About
Opi

Opi is a verb in the Zo'é language which, in the third person singular, can be literally translated as "to sting". Tapijei opi, "the tapijei ant stings". Obviously in their daily life in the villages and in the forest of the Erepecuru-Cuminapanema river confluence, in northern Pará state, the Zo'é are subject to stings from a wide variety of animals. However, the sting of tapijei ants has a specific power to "awaken the body" in some people. Whenever an accusation is made by a close relative, an adult male is assigned to place the tapijei ants on a small canvas made of straw, so that the live artefact is placed on the arm, legs and back of the accused. When a young man (ta'an) kills a peccary for the first time (tahajo juke ipy), the young man hands the pig over to an adult male from another local group, who then assigns men to collect tapijei ants in the forest. The ants are taken from their nest and placed in gourds (riru), with their side openings closed with cotton wool (jiju). Back at the village, the ants are poured into a large saucepan and the young 'peccary-killer' places both hands inside it for a long period of time, so that the ants sting him enough for his hands to have the strength to pull the bow and shoot a precise arrow. The men taking part in this rite of passage then begin to dance and sing around the young man whose hands are in the saucepan, imitating a sounder of pigs. The Zo'é call this dance-song tajaho-kururun, the peccary snorting.

For one of the Zo'é's neighbouring indigenous peoples, the Wayana, Opi means "medicine", in reference to the broad knowledge of medicinal plants of this Carib-speaking people who inhabit the Paru do Oeste or Okomokï river basin. Known as great warriors, the Wayana are feared by their neighbours for the shamanic activity of their great shamans, the pïyai. It is the pïyai who know the science for manipulating the opi, the medicines of the forest, either to heal relatives1 and allies or to wage war on their enemies.

In so far as "to sting", on one hand, and cure or attack with medicinal plants, on the other, assume the intentionality of an agent, in the same way the pointy traps* placed by the isolated indigenous people of the Massaco Indigenous Land on the paths of invaders can be seen as a sting or even as an attack aimed at "curing" the land.

At the same time, OPI could be the acronym for Observatory of Isolated Peoples. Therefore Opi's action, oscillating between the sting and the remedy, the attack and the cure, follows the same movement as the thought-action of the Amerindian peoples, between celebration and war, between the dream and the motherland. The pain of the sting and even of death produces the vital strength that ends inaction and opens up the hunter's pupils, ears and nose. The shaman's medicine can cure the relative and poison the enemy.

The The Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples – Opi, is a non-profit civil organisation that represents and coordinates a network of indigenous and non-indigenous people and organisations in defence of isolated and recently contacted Indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Opi, founded in April 2022 during an assembly in the city of Santarém, Pará state, organises as a network with a variable number of members and its objectives, focused above all on the promotion and guarantee of the rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples:

1

To coordinate a network of indigenous and non-indigenous people and organisations to monitor the development and implementation of public policies and the situation of human rights violations, and propose different strategies and actions.

2

The defence, preservation and conservation of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development to ensure the protection of land and forests where isolated and recently contacted peoples live.

3

The promotion of indigenous rights, established in accordance with the Brazilian constitution or international agreements, the development and guarantee of new rights and additional free legal aid in support of indigenous organisations.

4

The conduction of studies, analyses and research, the dissemination of technical and scientific information and knowledge on the subject of isolated and recently contacted indigenous peoples in Brazil.
Opi - Observatório dos Direitos Humanos dos Povos Indígenas Isolados e de Recente Contato

Statute
& Objectives

In its statute, in the interest of fulfilling its objectives of promoting and protecting the human rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples, Opi sets out to:

  • Monitor the implementation of public policies aimed at these Peoples;
  • Collect, systematise and disseminate qualified and accessible information to national and international opinion formers;
  • Promote the recognition of indigenous policies and strategies aimed at isolated and recently contacted peoples, as well as their fundamental role in the construction of public policies aimed at guaranteeing these peoples' rights;
  • Monitor, democratically and with the State's administrative transparency, the actions relating to the promotion and guarantee of rights, the publicising of their situations and violations of rights, proposing new strategies and actions to guarantee their autonomy, right to life, to their lands and customs, uses and traditions;
  • Propose new visions and strategies for improving the system of rights and promote the well-being and quality of life of these Peoples;
  • Promote spaces for discussion and co-operation for the implementation of protection policies for their rights;
  • Produce technical briefings to support legal proceedings, anthropological reports and academic studies that encourage the promotion and protection of the rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples;
  • Seek recognition of the central role of indigenous peoples in the development of public policies, and work with indigenous organisations to promote the protection and promotion of their rights;
  • Work with multilateral human rights organisations for the protection and promotion of the rights of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples.

