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Ambiente & sociedade

versão On-line ISSN 1809-4422

Ambient. soc. v.4 Campinas  2008


Between "traditional" and "moderns": negotiations of rights in two protected areas of the Brazilian Amazon*


Entre "tradicionais" e "modernos": negociações de direitos em duas unidades de conservação da Amazônia brasileira



Eliana Santos Junqueira CreadoI; Ana Beatriz Vianna MendesII; Lúcia da Costa FerreiraIII; Simone Vieira de CamposI

IDoctor in Social Sciences, Nucleus of Environmental Studies and Research - NEPAM, Universidade Estadual de Campinas - UNICAMP. E-mail:;
IIDoctor in Environment and Society, Nucleus of Environmental Studies and Research - NEPAM, Universidade Estadual de Campinas - UNICAMP. E-mail:
IIIResearcher, Nucleos of Environmental Studies and Research - NEPAM, Universidade Estadual de Campinas - UNICAMP. E-mail:

Corresponding author

Translated by Elizabeth Abdanur and Leonardo Brito.
Translation from Ambiente & sociedade, Campinas, vol.11, no.2, p.255-271, 2008.




In this paper we analyze the Jaú National Park and the Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve, in which groups have claimed specific ethnic rights. We analyze how the category of traditional peoples has been used to classify residents inside and around these natural protected areas, and whether this taxonomy has converged with or distanced itself from the conservationists' proposals.

Keywords: Social conflicts. Conservationism. Environmental sociology. Identity.


Enfocaremos o Parque Nacional do Jaú e a Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável de Mamirauá, nos quais grupos reivindicaram direitos jurídicos específicos baseados na etnicidade. Refletiremos sobre como a taxonomia população tradicional foi empregada para categorizar os residentes no interior e no entorno dessas áreas e como tal uso convergiu ou se distanciou de propostas conservacionistas.

Palavras-chave: Conflitos sociais. Conservacionismo. Sociologia ambiental. Identidade.




The human presence in protected areas (PAs), or conservation units (UCs) as they are called in Brazil1, is a constant theme in environmentalism, and it is at the core of some of the movement's internal scissions. Frequently, it emerges through the attribution of the ‘traditional' criteria to the peoples and local communities, which, in Brazil, has been commonly thought through the use of the taxonomy of traditional population in various arenas, such as the academic, political and juridical (BRITO, 2000; FERREIRA, 2004; JACINTO, 1998; SANTILLI, 2005; VIANNA, 1996; WEST and BRECHIN, 1991).   

The category remits to an opposition between traditional and modern, and, as the dichotomy between nature and society, it finds itself in a modern discourse that denies the proliferation of the hybrids constituted by culture and nature (LATOUR, 2000; BARRETO FILHO, 2001; VIANNA, 1996). In order to avoid a possible identification of human groups with nature and/or its association with a lifestyle circumscribed to the limits of subsistence, in the form of a forced primitivism, the present article has not had this opposition as its starting point of analysis. This line of thought has also the aim of not homogenizing and essentializing the social groups being considered, as well as not restricting the debate over the use of natural resources to specific social actors (DAS, 1999; FERREIRA, 1999; FERREIRA et al 2001; MENDES, 2004; OSTROM, 1990; SILVEIRA, 2000; SCHMINK and WOOD, 1992; TSEBELIS, 1998; VIANNA, 1996; WEST and BRECHIN, 1991).

The category was one of the elements present in the inter and intra-groups relations to be analysed, especially in the political rearrangements generated through the collective action of the residents of PAs, in their dialog with the state and with the legal-administrative logics (DAS, 1999; CHAGAS, 2001; FERREIRA, 1999; LIMA, 2004; LOBÃO, 2006). This is a scenario where social relations are established in a diverse set of contexts that institute or affect the process of institutionalization of the socio-environmental question and which a few authors have called hypermodernity (DAS, 1999; AUGÉ, 1999;2003).

Among the Brazilian authors, we highlight the importance of Antônio Carlos Diegues (1994, 1999) as the exponent who utilizes the term traditional peoples and helps in its diffusion; he has positioned himself in favour of the presence of traditional peoples in any PAs, even in those of more restricted use such as the national parks (FERREIRA, 2004; VIANNA, 1996). Differently from Diegues, however, this article's purpose is to understand the category of traditional peoples under a relational perspective, in other words, as one of the possible political resources originated from the interaction of residents of the PAs with other groups and social institutions from various arenas, but mainly the environmental one (CUNHA and ALMEIDA, 2000; FERREIRA et al., 2001; FERREIRA, 2004; OSTROM, 1990; TSEBELIS, 1998). 

Other authors in the international literature have kept themselves away from the political and academic use of the term traditional peoples. Brechin and collaborators (1991), for instance, preferred the expression resident peoples to the term traditional peoples, as according to their opinion, the first one does not have a political connotation, has spatial but not temporal reference, and is not a cultural label. West and Brechin (1991) warned that, generally, in the international conservationists circles, the inhabitants of protected natural areas, that are more restricted to the human presence, are seen as compatible with the conservation aims as long as they make use of technologies that are considered traditional and utilize natural resources mainly for subsistence. These are conditions which those authors would like to avoid, defending the right of access and use of natural resources in these spaces for all users and residents in their interior and surrounding exterior area who are found under a state of rural poverty and are based on adequate techniques and technologies, which do not necessarily need to be the so-called traditional ones.  

