Indigenous Brazilians Gather To Protect Their Rights

Over 3,000 indigenous Brazilians have gathered in Brasilia to protest for their rights to their land, and to life, following a surge in the number of killings over land and resources in Brazil since 2003. The indigenous land is being increasingly targeted by both private organizations and the government, leaving indigenous peoples displaced, with many feared dead from encounters with loggers, land grabbers and miners. Al Jazeera reports that approximately 70 died in 2017, as a result of the actions of those responsible for the attacks on indigenous lands, and continue to prosper from their actions whilst the Brazilian government does nothing to uphold its constitution and protect those most vulnerable, the indigenous Brazilians.

Megaron Txucarramae, a member of the Kayapo tribe, attended the large-scale protest in Brasilia on April 26, commenting that the governments are using every possible threat “to reduce our land, to not recognize our land,” Sydney Morning Herald reports. The Brazilian government has never encouraged a “relationship so completely adverse to the rights of indigenous people,” the Coalition of Indigenous People of Brazil claim. Supporting the indigenous peoples in their fight for their land, SBS reports Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, has staunchly rejected the behaviour of the Brazilian government, naming and shaming the “murder of indigenous people” as intolerable.

Comparable to Australia’s history of brutality towards indigenous people, what is being labeled as an “indigenous genocide” has seen over 50 killed in 2016, 70 in 2017, and over 8,000 during Brazil’s military dictatorship. The rollback of indigenous land rights law, and the implementation of the “marco temporal” ruling, not only displace indigenous tribes living on their rightful lands in the current day but, as the Sydney Morning Herald states, “ignores the history of dispossession in Brazil.” Solheim highlights the necessity for the Brazilian constitution to uphold the rights of the indigenous peoples and hold businesses and the government accountable for their actions. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recognizes the Amazon as a “priority place” that must be protected; stressing the gap between what the constitution preaches and practice by the Brazilian government.

The events indigenous Brazilians are suffering from are not a unique situation. The most recent protests were driven by the introduction of a legal ruling in July 2017 stripping many indigenous communities of their land. “Marco temporal” states that land may only be lived on by indigenous peoples if they had been occupied since before 1998, the year of the establishment of Brazil’s post-dictatorship constitution. Brazil’s Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) reports that approximately 33 projects are currently being considered by Congress; each project holds the potential to weaken the rights of Brazil’s indigenous communities, the original custodians of Brazilian land.

Without the Brazilian government implementing strict restrictions for miners, logging, and land grabbing groups, indigenous groups are at risk of being displaced and being forced to abandon their traditional ways of life. With the development of the Trans-Amazonian highway and the influx of gold miners into the Amazon, the WWF has placed the Yanomamo tribe on the endangered list of forest-dwelling groups, a long-standing 15,000-person tribe native to the Amazon. With President Temer’s office announcing the success of the designation of land belonging to the Guato people – approximately 20,000 hectares in – on April 26, 2017, significant victories are proven to be possible for the native Brazilians. Nevertheless, the rareness of such events is enough reason to worry about the future of Brazil’s indigenous population and their diminishing rights as traditional custodians of the Brazilian land.

Zoe Knight