Executive
Coordination

In general terms, Opi's Executive Coordination has adopted a strategy structured around five lines of action: internal coordination, political coordination, institutional strengthening, project management and international coordination.

Regarding internal coordination, we aim to align the actions of Opi's advisory services, networks, monitoring platform and research group within a systemic action plan, which focuses specifically on promoting and coordinating this network in defence of the human rights and lands of isolated indigenous peoples. Opi is currently made up of 1 executive coordination body, 3 advisory bodies, 8 networks, 1 monitoring platform and 1 research group. The Executive Coordination body seeks to mobilise actions at various levels from a more general and systemic perspective while the advisory services operate on a more transversal, thematic level, focused on the set of records, and acting at a higher level of hierarchy (Federal Supreme Court (STF), Federal Prosecution Office (MPF), International Human Rights Commission (CIDH, United Nations UN, etc). The networks work on a more regional/local analysis of indigenous registries and lands, and work in conjunction with local actors (indigenous organisations, Ethno-Environmental Protections Fronts (FPEs), Indigenous Health Districts (DSEIs), local Federal Prosecution Offices, etc). The research group looks at general issues of interest relating to the theme and focuses on scientific production, participation in, and organisation of, events, and the preparation of various technical documents in conjunction with other Opi sectors. Finally, the monitoring platform is a database and vulnerability index relating to records of isolated indigenous peoples, gathering an enormous and important variety of information on the PIIRC (Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples). As a result of liaison work, part of these sectors of Opi currently include hired professionals, working on this and other projects.

Based on this internal organisation, the political coordination work is focused on indigenous organisations, indigenist organisations and government bodies, and specifically aims to strengthen the network of people and institutions in defence of indigenous peoples. With regard to grassroots indigenous organisations, our aim is to support actions and initiatives on the ground, i.e. actions in defence of isolated indigenous peoples and their territories led by indigenous peoples who share territories with isolated groups. In relation to COIAB (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon) and APIB (Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil), the joint action is focused on advocacy. The work with indigenist organisations is mostly focused on exchange of technical information and the coordination of joint actions on many levels. Finally the relationship with State organisations, in a democratic context, are aimed at cooperation on various issues involving isolated peoples, such as the participation in specific activities, development of forensic investigations, petitions in key cases, development of monthly reports, participation in Working Groups, etc. Liaising with members of Congress is also a focus of action.

The work of institutional strengthening is mainly focused on consolidating practices aimed at the good management and operation within the organisation. This includes improving the functioning of the members' assembly and the bodies that constitute Opi, the management of human resources, accounting and administrative procedures, etc. Project management, in turn, includes both fundraising (liaison with funders and project development) and the financial administration of projects.

Finally, in the international sphere, the work of the Executive Coordination seeks to guarantee Opi's participation in a number of important spaces for discussion on indigenous rights, environmental and human rights issues, as well as working on international legal conventions such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Opi - Observatório dos Direitos Humanos dos Povos Indígenas Isolados e de Recente Contato

Communications Office

Opi's communications department is technically responsible for the organisation's website, press relations, external and internal communication strategies and managing the organisation's social media platforms.

Health Office

The health department liaises with the various sectors of Opi, the 8 different networks and the communication and legal departments on health-related issues. It also participates in developing and feeding the monitoring platform, which is currently being constructed.

We have also been at the forefront of actions related to the Yanomami network. Below are the main objectives of the consultancy:

a) Exchanges/Training with Indigenous Organisations
b) Collaboration with Opi's Monitoring Office
c) Monitoring public policy
d) Participation in and monitoring of the national situation emergency room related to ADPF (Action for Non-Compliance with a Fundamental Precept) 709, authored by Apib, requested that measures be adopted in relation to the failures and omissions in combating the coronavirus epidemic among Brazil's indigenous peoples.
e) Intersectoral liaison within Opi
f) Yanomami Network

Legal Office

Opi's Legal Office works on fronts which can compensate for the political vulnerability to which the PIIRC are subjected and is focused on guaranteeing their rights. To this end, it carries out advocacy strategies, taking legal action in first and second instance cases in the Regional Federal Courts, as well as monitoring decisive actions such as ADPF 991 (Action for Non-Compliance with a Fundamental Precept 991, calls for the adoption of measures to protect and guarantee the rights of isolated and recently contacted indigenous peoples), in addition to working in political courts such as the IACHR (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights) and the ICC (International Criminal Court). These activities have been able to prevent setbacks in indigenous policy, as well as enabling some progress in the protection of the PIIRC.