Some Brazilian authors have followed the same path, arguing that the emphasis must be placed on the commitment of users and dwellers of the interior and surroundings of the PAs to the sustainable use of resources, through the negotiation of institutional arrangements and rules of usage (BRITO, 2000; CAMPOS, 2006; CREADO, 2006; FERREIRA and CAMPOS, 2000; FERREIRA, 1999, 2004; FERREIRA et al., 2007; MENDES et al., 2008).

Thus, the aim of this text is to think whether or not the category of traditional peoples brings the attribution of characteristics and/or expectations of environmentalists and other actors involved in the public policies geared to conservation, and to reflect on the fact that the incorporation of this identity is a strategic alliance with the environmental sectors, which implicates in negotiate within the scope of asymmetric relations, under which certain norms and values operate (CUNHA and ALMEIDA, 2000; GOFFMAN, 1998; HAAS, 1990; VIANNA, 1996).     

Therefore, we will reflect on two PAs in which the practical or potential processes of identification and juridical recognition of part of the dwellers, living in spaces designated to conservation, occurred with greater autonomy in relation to the issue of conservation, through the claim of ethnic rights judicially guaranteed in Brazil: the quilombolas in the Parque Nacional do Jaú  - PARNA-Jaú (Jaú National Park), and the indigenous peoples in the Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá - RDS-Mamirauá (Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve).  

Both PAs are situated in the state of Amazonas, Brazil, in the Central Amazonian Corridor. They represent distinct ecosystems and institutional insertions: the first one is a federal protected area of integral protection, under which the Fundação Vitória Amazônica - FVA (Amazon Victory Foundation)  has a term of technical cooperation with the Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Ronováveis – IBAMA (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources) (FOOTNOTE1), which is the federal environmental agency managing the park; the other one is a state PA of sustainable use, in which the managerial responsibility falls to the Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá - IDSM (Institute for the Sustainable Development of Mamirauá) and the Sociedade Civil Mamirauá –SCM (Civil Society Mamirauá)2. The PARNA-Jaú contains an ecosystem of black waters, while the RDS-Mamirauá is an area of flooded forest ecosystem (várzea)3 (FERREIRA at al., 2007).


2 Traditional peoples and conservation: some deviations and norms

In order to comprehend the claiming process of ethnic identities in the interior of the PAs, one must understand some of the rights and obligations corresponding to each one of its applying subjects under the national law and public policies perspective, which takes us to a bigger realm than that of the environment arena (CUNHA and ALMEIDA, 2001; TSEBELIS, 1998; VIANNA, 1996). 

There are juridical specificities in regards to territorial rights. Those belonging to quilombolas and to the indigenous peoples are more structured, however, they diverge between them and in relation to other traditional peoples (SANTILLI, 2005). As pointed out by Vianna (1996), in Brazil, historically speaking, the category of traditional peoples has excluded the indigenous peoples, due to the fact that the latter have a specific legislation, separated from the environmental legislation and inspired by anthropological concepts, such as the rustic societies4. Nevertheless, some of these anthropological concepts, when institutionally incorporated, were used many times to naturalize the social groups that it had envisaged to embrace (VIANNA, 1996).   

Recent changes, however, tend to group together quilombolas, indigenous and other peoples, and traditional communities, putting on the same level either those who compete and those who do not compete against the environmental issue5. From the initiatives proposed by the federal government towards this end, some should be highlighted: the implementation of the Comissão Nacional de Desenvolvimento Sustentável dos Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais (National Commission for the Sustainable Development of Traditional Communities)6 and the meetings and workshops held by the government to establish this commission, as the 1o. Encontro Nacional de Comunidades Tradicionais (1st National Meeting of Traditional Communities), that took place in August 2005. This process culminated with the advent of the decree number 6.040, from 07/02/2007, which proposed the Política Nacional de Desenvolvimento Sustentável dos Povos e Comunidades Tradicionais (National Policy for Sustainable Development of Peoples and Traditional Communities)  (CREADO, 2006, p. 76-99; LOBÃO, 2006). 

The article 3, I, of the decree number 6.040/07, defines traditional peoples and communities as:

"(…) Culturally differentiated groups and who recognize themselves as such, who possess their own forms of social organization, who occupy and use territories and natural resources as the condition for their cultural, social, religious, ancestral and economic reproduction, utilizing knowledge, innovations and practices transmitted through tradition (…)" (Brazil, 2007).  

The decree number 6.040/07 recognized the specificities in relation to the land rights of indigenous peoples and quilombolas, mentioning the article 231 of the Constituição Federal – CF (Federal Constitution)  of 1988, and the article 68 of the Ato das Disposições Constitucionais Transitórias – ADCT (Act of Transitory Constitutional Dispositions), as well as its posterior regulations. The traditional territories were defined as the "necessary space for the cultural, social and economic reproduction of peoples and traditional communities", utilized either in a permanent form or not (BRASIL, 2007, article 3, II).     

