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Project April 28, 2023

Panará, ‘Giant Indigenous People,’ Monitor Their Land Against Recent Invasions



Journalists followed the monitoring work (air and land) carried out by the Panará people to verify and combat threats of invasion of their land. The report coincides with the 25th anniversary of the return to their land in 1997.

Formerly called Krenhakarore or 'Giant Indigenous people,' the Panará were contacted by a Funai mission led by brothers Claudio and Orlando Villas Boas in 1973. The military dictatorship wanted to pass the BR-163 highway (Cuiabá-Santarém) where they lived. The contact resulted in tragedy: They fell victim to disease, their population declined, and they were eventually taken to live in the Xingu Indigenous Park. Their land in the Peixoto de Azevedo region was then taken over by miners and largely destroyed: Today it is a barren sand dune and the river is polluted with mercury.

The Panará never adapted: Indigenous Amazonian forest people, they lived in transition to the Cerrado, another biome, other food. In the mid-1990s, on missions organised by Stephan Schwartzan and André Villas Boas, they detected an area of their homeland with preserved forest, in an army zone in the Serra do Cachimbo.

The NDI (Núcleo de Direitos Indígenas - Indigenous Rights Nucleus) won a lawsuit against the Union and got the lands back in 1997. Their forest is preserved, their population has grown, and they monitor the land. The success story after the tragedy, however, requires permanent control of the territory, surrounded by cattle and agricultural commodity farms in a region also threatened by illegal mining and logging.