Indigenous and Quilombola Groups Strengthen their Community Through Tourism Exchanges

Xerente and Kalunga communities exchanged experiences and information

February, 2023 – Xerente Indigenous peoples and Kalunga quilombolas participated in a unique initiative during a Community Based Tourism workshop held on January 15-18 at the Xerente Indigenous Land, in the state of Tocantins. The exchange built on a workshop held in November 2022 and provided an opportunity to continue trading information on the subject. During the previous encounter the Kalunga welcomed the Xerente to the Engenho II community, in Cavalcante, Goiás.

The United States Forest Service (USFS), the University of Montana (USA), the Quilombo Kalunga Association (AQK) and the National Indigenous Peoples Foundation (FUNAI), supported by USAID/BHA (Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance) and USAID/Brazil, sponsored the event.

The Xerente explored tourism planning and are developing this activity for future implementation in their territory. Some of the activities were developed under the Forest Management and Fire Prevention Program in Brazil, run by the USFS with support from USAID/Brazil (more information here). 

“I think it is very important that Indigenous people get together to develop collective work – and this means a lot to us. We need to apply it at all stages, as we plan ethno tourism initiatives for our region,” said Pedro Paulo Xerente (photo), president of the Xerente Indigenous Firefighters Association (ABIX).

For Dominga Natália Moreira dos Santos Rosa, leader of the Kalunga Engenho II community, “this experience promoted great exchanges. Indigenous people will now have an opportunity to get organized from the very beginning. There are some things that took us many years to learn, and it was good to share this knowledge with Xerente. They have enormous potential,” she said. 

The Funil and Xerente Indigenous peoples discussed the potential of community-based tourism in their territory and planned the first procedural steps for realization. The Kalunga shared their accumulated tourism experience and management activities. Located in the state of Goiás, the Kalunga Historical and Cultural Heritage Site is a demonstration site for the project. Their main tourist site is the Santa Bárbara Waterfall, which attracts thousands of visitors each month (in high season, they receive up to 300 people a day).

FUNAI was represented at the workshop and  in an important session that contended with their role as the agency responsible for protecting and promoting the rights of Indigenous peoples in Brazil. 

“I see potential for them to develop tourism through traditions, food, stories told by their elders, painting, crafts, natural beauty, and even the possibility of engaging women,” said Jenn Thomsen, Associate Professor at the University of Montana, and one of the workshop trainers. 

Integrating cross-cutting topics such as fire management, gender, and youth into the potential of community-based tourism was also addressed. 

Future – An action plan was created and a Xerente Community-Based Tourism Committee was formed to execute the mission. One of the next steps for the Xerente people is mapping their territory's cultural and natural attractions to identify  tourism development.  The committee will also hold meetings with village leaders to arrange for potential activities in their lands.