Therefore, the decree intended to respect the specific legislation concerning indigenous peoples and quilombolas. Regarding the indigenous peoples, we highlight the following legislations: the Estatuto do Índio (The Indigenous Peoples Statute)7, the article 231 of the Federal Constitution of 1988, and the decree number 5.051 from 19/04/20048; and for the quilombolas we underline: the article 68 of ADCT and the decree number 4.887, from 20/11/20039. With regards to land rights, the Federal Constitution of 1988 pointed out that the indigenous peoples have, collectively, the right to permanent possession of the land and the exclusive use of their natural resources, but the dominium or ownership of the land belongs to the Federal Government (CUNHA, 1994; SANTILLI, 2005), whereas the article 68 of ADCT and the decree number 4.887/03 determine that quilombolas have the ownership of the land, through collective titles registered in the name of legally constituted association(s) (CHAGAS, 2001; SANTILLI, 2005).

Despite the historic importance of the ethnic element, in both cases, the crucial criterion for determining each group rests on the auto-identification. The Indigenous Peoples Statute had already granted in article 3, I, that the indigenous person would be "any individual of pre-Columbian origin and ascendancy that identifies him or herself and is identified as belonging to an ethnic group in which the cultural characteristics distinguish him or her from the national society" (CUNHA, 1986)10. In the same way, the decree number 4.887/03 emphasized in its article 2 that the remainders of communities of quilombos would be "the ethnic-racial groups, according to the auto-attribution criterion, with own historical trajectory, possessing specific territorial relationships, with the assumption of black ancestrally related to the historically suffered oppression" (BRASIL, 2003).  

Even with the decree number 6.040/07, it is undeniable that there are, at the moment, greater legal and socio-technical guarantees to the indigenous and quilombola issues, whereas the other traditional populations continue to be more susceptible to the effects of the PAs and other environmental restrictions. In this way, the legally recognized indigenous and quilombolas territories give more emphasis on the maintenance of sociodiversity rather than biodiversity, an importance that has not been observed in the other cases (SANTILLI, 2005, p.155).  

Previous to the decree number 6.040/07, there had been an important attempt to define what should be considered the traditional populations residing in the interior or surroundings of the PAs, but this was vetoed. In this attempt, the greater subjection of the peoples and communities considered to be traditional to the environmental issue is clearer. The definition was kept out in the final version of the Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação – SNUC (National System of Conservation Units) approved in 2000, even though the SNUC has utilized the term11 and established categories of the PAs that contemplate these social groups, such as the Reservas Extrativistas – RESEX (Extractivist Reserves) and the Reservas de Desenvolvimento Sustentável – RDS (Reserves of Sustainable Development) (BRASIL, 2000b; LOBÃO, 2006).  This definition was in article 2, XV, and affirmed that such populations would be culturally differentiated groups, reproducing their lifestyle "under strict dependency on the natural world", through the sustainable use of natural resources (BRASIL, 2000b). The justification in the veto message was that the definition would be too ample and, at the limit, capable of encompassing all the lower income Brazilian rural population (BRASIL, 2000a). 

Even the process that resulted in the decree number 6.040/07 challenged the administrative technical apparatuses in relation to what segments of the population would be benefited by the public policies geared to traditional peoples and communities. The Secretário de Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Ministério do Meio Ambiente – SDS-MMA (Secretary for Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Environment) , Gilney Viana, has pointed out that the governmental initiatives have given visibility to a variety and a quantity of classifications of the human groups and territories much larger than first thought. Therefore, the governmental agents throughout their work opted for a conceptual line similar to the legislations and policies concerning the indigenous peoples and quilombolas, with emphasis on the processes of auto-identification and the definitions resulted from the social struggles, without too much concern for the ethnical aspect.   

Summarizing, among the traditional populations, the indigenous peoples and quilombolas are subjects of specific and better structured public policies, which exempt them from being so intensely impacted by conservation, especially when they live inside or near the PAs categories that are more restrictive to human presence and uses. Even more, there are juridical interpretations stating that the rights of quilombolas and indigenous peoples would surpass the juridical regime of PAs12 (LAURIOLA, 2001; SANTILLI, 2004a; 2004b; SANTILLI, 2004, p.13).

Nevertheless, it is necessary to emphasize the increasing importance that the Reservas Extrativistas - RESEX have gained in this governmental line of action (LOBÃO, 2006), which allows us to foresee that in the future they could count on a juridical-institutional framework compared with that of the indigenous peoples and quilombolas. Lobão (2006), however, pointed out a negative aspect in the progressive institutionalization of the RESEX, that is, from a public policy they became a governmental policy, where the social movements that claimed these reserves would have started to demand guardianship, protection and development projects. Lobão envisaged in this situation a form of neocolonization, mediated by professionals from various areas, not much sincere in regards to the ‘discursive implications [of their] statements' (LOBÃO, 2006, p. 18)13

In the testimonial given to us by the secretary of the SDS-MMA, we could recognize some normative elements subjacent to sustainability and/or conservation thought for the traditional populations as a whole: 1) the valorisation of territoriality and knowledge about natural resources; 2) the emphasis on a potentially friendly or harmonious relation with the environment; and 3) the attribution of a certain marginality in the social relations between these populations and the hegemonic society 14.  

