April 17, 2000
Brazil's Indians to protest anniversary of explorer's arrival

                   From staff and wire reports

                   BRACUI, Brazil -- Indians from across Brazil are to gather on Tuesday to protest
                   the country's celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first
                   Portuguese explorers.

                   "Five hundred years ago began our massacre, suffering and extermination," says
                   the Council of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations of Brazil. The group is
                   organizing a gathering of about 200 tribes to coincide with the commemoration
                   of the arrival on April 22, 1500, of Pedro Cabral.

                   The organization says it is gathering to assess and evaluate the past 500 years,
                   set goals for the future and to make it clear to authorities that they see no reason
                   to celebrate.

                   "The white man has taken everything from us," said Cacique Vera Mirim, chief
                   of the Guarani tribe, one of Brazil's largest with 30,000 Guarani across six states.

                   "We are suffering, and no one remembers what they've done since Pedro Cabral
                   arrived and killed our ancestors," Mirim said.

                   Native population has fallen dramatically

                   Brazil's native population has fallen from 5 million when the first Europeans
                   arrived to 325,000. Many Indians died in clashes with Europeans and others
                   from the diseases introduced by Europeans.

                   The Yanomami people formerly lived undisturbed in the Amazon region, but their
                   land sits on one of the richest gold deposits in South America and has not been
                   the same since the prospectors arrived.

                   "The Indians continue to have problems ... the problem of surviving," said
                   anthropologist Jose Carlos Levinho. "Creating an environment in which the
                   Indians can thrive ... that's the challenge for the government."

                   Brazil's 1988 constitution guarantees Indians the right to land traditionally held by
                   their ancestors, and more than half the native territory has been returned.

                   But fires, set by ranchers to clear land for cattle, continue to encroach on their

                   'We're making progress'

                   Jose Carlos Dias, a former minister of justice, said, "We're making progress.
                   And we hope to demarcate more indigenous areas. This is a priority for the

                   The Guarani land is in one of the protected areas. That is one reason they have
                   fared better than some of Brazil's indigenous groups, but there are other factors.

                   The Guarani refuse to intermarry with non-natives, and they are united by strong
                   religious beliefs passed along to children through song.

                   More than half the members of the tribe are children, and many of the men leave
                   to find work. Mirim says that without increased opportunity the future of the
                   tribe is grim.

                   "Look at these children we're trying to feed. And tell me, who is supposed to
                   support them now? No one remembers us," he said.

                   Celebrations around the country

                   The Brazilian government, together with Portuguese authorities, has planned a
                   range of events in Santa Cruz de Cabralia, 500 miles (800 kilometers) northeast
                   of Rio de Janeiro, where the first explorers arrived, and around the country.

                   The schedule includes concerts and the inauguration of a "Discovery Museum."

                   The issue of how to best celebrate the arrival of the Portuguese has been a
                   source of conflict for several months between the government and indigenous

                   Last week, hundreds of protesting Indians marched in the capital and destroyed a
                   monument that had been built for the anniversary.

                   Tensions had flared earlier over a plan to celebrate Mass on a beach near Coroa
                   Vermelha village in Bahia state, the site of the first Mass in Brazil. Indians
                   demanded that a monument to their struggles be erected alongside a large cross
                   which had been built for the event.

                   Correspondent Debra Daugherty, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to
                                            this report.