“They used to say there were no indigenous persons here”: results showing increase of 551% in indigenous population of Caucaia-CE raise expectations among members of the Tapeba People

Section: 2020 Census | Da Redação

January 10, 2024 11h35 AM | Last Updated: January 16, 2024 04h52 PM

In Caucaia-CE, the 2022 Census points to an increase of 551% from 2010.

With the increase from 2,706 indigenous persons in 2010 to 17,628 in 2022, Caucaia-CE ranks as the 2nd municipality in the Northeast and the 6th in Brazil in terms of indigenous population growth between the two Population Censuses. The indigenous population in the state of Ceará itself nearly tripled in the same period, rising from 20,697 to 56,353 persons.

The reasons for the significant increase, both locally and nationally, are not solely demographic but, above all, are occasioned by a change in the census methodology. Closer collaboration with indigenous leaders and institutions working with these communities allowed the 2022 Census to capture a much more accurate portrayal of this part of the Brazilian population.

In early August, the IBGE released the first results of the 2022 Census for the Indigenous Population.

On the occasion of the presentation of these first results of the Indigenous Census, the IBGE State Superintendence in Ceará promoted, on August 4, a visit to one of these locations in the municipality of Caucaia: the Sacred Ground of Pau Branco, in the Tapeba Indigenous Land. The event, conducted in accordance with the Tapeba People, was preceded by the local press, with the purpose of allowing the capture of images and interviews that would contribute to the dissemination of data.

Dozens of Tapeba children, adults, and elders gathered on the spot, eager to learn the first results about their population. The data were welcomed with music, dance, and prayers, along with demonstrations from the community leaders of what these numbers represent for the community. According to the 2022 Census, the Tapeba Indigenous Land, which holds the status of being Declared by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), recorded 10,081 residents, of which 5,326 are indigenous. However, as the forthcoming stages of the disclosure will reveal, the Tapeba are much more numerous and are not solely concentrated within this officially delimited land.

Tapeba children, adults, and elders gathered to welcome the initial data from the Census.

Numbers that represent individuals

"It's a very important thing to be able to speak out and say that there are 17 thousand indigenous persons in Caucaia. I think it is good, because, in the past, they said there were no indigenous people here," celebrates Chief Alberto, a leader of the Tapeba People, as he get to know the numbers for his municipality. Between the 2010 and 2022 Censuses, Caucaia experienced a 551% growth in the number of indigenous persons, a result that was already expected by this population.

Chief Alberto: "It’s very important to be able to speak out and say that there are 17 thousand indigenous people in Caucaia."

"We know how much our community has grown," confirms Kilvia Tapeba, who is the president of the Tapeba Indigenous Women's Association (AMITA) and a former member of the State Health Council of Ceará. For years, she had been observing, through the database of the Health Information System for Indigenous people (SIASI), a growing tendency of indigenous population in Caucaia, not only the Tapeba but also encompassing other ethnicities.

Kilvia recalls that, initially, this growth was marked by questioning, but now, with the results released by the IBGE, it has been confirmed. She explains what lies behind the numbers: "In the past, we couldn't even say that we were indigenous because of persecution and discrimination. Today, we do this awareness work, explaining to people that they can self-identify, regardless of anything or anyone."

"We need the indigenous people to be more appreciated, to be treated well, as human beings," demands Chief Alberto, who sees in the IBGE data an opportunity for challenges to be overcome and for more public policies to reach the Tapeba People. "We show, more than ever, that Brazil is indigenous, and that this population is still in a state of vulnerability," Kilvia emphasizes. "For everyone, what matters are numbers and not necessarily the people. So, we have these data as an ally, in our favor," she concludes.

Kilvia Tapeba: "We have these data as an ally, in our favor."

The indigenous presence in Ceará according to the Population Censuses

A hundred and sixty years ago, in 1863, about a decade before the first Population Census in Brazil, the government of Ceará at that time decreed the "extinction" of indigenous peoples in the state. "There are no longer any settled or wild Indians here. From the ancient tribes of Tabajaras, Cariris, and Potiguaris that inhabited the province, some were destroyed, others migrated [...] [the rest] of the descendants of the ancient races are now mixed in the general population," declared the president of the Province of Ceará, José Bento da Cunha Figueiredo.

Over the more than a hundred subsequent years, it was not possible to adequately measure the indigenous presence in Brazil, either because in some censuses the 'Color or race' of Brazilians was not even investigated (Censuses 1900, 1920, and 1970), or because indigenous persons were counted in categories such as 'caboclo' (Censuses 1872 and 1890), 'pardo' (Censuses 1950, 1960, and 1980), or 'índio' (Census 1960, but applied only to indigenous persons residing in reserves).

Only 32 years ago, in the 1991 Census, the tenth in the country, conducted after the redemocratization and the promulgation of a new Constitution in which the indigenous peoples were finally recognized, the category 'indigenous' became a permanent part of the census questionnaire. The 'Color or race' question at that time was applied to a representative sample of the population. At that point, Ceará had 19,336 indigenous persons.

Thirteen years ago, in the 2010 Census, when the question about 'Color or race' began to be applied in all households, Ceará had 20,697 indigenous persons.

Now, in the 2022 Census, with a more precise methodology implemented and developed under the demand and cooperation of indigenous movements and institutions working with these populations, Ceará has a count of 56,353 indigenous persons, nearly triple the previous Census. On the other hand, this same 2022 Census also indicated that more than 81% of these indigenous individuals in Ceará (45,829 persons) still do not have their constitutionally guaranteed right to officially delimited land.

More than 81% of the indigenous persons in Ceará reside outside officially delimited lands.
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