In the empirical cases analysed, it is possible to see some of the consequences that expectations and associations like these can have in the local ambit, and how the juridical categories discussed herein can be incorporated and/or reformulated from the dialog with the conservationism. 


3 The Tambor community, in the PARNA-Jaú15

In the PARNA-Jaú, even though the category of traditional peoples is used to refer to the dwellers of the park, who are also denominated caboclos and ribeirinhos in the official documents, as well as in the management plan (FVA/IBAMA, 1998), we can say that, in the daily practice, the traditional element is neither equally attributed by conservationists nor incorporated by the dwellers of the PARNA-Jaú.  

At the time of this research, the residents, normatively valued by governmental and non-governmental agents involved in environmental conservation, were the ones who had, as their main income, small scale agricultural activities, such as the production and selling of manioc flour, and in some degree, the vegetal extractivism, such as the extractivism of liana (CAMPOS, 2006; CREADO, 2006). On the other side, there were the more stigmatized ones, those who worked in the commercialization of meat16, such as from chelonians17 or other hunted animals, and in a smaller degree, the ones who practiced commercial and ornamental fishing.

This stigmatization can be better comprehended when referred to the present time of inspection and environmental legislation, as well as to the practices and expectations of conservationists in vogue today, which are not only restricted to PARNA-Jaú (DIAS, 2004; CREADO, 2006). As Goffman has argued (1988), the stigmas have a history. 

The process of ethnic identification of the Tambor community, located in the middle Jaú River, in a central area of PARNA-Jaú, has confirmed the existence of these stigmas. The first initiatives were mainly articulated by the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz  - FioCruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation)18, through the surveying of the afro-descendents residents and former residents of Jaú River, who have historically been more concentrated in this community and its surrounding areas, in the Paunini River. In relation to the former residents of these families, many have migrated to Novo Airão, a municipality of the low Negro River.  

Environmentalists and employees of IBAMA, who work in the area, used to affirm that between the residents and former residents of these families there had been established a commercial network of resources from the fauna, which would reach the capital of Amazonas state, Manaus, through the hands of the middlemen.

Regarding the quilombola's issue in the Jaú River, the first institutional initiatives take us back at least to the year 2003, when an audience in Novo Airão was held with representatives and leaders of the involved communities, the FioCruz, the Ministério Público Federal – MPF (Federal Ministry of Prosecution), the Ministério Público Estadual (State Ministry of Prosecution), the Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional - IPHAN (Institute for the National Historic and Artistic Heritage), and the Fundação Cultural Palmares – FCP (Cultural Palmares Foundation) (MINISTÉRIO DA SAÚDE, 2004). According to an anthropologist from MPF-Manaus, FioCruz led the initiatives due to the financial difficulty of FCP19. He reported, in turn, having had obstacles in performing his work. For instance, it was difficult to have a dialog with FVA, as members of this non governmental organization (NGO) initially alleged that the community could not be identified as remainders of quilombos because the trajectory of their families' lineage was linked to the north eastern immigrants who came to the Jaú River Valley to extract latex for the production of rubber, similar to the families that originated the other communities in the Jaú River. The anthropologist had the same idea about IBAMA, which he found more comprehensible because of the cession of land that would result from the recognition of the quilombolas rights.

One of IBAMA's answers was a memorandum from the director of PARNA-Jaú, stating that only three residents were considered to be afro-descendants in the Jaú River. For the anthropologist, IBAMA and the source it used to support its argument (LEONARDI, 1999) would have relied on a line of thought,  frequently contested, that the quilombos would have been formed by runaway slaves only20.  

The process of identification created internal scissions in the group of former residents of the park, now residents of Novo Airão, who had mobilized themselves for the regularization of land in the PA through the Comissão de Moradores e Ex-moradores do rio Jaú (Commission of Dwellers and Former Dwellers of the Jaú River)  (CREADO, 2006). A former dweller, for instance, abandoned the commission in October 2003 to become more intensely involved with the work of FioCruz. He highlighted the different lines of work between FioCruz, FCP and the commission: the first two give priority to land access instead of to the compensation for the possessions21. He recognized that the majority of the former residents preferred compensation, however, he found this insufficient in the face of the general context of environmental prohibitions and the difficulties of the access to land, as well as to the hardship in finding formal work opportunities in Novo Airão. He also tried to mediate the insertion of FioCruz into the Tambor community, as he had previously been a health agent for the foundation. Therefore, for being inserted into multiple social relations, the former agent and former resident performed the role of mediator (GLUCKMAN, 1966)22.

Regarding the origins of who would be the quilombolas, the anthropologist of the MPF connected them to the arrival of the first member of the Jacinto family in the Jaú River valley, who did not have children and whose nephews and nieces migrated to the same region. Nowadays, the family would be composed by the Marias and by the descendants of Dona Maria Bibi. In the testimonial of Dona Maria Bibi, who migrated to Novo Airão, the deceased Zé Maria and Egídio Caetano, the latter her father, "opened" the rivers Paunini and Jaú. Her father was originally from the state of Sergipe and her mother from the Negro River basin. According to her, her family and Maria's family formed a "fraternity".    

