Each year, on April 19, Brazil commemorates the Dia do Índio which was established by law in 1943 under president Getúlio Vargas.
To better understand the meaning of that day, we have to go back to the year 1940, when the first Interamerican Indigenous Congress took place in Mexico. Not only leaders from the Americas were invited to participate in the conferences and decision making processes, but also several heads of indigenous tribes. However, those did not appear during the first days, either concerned or frightened. This was in a way understandable, as the indios had been persecuted and diminished by white men for so many centuries.
Nevertheless after some days, few of their leaders started to get engaged in the meetings, as they recognized and realized that they are witnessing a historic moment. This occured on April 19, date which laterwards became the Dia do Índio on the American continent.
The Dia do Índio is celebrated in various manners:
– in schools, students are investigating on the indigenous culture
– museums offer thematic expositions
– communities organize festivals
Commemorating that day should also remind us of the importance of preserving indigenous tribes, maintaining their lands and respecting their culture.
We also should recall repeatedly, that indios already inhabitated Brazil when the Portuguese colonization started in 1500. Since then, lack of respect and diminuation of the indigenous population could be seen,- a process which sadly till today occurs by mining and exploring natural ressources. In a lot of cases, the consequence is that indigenous tribes are loosing their homelands.