The fight of the indigenous Pataxo-Ha-Ha-Hae population in the south east of the State of Bahia for their lands has been lasting for long.
Already at the end of XIXth century and during the beginning of the XX century they had to confront land grabbing for cacao plantations. The reserve Caramuru-Paraguaçu was created in 1926 in the area they were concentrating after the continuous reduction of their lands. Following governmental violence, Caramuru-Paraguaçu was reduced to 36,000 ha and the inhabitants of the reserve continued suffering forced displacements, imposed by the FUNAI.
Progresses in Brazilian law in favor of indigenous’ rights do not automatically translate into a better and effective respect of the latter.
Even after the adoption of the Indian Statute in 1973, ranchers continued to settle in Caramuru-Paraguaçu. All along the 1980 decade Pataxo-Ha-Ha-Hae people fought for the recovery of their lands.
Pataxo refugees in Minas Gerais returned to their lands and started occupying the Sao Lucas ranch. They went to court demanding the cease of further relocations. The court ruled in their favor. However, violent altercations with the ranchers didn’t end.
In more recent times Pataxo people continue to fight to defend their territorial land rights, still under occupation of cattle ranchers. Part of their territory was also turned into the Monte Pascoal National Park. Additionally a carbon offset project (through the United Nations REDD mechanism) was launched in Pataxo territory too. The recovery of degraded forest was founded by the sale of carbon credits. The project favors private landowners and multinationals (financing their right to emit greenhouse gases) while Pataxo people traditional livelihoods are disregarded by traditional conservationist views.
Indigenous peoples’ territorial rights have recently been threatened by the constitutional amendment proposal ‘PEC 215’. If adopted, it would have restricted indigenous lands’ recognition. The rejection of the amendment early 2015 was a victory celebrated nation-wide. In their fight the Pataxo people have addressed crucial issues for Brazilian society: justice, equal dignity for indigenous people, recognition of their civil and political rights, recovery of their ancestral territories and protection for the identity and dignity of the people .