The historian Leonardi (1999, p. 169) pointed out Jacinto and José Maria as the first two ancestors of these families to arrive in the Paunini River at the beginning of the twentieth century, the time of the fore mentioned migration flow of north easterners to the Jaú River valley, the peak of which was between 1880 and 1914.

Until December 2004, only one son of Dona Maria Bibi resided in the Tambor Velho community. He and one of the Marias, resident of the Paunini River, near the Tambor Novo23, were the only regatões left24 working in the Jaú River and its tributaries region. 

The initial repercussions of the quilombolas' identification  at IBAMA and FVA were negative. In relation to FVA, one of the individuals of the MPF commented that the initial fear of the executive director of the NGO was that the process of identification could politically fragment the remaining residents of the central area of the park. The director himself reported concern with the fact that the individuals to be potentially benefited would be those with better socio-economic conditions, since the two regatões belong to the two families.

Apart from that, the members of the FVA and IBAMA-Manaus associated the two regatões of Tambor community with the illegal commerce of fauna resources. Therefore, the beneficial quilombola status created uneasiness with IBAMA and FVA, demonstrating the existence of norms that are attributed to the notion of traditional peoples, according to a logic where some practices would be more acceptable and discussed than others, with different degrees of clandestine status credited to the users of the natural resources and the spaces of the PARNA-Jaú. With the recognition, the activities of those accepted as being traditional peoples, when geared to subsistence or to the internal consumption, would no longer be subjected to the authorization of the public power and the environmental legislation (SANTILLI, 2005, p. 180-181).

Thus, those who carried out or were accused of practicing the illegal commerce of fauna resources, lived in a more stigmatized situation and were commonly associated with other negative qualities, such as violence and the excessive use of alcohol (GOFFMAN, 1988). In fact, the stigma was also reproduced internally to the groups of residents and former residents, in spite of a significant part of them having actually effectuated the commerce of resources of the wild fauna and of its sub products in some way and in some time during their lives (CREADO, 2006).

Finally, in 2006, the FCP (2006) certified the auto-identification of the Tambor community as quilombola.


4 The RDS-Mamirauá25

The RDS-Mamirauá allows us to analyze two situations: 1) the overlapping of Terras Indígenas - TIs (Indigenous Lands) with the PA, since the reserve was created after the homologation of some of them; and 2) the late emergence of indigenous identities, claiming the demarcation and homologation of new TIs in the interior of RDS-Mamirauá.

We will concentrate our analysis on what these new identities represent to the relationships  among the following actors that participate in the local arena: 1) the riverine people (ribeirinhos) who live close to areas claimed as TIs; 2) the Union of the Indigenous Nations of the region of Tefé (Uni-Tefé)26; and 3) the employees of the Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá – IDSM (Mamirauá Institute of Sustainable Development), one of the agencies responsible for the management of the reserve27. As in the PARNA-Jaú, the relationships between these actors are influenced by the dynamics of other arenas, located at the interface of public policies that are directed to the environment and culture. 

The various overlaps have different characteristics and histories; they are either defined as not being conflictive or as being very conflictive (LIMA, 2004). In the case of the Jaquiri TI, which was declared in 1982 and demarcated in 1987 and belongs to the Kambeba people, the PA completely overlapped the TI, including it in the crucial area of the reserve, where the pilot-activities of the management plan are developed. Due to the indigenous interest in more material and legal support for the inspection of their lakes, which happened previously with the help of the Catholic Church, the PA was well accepted by them (FAULHABER, 1997; LIMA, 2004; PIRES, 2004).    

The Porto Praia TI was demarcated in 2003 and belongs to the Ticuna people.  After the creation of the reserve, old conflicts between resident and non-resident users over the appropriation of natural resources still took place (FAULHABER, 1997, p. 555; LIMA, 2004, p. 540; PIRES, 2004, p. 562). Researchers pointed out that the Ticuna from this area did not keep diacritical signs of their indigenousness, and that is partially because of the prejudice in the region against the indigenous peoples in general and/or the prejudice the indigenous peoples have against themselves (FAULHABER, 1997; LIMA, 2004; REIS, 2003). Therefore, there are families considered to be indigenous by some but do not recognize themselves as indigenous people (REIS, 2003, p. 552). Likewise, the Ticuna people who live in the middle Solimões region today have also migrated from the high Solimões region to different places, and have settled themselves in these new places throughout time, what can still justify new demarcation claims in the interior of the reserve.   

In the case of the TIs on the surroundings of the reserve, whose residents are users of the resources and spaces in the interior of the RDS-Mamirauá – such as the Marajaí TI, established before the reserve creation, and the Cuiu-Cuiu TI, established afterwards – , there are no conflicts over the handling activities proposed by the IDSM. According to Lima (2004, p. 541), the residents accept several extension and assistance programs offered by the NGO.

From the analysis of the testimonials provided by the employees of the IDSM involved in the research and extension activities at the RDS-Mamirauá, it is clear that the overlaps represent an impediment to their work, even though the objectives of the reserve are to offer economically sustainable alternatives to all the residents, conjugating improvements in the quality of life and endorsing the environmental conservation: 

"And then some communities, in this case one of them, asked us to work there, so there we went. At the end, however, we had several stalemates with FUNAI because it is another institution linked to the TI, so we stopped in this community and continued in the other two. Then, in turn, one of the communities that was not indigenous, now wants to be indigenous, therefore the Institute has also stopped to work there and then it has been left, I don't know, 500 meters of land, which is the community that has been left (laughs) and it is the place where in practice I could be working (…)".

