Ethnoenvironmental knowledge and territorial politics: The case of a proposed Xavante indigenous reserve in Central Brazil

Date and Time: 
Friday, 6 May, 2011 - 17:40 to 18:00
COIMBRA JR, Carlos E.A. - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz
James R. WELCH - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz
Ricardo V. SANTOS - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz

Brazil is noteworthy for its long governmental tradition of promoting indigenous interests and demarcating federal indigenous lands. Presently, strong emphasis is placed on local environmental conservation and the sociocultural continuity of specific ethnic groups. In the case of the Xavante in Central Brazil, these principles are closely related to public concern with the integrity of the cerrado biome. They also involve an emerging dynamic in which rapid population growth contributes to intense landscape use and, consequently, presents challenges for the continuation of certain valued cultural practices. In this paper, we discuss how Xavante ethnoenvironmental knowledge contributed to our recent anthropological evaluation of the proposed Wedezé Indigenous Reserve, an area continually used by this group since the mid-1800s. We highlight the conservative nature of Xavante environmental management as compared to nearby agribusiness and the central relevance of ethnoenvironmental knowledge for the long-term wellbeing of the Xavante people.