September 15, 2000

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 the
                  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 violated by
                  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 to the
                  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 ancestral
                  lands and the tribe moved back again, where it now numbers around 200.