Another example is the Family Agricultural Program, suspended in the communities that began to claim the indigenous identity and where the delimitation has been started. Due to the lack of a partnership with the Fundação Nacional do Índio – FUNAI (the National Indigenous Foundation), the researchers cannot enter the TIs to develop the programs and conduct the researches that would subsidise the sustainable management of natural resources.

Thus, it would be interesting to comprehend under what objectives such identities started to be mobilized, taking into account the context of possible alliances established with the IDSM and the indigenous associations. Why do the IDSM and the indigenous associations, that, as a rule, could be partners in the defence of the traditional and indigenous populations, don't articulate themselves in search of a common goal? 

The IDSM has, par excellence, the aim to implement the sustainable development project, being responsible for managing it, through an agreement on technical cooperation  with the Sociedade Civil Mamirauá – SCM (Mamirauá Civil Society). The Uni-Tefé, however, is the regional indigenous institution that organizes and reinforces the indigenous claims and struggles for their rights.  

According to the Uni-Tefé leadership, the strategy would be to invest in a partnership with the IDSM, but they recognized it would be difficult to change the indigenous conception about the exploration of natural resources so that this partnership could happen in conformity with the rules requested by the Institute:

"So, due to our partnerships, our role today, just like that of the Uni-Tefé, is to make these indigenous peoples begin to become conscious that the Mamirauá Reserve is bringing benefits, but a planned benefit, which has also to obey to some rules, as it is in the TI".

Thus, the IDSM and the Uni-Tefé aim to establish alliances that intend to conciliate the environmental, economic and cultural sustainability together with the residents of the region. What differentiates them is the greater emphasis on one or another sort of sustainability: in the case of the indigenous associations, what is primarily sought after is the socio-cultural sustainability; in the case of the IDSM, the main commitment is with the environmental sustainability. As seen before, the juridical foundation of the TIs aims is, mainly, the cultural conservation of the peoples under its protection, whereas the RDSs seek the sustainability of natural resources used by the traditional populations (SANTILLI, 2005). 

According to some employees of the IDSM, the assumption that the access to the natural resources will be greater when the TI is demarcated is illusory:

"What I see is that there are people who do not understand the proposal and are used to hiding behind this now; to identify oneself with being an indigenous now to rid oneself from Mamirauá, understanding that from the moment I will identify myself as an indigenous, I will have other rights, I will be able to use the resource which today the Reserve prohibits me from doing, and it is not like that".

Regarding the public policies of education and health care, however, the riverine people (ribeirinhos) of the region believed that the indigenous communities had a greater and easier access. This was one of the factors alleged by one of the interviewed residents to explain why this was still a claim of the community. On the other hand, one of the IDSM employees argued that this type of access will only be possible if the community is organized, be it indigenous or not.    

Therefore, the indigenous identity has been appropriated to guarantee another type of territorial management: as a TI and not as a RDS. The form and the consequences of this claim revealed a difference on the normative and political-institutional emphasis given to conservation of nature, on one side, and on the other, cultural differences rights claimed by social groups that depend on the appropriation and use of nature for their physical and cultural survival (ALENCAR, 2004). If these social groups were not previously recognized by the state as actors culturally differentiated from the traditional local populations, and their rights and obligations were collectively ascertained with the other groups that shared the same uses of natural resources, even if under conflicts, from the moment they recognize themselves as indigenous, the demarcated territory excludes the appropriation by the ones who, from then on, become the outsiders.   

Thus, the demarcation of the TIs does not only restrict the work of the IDSM, but can generate conflicts with the dwellers in the surroundings of the TIs which are difficult to solve. From a more ample perspective, for the environmental divisions that defend the human presence in the PAs, the disputes between indigenous peoples and riverine people (ribeirinhos) represent the subversion of a principle, at the moment the public policies are aimed at them. The expected was that they aligned themselves in search of socioecological improvements; however, we have seen the opposite in the testimonials gathered among the various actors involved in the management of the RDS-Mamirauá (ribeirinhos, IDSM and Uni-Tefé employees), even though the institutions and the residents have recognized, in the discursive realm, that they should articulate themselves.    


5 Final Considerations

The production of the ethnic identities in the two PAs analysed, the quilombolas in the PARNA-Jaú, and the indigenous in the RDS-Mamirauá, allows us to reflect on how the relationships between local groups and other agents involved with the issue of biodiversity conservation happen, whether or not they are inserted in governmental institutions.

In the case of the PARNA-Jaú, the stigmatization appeared as a significant element, enhanced by being a PA restrictive to the human presence. This stigmatization is suitable to the national legislation and the actions of conservative sectors concerned with specific species of fauna that are under threat of extinction (REBELO, 2002; PEZZUTI, 2003; SILVA, 2003). In this sense, the quilombola identity, as well as the indigenous, offers subsidies for a greater legitimacy of action and dialog with the state and the techno-science community in general (CHAGAS, 2001; HARAWAY, 2003).