Monitoring Office

Opi has been working to monitor the vulnerable situation of isolated peoples since it was founded. In 2020, the Observatory created the digital platform Isolated Peoples Covid-19 Alert with the aim of monitoring the situation of the pandemic in territories with the presence of isolated indigenous peoples. The Alert was also intended to disseminate up-to-date information and news on the health care situation and the implementation of emergency policies and measures to combat the pandemic on these peoples and their territories. By collecting, systematising and disseminating health data on isolated indigenous peoples, the initiative helped to inform the population about their situation during the pandemic, subsidise the work of civil society organisations and state institutions responsible for safeguarding their rights, and put pressure on the Brazilian federal government to implement measures aimed at protecting them.

The activities associated with the Opi monitoring consultancy, conceived as a branch of the Isolated Peoples Covid-19 Alert, have been developed in partnership with the Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) since March 2022. Linked to the communications, legal and health departments, and regional indigenist offices, the monitoring office's main objective is to assess, compare and monitor the living conditions of isolated indigenous peoples living in the Brazilian Amazon through a set of indicators of their situation of vulnerability. Working to build a methodology for monitoring isolated peoples in the country, the monitoring office has dedicated itself to collecting and systematising data on the threats and pressures faced by isolated peoples in the country, providing input for the work of indigenous organisations, indigenists, public bodies and civil society aimed at defending their rights and protecting their lives.

Networks

In Opi's organisational chart, the networks will have the primary role of monitoring the situation and producing qualified information on the situation of isolated indigenous peoples and their lands from a local perspective, on the ground, in close connection with the indigenous lands occupied by isolated groups. With a regional (and not so much thematic) profile, the networks aim to liaise with indigenous and indigenist organisations working in the region, FUNAI's Ethno-Environmental Protection Front, the Special Indigenous Health District, the Public Prosecution Office, researchers and other key players in the process of monitoring isolated peoples. Based on this local liaison, the network's focal point establishes connections with the Executive Coordination and the Advisory Offices, and feeds the records monitoring platform with regard to the network's records. We believe that through the work of this indigenist, a common and convergent agenda of actions can be constructed and coordinated between indigenous institutions, civil society and the state.

The Pará Network aims to monitor records of presence of indigenous people in isolation in the state. Currently, public protection policy is structured around the work of two Ethno-Environmental Protection Fronts, one in the Middle Xingu region, based in Altamira, and the other in the northern region of Pará, in Santarém, the headquarters of the Cuminapanema FPE. This state structure, however, is not enough to fulfil the task of protecting isolated peoples, since other regions of the state with isolated peoples are not covered by FUNAI's (National Indigenous Foundation) fronts. We can highlight the situation of records in the Kayapó and Makragnoti Indigenous Lands, in the south, and in the Tapajós basin, in the west, for example. Anyhow, Opi has done important work in recent years, especially in relation to the Ituna-Itatá Indigenous Land (IL).

The Vale do Javari network aims to support indigenous organisations and the Vale do Javari Ethno-Environmental Protection Front (FPEVJ) in protecting the territories and lives of the isolated indigenous peoples of this indigenous land, the second largest in the country with around 8.5 million hectares, on the border with Peru in Amazonas. In addition to the Kanamari, Kulina Pano, Marubo, Matis, Matsés, Tsohom Dyapa and Korubo peoples, the latter two considered to be of recent contact, it is home to the largest known concentration of isolated indigenous peoples. According to FUNAI, there are 16 records of presence of indigenous people in isolation. The region's existing natural resources, such as those associated with its rich biodiversity, timber, and fishing resources, among others, coupled with socio-cultural specificities (the presence of indigenous people in isolation, for example) impose complex challenges for their protection. Initiatives by indigenous peoples in the Javari River basin and surrounding areas to protect their territories have been going on since before FUNAI arrived in the region in the early 1970s. They date back to the beginning of the invasion and appropriation of their territories by non-indigenous people, with greater intensity from the beginning of the 20th century, through the old rubber tapping and logging schemes. These protection movements are evidenced, for example, by the history of resistance by the Korubo groups in isolation to the entry of loggers into their territories throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Subsequently, a series of indigenous surveillance operations were developed, such as the work carried out by indigenous co-workers at the FPEVJ bases throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Currently, the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) has a Surveillance Team (EVU), who carries out actions to protect the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land (TIVJ).

As it became a state only in 1982, the territory of Rondônia has been marked by scandalous rates of deforestation - considering its size and the speed with which it has been deforested, it accounts for the highest percentages in the Amazon.

