these indigenous people. They not only permeate through the collective imagination, but define rules and establish the way of life in the village. The respect they have for natural resources is connected to this mythological universe. The preservation of resources comes from a very close relationship they establish with nature, which is defined not only by dependency aspects, but mostly by the primary meaning of myths and Kamaiurá beliefs. Many plants and animals, for example, have spirits in the myths and they act directly on the social environment. In this sense, it is intrinsic in the indigenous nature to use natural resources sustainably, as they support them physically and culturally. It is common in some Kamaiurá myths to have marriages between Indians and animals, showing that they are treated as human equals. The Kamaiurá territory is collective. Although the Brazilian Federal Constitution does not recognize the indigenous property rights over their land, but rather only the right of possession, internally, there is no such distinction. Each village location is historically linked to its inhabitants. The territory identifies the indigenous people because of the memory of ancestors and the natural resources necessary for the maintenance of their socio-cultural survival. Among the Kamaiurá values is to care of individual goods, such as a fruit tree, as well as collective goods such as rivers, lakes and forests. Prioritizing the well-being of the community, the Kamaiurá indigenous people continue to adjust their rules and operate regardless of state authoritative presence. Considering the traditional way of life of indigenous peoples, recognition and respect of their own values are closely related to sustainable development, ensuring that both the environment and richness of cultural diversity is preserved."

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