In relation to the two PAs, it's important to remember that, as in other cases, it remains the risk that, when resorting to collective action and establishing a dialog with the state, the communities could oppress the internal differences or favour the individuals who better appropriate the emerging rules from this new context, as it happens, for instance, with those who have better conditions to deal with the written language (DAS, 1999; CHAGAS, 2001; OATES, 1999).

Generally speaking, in the RDS-Mamirauá and in the PARNA-Jaú, the claim for quilombola and indigenous identities, which are subjects of more consolidated public policies in the country than the ones aimed at the so called traditional peoples and communities, has gained significance through the environmentalization of social conflicts. These identities are products and producers of mechanisms of belonging and of creation of others, which mobilized cultural traits, historical trajectories and previous family lineages while reshaping their meanings (AUGÉ, 1999; CUNHA, 1986, 1994; FERREIRA, 2004; LOPES, 2006).

As political categories, such identities do not need to be used on a daily basis, which does not invalidate them, as they gain meaning in the confrontation with other actors (O'DWYER, 2002). They also represent a reaction to restrictions from various orders, such as the ones relating to the access to natural resources, and  health and education services, even though there are proposals that seek the sustainable development, such as in the RDS-Mamirauá, a PA of direct use. Such restrictions are not exclusive to the life in the interior of the PAs, but they have been associated to the PAs during the production of such identities.   

From the perspective of negotiations in the environmental arena, the ethnic option has represented a less than ideal action, as it has fragmented the political action of the residents of the two analysed PAs, making the insertion of conservationists sectors into them somehow intricate. Nevertheless, from the perspective of those who have assumed the discourse of cultural difference for themselves, it has represented an optimal strategy, as it has expanded the collective action to political games contested in arenas other than the exclusively environmental one (CAMPOS, 2006; TSEBELIS, 1998). 

The proposed analysis has not aimed to evaluate the auto-identification and recognition processes themselves, but to reflect about some of their implications in the relational contexts concerning the PAs, so that it is possible to capture some of the values the representatives of "modernity" have on the representatives of "tradition", in the search for strategic alliances for the benefit of conservation (CUNHA 1994; CUNHA and ALMEIDA, 2000). 

Therefore, from the moderns' side, and generally, we verified a valorization of the social cohesion of the traditional representatives, troubled by the possibility of fragmentation of the political action of the residents of the two PAs through the quilombola and indigenous identities. We have also verified the valorization of some practices and behaviours of the so-called traditional in relation to the natural resources, in which sustainability has become, at least potentially, measured by the judgment of the modern representatives and ruled by technical-scientific, legal and administrative principles (BARRETO FILHO, 2001; O'DWYER, 2002). The moderns also value the marginal insertion of the traditional in relation to the hegemonic society (CREADO, 2006; LIMA and POZZOBON, 2003; LOBÃO, 2006; VIANNA, 1996). 

If moderns allow themselves to be fragmented and to possess multiple identities, why do they lament that another one, incarnated in the figure of traditional populations, is not a sole whole fixed to the "mother earth"? Wouldn't it be a form of domination (LATOUR, 2000)? 

As Augé (1999) has pointed out, some of the contradictions of modernity can be seen in the relationship between space and otherness. He has also stressed the risk of one falling into a cultural temptation, according to which the individual can be seen as a mere reflex of the collective, and the social as a mere consequence of culture, condensed and materialized in the symbolic space of the ethnic territory. Under his perspective, this temptation can lead to a process of segregation (AUGÉ, 1999). Is it possible that in the future we will be talking about an ethnization of the conflicts in the PARNA-Jaú and in the RDS-Mamirauá under the same framework as the present environmentalization of the conflicts in these regions herein discussed (LOPES, 2006)?



ADCT - Ato das Disposições Constitucionais Transitórias (Act of Transitory Constitutional Dispositions)

CF - Constituição Federal (Federal Constitution)

FCP - Fundação Cultural Palmares (Cultural Palmares Foundation)

FIOCRUZ - Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation)

FUNAI - Fundação Nacional do Índio (The National Indigenous Foundation)

FVA - Fundação Vitória Amazônica (Vitória Amazônica Foundation)

IBAMA - Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Renováveis (Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Resources)

IDSM - Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá (Institute for the Sustainable Development of Mamirauá)

MPF - Ministério Público Federal (Federal Ministry of Prosecution)

ONG - Organização Não Governamental (Non-Governmental Organization)

OIT - Organização Internacional do Trabalho (International Labor Organization)

PA – Área Natural Protegida (Protected Area)

PARNA - Parque Nacional (National Park)

PARNA-Jaú - Parque Nacional do Jaú (Jaú National Park)

RDS - Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (Sustainable Development Reserve)

RDS-Mamirauá - Reserva de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá (Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve)

RESEX - Reserva Extrativista (Extractivist Reserve)

SCM - Sociedade Civil Mamirauá (Mamirauá Civil Society)

SDS-MMA - Secretaria de Desenvolvimento Sustentável do Ministério do Meio Ambiente (Secretary for Sustainable Development of the Environmental Minestry)

SNUC - Sistema Nacional de Unidades de Conservação (National System of Conservation Units)

TI - Terra Indígena (Indigenous Land)

UC - Unidade de Conservação (Conservation Unit)

Uni-Tefé - União das Nações Indígenas da região de Tefé (Union of the Idigenous Nations of Tefé Region)



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1 Federal autarchy created in 1989, by the federal law number 7.735 (BRITO, 2000; SANTILLI, 2005).

