updated 6/20/2008 6:23:54 PM ET 2008-06-20T22:23:54

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva decreed a new 3.8 million acre Indian reservation Friday in the heart of the Amazon rain forest's logging frontier.

The Bau reservation in Para state had been sought by the Kayapo Indians in their ancestral territory since 1994. But resistance from settlers and loggers slowed its official creation.

"We are advancing little by little, but we are making the necessary conquests," Silva said at the signing ceremony in the capital, Brasilia.

Brazil's 1988 constitution declared that all Indian ancestral lands be demarcated and turned over to tribes within five years. While that process has not been completed yet, today about 11 percent of Brazilian territory and nearly 22 percent of the Amazon is in Indian hands.

But there has been increasing pressure on the government to limit the size of reservations as logging, ranching and farming expand into the Amazon. Some settlers have violently resisted efforts to relocate them.

Studies show that Indian reservations tend to be the best preserved areas of the rain forest because the tribes protect the borders. National parks and ecological reserves rarely have enough staff to police their territory.

Marcio Meira, president of the National Indian Foundation, said at the ceremony that there are about 1 million Indians in Brazil — about half of them on reservations.

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