Brazil Apologizes to Indigenous People

From the article:

The apology was made on Tuesday by an amnesty commission attached to the human rights ministry that is tasked with investigating the crimes of the 1964-85 regime.

The president of that commission, the law professor Eneá de Stutz e Almeida, knelt before the Indigenous leader Djanira Krenak as she voiced regret for the violence inflicted on the Krenak people.

“In the name of the Brazilian state I want to say sorry for all the suffering your people were put through,” said Almeida, who called the apology the first of its kind in the more than 500 years since Portuguese explorers reached what is now known as Brazil in 1500.

“In truth, I’m not saying sorry [only] for what happened during the dictatorship. I’m saying sorry for the persecution your people – as well as all other native people – have suffered over the last 524 years because of the non-Indigenous invasion of this land, which belongs to you,” Almeida told a hearing in the capital, Brasília.


I'm often curious why indigenous people want any sort of apology from any government for wronging them, as these apologies are performative more than anything useful. I guess a less cynical version of me could say that saying, “I'm sorry, please forgive me,” does help and is useful within society and relationships. However, I don't know if that same forgiving power comes from a situation like this.

I don't see the purpose for things like this except to appease some form of faux guilt by people who had nothing to do with the original event.

I remember there was a weird movement in churches many years ago where some would stage these performative events of forgiveness between whites and Indigenous peoples. The white people would ask for forgiveness for the way Indians were treated, and the Indians would give it. People would leave feeling like they accomplished something magical. But the reality is that things never changed. The churches typically stayed monocultural, with whites going to predominantly white churches and Indians going to the one Native church in town. What was the point other than to assuage guilt-ridden feelings by a white pastor who read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?

Seeking forgiveness also includes some form of reparation unless the apology is self-serving, that is, to wash away the guilt without facing any repercussions for the wrong done. This apology, like the church events I experienced, may be more self-serving than useful. The one asking for forgiveness should also strive to make things right.

This same sentiment gets a paragraph in the article:

Krenak expressed hope that the commission’s apologies would pave the way for concrete reparations, such as land-based compensation to Indigenous groups stripped of their traditional territories. He predicted dozens more cases of dictatorship-era abuses would be examined over the coming years, many in the Amazon.

I'm doubtful reparations would come, but hopeful they might for the Krenak and other Indigenous peoples in Brazil and throughout the Americas.

Answering the question of who is an Indian is difficult.

There is blood quantum which helps but is running out quickly. Those babies, some of whom are in my own family, are not Indian enough to be registered with their tribe due to thinning Indian blood.

BQ is an insufficient test of Indianness especially since the vast majority of Indians live off reservation and marry outside of Native DNA. However, what else do we have?

We have community and family. We have a community that claims us, but there are others who have been adopted out of their tribe before NICWA policies, children taken based off spurious claims, who have no real connection, and sometimes no provable record, to the Native nation they are from.

It's a mess, exacerbated by government Indian policies, with no real solution that makes the “Pretendian” issue hard to discern.

Nancy Rommelman writes about Pretendians and her experiences raising a Native daughter.

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