2 Thanks to a an agreement on co-management with the Instituto de Proteção Ambiental do Amazonas – IPAAM (Institute for the Environmental Protection of Amazonas) (FERREIRA et al., 2007).

3 In relation to these ecosystems, see Moran (1993).

4 Used by authors, such as Antônio Cândido (1964) and Maria Isaura Pereira de Queiroz (1976 apud VIANNA, 1996), to categorize regional Brazilian cultural types, such as the caipira and caiçara. Cândido, for instance, characterized the caipira by reference to vital and social minimums historically defined. Even though there have been critical considerations to the concept in Anthropology, in a certain way this notion of social and vital minimums has been incorporated in the category of traditional population when it became used by environmentalists and/or governmental and non-governmental Brazilian technicians involved in the conservationists initiatives. This is an institutional incorporation that has gained more strength in the 1990s. Recently, anthropologists such as Berta Ribeiro (1987 apud VIANNA, 1996) and Darcy Ribeiro (1995 apud VIANNA, 1996) called the rustic societies as regional subcultures. Generally, there is less emphasis on the ethnic element in the composition of the traditional populations, as well as in the rustic societies, when compared to indigenous and quilombolas (VIANNA, 1996: 89-130).       

5 As Gilney Viana affirmed when interviewed on 07/11/2005, in Brasilia – DF. At that time he was the Secretary for the Sustainable Development of the Ministry of Environment (SDS-MMA).

6 Installed by the decree of 27/12/2004; and afterwards revoked by the decree of 13/07/2006, which altered the denomination, the competence and the composition of the commission.

7 Legislation number 6.001, of 19/12/1973. It is in reformulation phase, due to the Federal Constitution of 1988 (CUNHA, 1994).

8 It promulgated the Convention 169 on the indigenous and tribal peoples, which was approved in 1989 by the International Labour Organization (CUNHA, 1994).

9 Regulated the procedures for the identification, recognition, delimitation, demarcation and tenure of the remaining lands of the quilombolas communities. 

10 The convention 169 of the International Labour Organization, of 1989, promulgated in 2004, has also pointed out the importance of the auto-identification to determine the groups to which it has to be applied (CUNHA, 1994: 128-134).

11 Apart from the traditional populations residing in the PAs, the SNUC mention: 1) the local populations, which would be all of those who live in the PAs or in their areas of influence; and 2) the non-traditional resident populations, foreseen in some categories of the PAs (SANTILLI, 2005: 161:162).

12 For a distinct interpretation see Scardua (2004).

13 It compares the deliberations of the First National Meeting of Rubber Tappers, held in 1987 in Rondônia, with the demands of the First National Meeting of Traditional Communities.

14 As it has been pointed out by Vianna (1996).

15 The interviews of this item were the results of research carried out at different times, especially between 08/2002 and 12/2004, and between the period of 06-08/08/2005 (CREADO, 2006). 

16 Local practices called "meat smuggling", a term with a strong negative symbolism.

17 Federal autarky linked to the Ministry of Health.

18 Autarky that is responsible for registering the auto-definition of the communities, following and supporting the land regulation activities, and to give juridical assistance for the communities with recognition of domain (decree number 4.887, of 20/11/2003). 

19 In Chagas (2001), we find a similar critique. She defended a point of view based on the present character of groups and on their aspect of resistance to the legal-administrative logics.

20 According to the decree number 4.887, of 20/11/2003.

21 The process of identification brought the expectation of benefits even within part of the former residents that had continued in the works of the commission, and which had come from the families that had been contemplated by the quilombola recognition, such as the expectation of receiving the compensation quicker than the other former residents.

22 Tambor is divided into Tambor Novo and Tambor Velho (New and Old Tambor). Tambor Velho is located further upstream.

23 Fluvial traders, whose origins date back to the period of rubber production.

24 The interviews mentioned in this item were held in Tefé, between June and September of 2005.

25 Tefé is a municipality of the middle Solimões River, situated 525Km from Manaus. Source: (accessed on 25/06/07).

26 Together with the Sociedade Civil Mamirauá – SCM (Civil Society of Mamirauá), which has an agreement on scientific cooperation with the IDSM.

27 Modernity and tradition between inverted comas, considering the perspective brought about by Latour (2000), who suspended such dichotomy.



Corresponding author:
Eliana Creado
Núcleo de Estudos e Pesquisas Ambientais - NEPAM
Universidade Estadual de Campinas – UNICAMP
Rua dos Flamboyants, 155
Cidade Universitária Zeferino Vaz
Zipcode 13084-867, Campinas - SP, Brasil



* In Brazil, the term protected natural areas, or just protected areas (PAs), has a broader meaning than it has for the international conservationist movement. But we had decided to use it in this English version of the article to facilitate the reading.