Brazil Indians win settlement after road reduces tribe
BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) -- A Brazilian federal court ordered the
government on Thursday to compensate a remote Indian community after it ruled
that a road built through tribal territory had caused the death of most of its
The construction of the road, which cuts through a vast tract of land in
lower Amazon, brought the isolated Panara tribe into contact with various
illnesses and diseases carried by white men -- ended up decimating the
"The decision is historic because it allows those populations who feel
the state to claim their rights," said Carlos Federico Mares, a lawyer representing
the Panara during the court case.
Brazil's Regional Federal Tribunal ordered the national government to compensate
the tribe for moral and material damage by paying 4,000 minimum wages,
equivalent to $335,500.
Construction of the road, which links the city of Cuiaba in central Brazil
bustling Amazon port of Santarem, began in 1973. Before that,
environmentalists say, the Panara tribe had no contact with the outside world.
But with the arrival of the construction team, many members of the tribe
contracted illnesses against which they had no protection and also came up
against the phenomena of alcoholism and prostitution for the first time.
In 1975, the government's National Indian Foundation (Funai), which oversees
policy on Brazil's indigenous peoples, arranged for the Panara to be moved far
from their traditional lands as by then just 75 of the 300-strong community
In 1996, the Justice Ministry recognized the Panara's right to return to
lands and the tribe moved back again, where it now numbers around 200.