|UND anthropologist, human rights expert to work in Brazil with tribal, human rights leaders|
UND anthropologist Marcia Mikulak is set for a human rights mission to Brazil, where she’ll work closely with the beleaguered Xukuru tribe and its elected chief Marcos Luidson de Aráujo, also known as Marcos Xukuru.
Mikulak, who is an associate professor in the UND College of Arts and Sciences Department of Anthropology, will work from her research site in Pernambuco, Brazil, with the Xukuru (Shoo-koo-roo) tribe in the village of Pesqueira, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Pernambuco.
“This is a continuation of the work that I did under a UND Arts, Humanities, and Social Science internal grant last year,” said Mikulak, a concert-pianist-turned-anthropologist who speaks fluent Portuguese. Mikulak, who also works with the Grand Forks Community Violence Intervention Center, said this year’s mission to Brazil is part of her academic developmental leave.
“My work this year will provide for a prolonged period of uninterrupted social-action research with Marcos Xukuru, other tribal leaders, and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop clear guidelines for identifying culturally important human rights abuses experienced by the Xukuru,” she said. This research project will include collaboration with Joseph Mandala, a UND student of international human rights law at the School of Law and a Master of Public Administration candidate.
“I will work closely with the Xukuru and with the Center for Research and Support for the Development of Rural and Urban Environments, a Brazilian NGO located in Recife, Brazil. CPAD is working with several Brazilian tribes on land rights litigation and civil cases. Mikulak also will be working closely with the Recife-based Indianist Missionary Council (Conselho Indigenista Missionário), a human rights group working specifically with the Xukuru tribe.
“My expertise will help them to identify human rights as cultural rights, and Mr. Mandala's research will provide them with specifics on indigenous international human rights cases,” Mikulak said. “Joseph and I will develop strategies that assist in promoting and protecting the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the Xukuru people from a clearly identified cultural rights platform.”
The major challenge is that the Xukuru tribe (as well as indigenous tribes elsewhere) struggles to find legal recourses for over 36 individual civil indictments against tribal leaders who campaign for the development and support of their basic human rights, Mikulak said. These rights include the culturally appropriate education, health care, and environmental rights.
“A common strategy of the Brazilian government is to drain the meager financial resources of tribes as they struggle to provide legal representation for tribal leaders under indictments,” Mikulak said. “Research will produce a rich body of data, both qualitative and quantitative, on the social activism of the Xukuru tribe, and will identify how the recently ratified UN Charter on Indigenous Rights can be effectively used to improve their quality of life.”
“My research will assist in current tribal activism and expand activities such that current civil cases and human rights abuses are clearly articulated from an international cultural human rights perspective,” Mikuklak said. Additionally, she plans to visit several Brazilian universities to encourage study abroad programs between those schools and UND.
“While in Brazil, I will present my work to students in primary, secondary, and university settings, encouraging awareness of the value of Indigenous peoples and their cultures,” Mikulak said. “Presentations in primary, secondary, and university settings in North Dakota are also considered an important contribution of this research, with a goal to expand and enrich students understanding of diversity and its benefits.”
-- Juan Pedraza, Writer/Editor, University Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 777-6571