Even so, the indigenous populations living in isolation in the region are among the largest in the country. The Brazilian government currently recognises them in the Uru-eu-wau-wau and Massaco Indigenous Lands, with diverse and numerous populations. Opi works with the Rondônia Network in partnership with indigenous associations and local actors, such as representatives of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), seeking to support initiatives that meet the demands of monitoring and protecting isolated communities. Rede Rondônia Network in partnership with indigenous associations and local actors, such as representatives of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), seeking to support initiatives that meet the demands of monitoring and protecting isolated communities.

We also support the continued territorial protection of the Tanaru Indigenous Land, which had been justified until 2022 by the presence of an indigenous survivor of colonial violence, the last of his people, and the defence of the rights of the Kanoê and Akuntsu, indigenous people of recent contact who live in the Omerê Indigenous Land.

In the current area of Mato Grosso state, there are two confirmed references to isolated and recently contacted peoples, found in the Piripkura and Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Lands, both of which have not yet been recognised. The situation is especially delicate in the Piripkura Indigenous Land, where only two indigenous people live today - two of the last three survivors of their group - and land regularisation is moving at a slow pace, with the territory constantly threatened by invasions. In addition to these, there are still a number of references in need of urgent studies to verify the presence of isolated people, some of them in areas impacted by development projects and the intense advance of colonisation. In the midst of this, the Mato Grosso network accompanies land regularisation processes and monitors records, in partnership with indigenist organisations and indigenous associations in the state. 

The Maranhão network worked together with the Guardians of the Forest, from the Araribóia Indigenous Land, holding a workshop on the health of isolated indigenous peoples in a Contingency Plan situation with the support of the Opi Health Office, in one of the modules of the Guardians' training workshops organised by the Ka'awara Association. We had an impact in the region at the time of the ADPF 709, an action aimed at public authorities' failures and omissions in combating the COVID-19 pandemic among Indigenous Peoples, monitoring health barriers in the following Indigenous Lands: Araribóia, Alto Turiaçu, Awá and Caru, as well as the National Human Rights Council's (CNDH) injunction on the situation of the Araribóia Indigenous Land. The network worked in dialogue and partnership with the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) and the Ka'a Iwar Association and Guardians of the Forest of the Araribóia Indigenous Land.

The Acre Network aims to support Opi's work and advocacy in the Indigenous Lands and Conservation Units of the state of Acre with records of isolated peoples; develop a liaison between indigenous monitoring and surveillance collectives, indigenous and indigenist organisations and government bodies at local, regional and international level, and monitor and produce information on the territorial dynamics, threats and vulnerability of isolated and recently isolated peoples in Acre, their rights and public policies for their protection.

No Acre, a Frente de Proteção Etnoambiental Envira (FPEE) da Fundação Nacional dos Povos Indígenas (Funai) trabalha oficialmente com oito referências de indígenas isolados no estado do Acre, sendo 6 “confirmadas” e duas em “estudo”. Três delas se referem a grupos isolados Mashco-Piro, que ocupam uma extensa área de cabeceiras de rios na região da fronteira Brasil-Peru. Os registros de povos isolados no Acre estão localizados nas TI Mamoadate, TI Kampa e Isolados do Rio Envira, TI Riozinho do Alto Envira, TI Jaminawa-Envira, TI Kaxinawá do Rio Humaitá, TI Kulina do Rio Envira, TI Kaxinawá/Ashaninka do Rio Breu, TI Alto Tarauacá (exclusiva para povos isolados) e TI Igarapé Taboca Alto Tarauacá (em situação de Restrição de Uso). Também existem registros nas Unidades de Conservação Parque Estadual Chandless, Estação Ecológica do Rio Acre e Parque Nacional Serra do Divisor.

The Acre Network's actions include meetings, exchanges and other activities to accompany and support the work carried out by the indigenous surveillance and monitoring collectives of the Mamoadate and Kaxinawá do Rio Humaitá (Huni Kuĩ) Indigenous Lands, with a confirmed presence of isolated indigenous peoples. The Manxineru and Huni Kuĩ, who live in villages close to the Peruvian border, have set aside an area of their territory for exclusive use by the isolated, and are mobilising to seek the implementation of public policies to protect these peoples and their territories, as well as strengthen the work they do in their communities in an organised manner.

The Yanomami Network aims to monitor the records of isolated peoples in the Yanomami Indigenous Land, the largest Indigenous Land in Brazil, covering more than 9 million hectares, in 8 municipalities in the states of Roraima and Amazonas, and which has been completely invaded by gold miners. There is also a serious situation of food insecurity and malaria epidemics. The existing structure in the IL is insufficient to cater for the recent contact population as well as carry out effective protection work for the isolated, since the Yanomami and Ye'kwana population numbers around 30,000 people. Currently, public protection policy is structured around the work of the Yanomami Ethno-Environmental Protection Front, based in Boa Vista (RR).

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