Indigenous Land Disputes in Brazil
The vast South American country of Brazil is home to roughly nine hundred thousand indigenous people, and their land is spread out through Brazil, making up about thirteen percent of the overall land. Brazil’s fast growing economy and commitment to becoming a global economic power has had adverse effects on the indigenous population as well as the surrounding environments. Much of the world praises economic achievements and advances while putting little to no emphasis on the costs of achieving those economic successes and advances. What remains hidden, however, are the devastating effects this economic growth has caused to Brazil’s oldest inhabitants and surrounding environments. Some of those costs are human rights violations namely in the form of land disputes between the state and the indigenous people. Former president Michel Temer along with the current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, have long had disputes with indigenous people over their land. In fact, even though Brazil is currently a democratic republic, the struggle over indigenous rights has arguably never been as contentious, given the current handling of indigenous rights by the Bolsonaro administration. As a result, the differences in the goals of the Brazilian government and indigenous people have caused a dispute that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
“With the Brazilian government, it becomes evident that their goal for economic expansion is coming at a huge cost for indigenous rights in Brazil.”
On one side, the indigenous people have inhabited the land prior to even the establishment of the Brazilian nation. The indigenous people want only to preserve and remain on their land. Though it has seen amendments in the past few decades, the Brazilian constitution clearly outlines the rights afforded to Brazil’s indigenous tribes and peoples in regard to the protection of their land. Specifically, when looking at the amended Brazilian Constitution of 1988, the excerpt stating, “the lands traditionally occupied by Indians are destined for their permanent possession, and they shall be entitled to the exclusive usufruct of the riches of the soil, rivers and lakes existing thereon” stands out. This excerpt undeniably grants the indigenous people the land they inhabit without question. Additionally, The National Foundation for the Indigenous, or FUNAI, help fight for and promote indigenous people’s rights, though they unfortunately have little funding and support from the federal government.
In 1988, the Brazilian Government drafted an entirely new Constitution which outlined new perspectives on how the nation would work with the Indigenous People within Brazil, and detailed new policies on how land would be demarcated between the government and the lands of native peoples. This rewriting of the nation’s ethos resulted in several changes to the way the nation would run, but it also very importantly changed the ways in which the lands of Brazil’s indigenous peoples would be separated and portioned from the Nation of Brazil’s land. In this new constitution, article 67 stated “The Union shall conclude the demarcation of indigenous lands within five years after promulgation of the Constitution” This was an important article because it set a tangible deadline for when lands needed to be portioned and set aside for indigenous people. The issue with this deadline was that it set up no consequences for the nation or established any sort of committee to oversee the progress of this deadline, so the five year deadline was never met. Several decades later, the nation is still debating and formulating a plan for how to demarcate the lands of native peoples.
The indigenous struggle for land rights in Brazil has been an ongoing conflict, and is not anticipating to be resolved in the foreseeable future. For the purposes of this dossier, we will be analyzing indigenous rights history in Brazil to investigate current and previous cases of land disputes that continue to persist despite the country’s implemented policy. These land disputes may take the form of failure to uphold the constitution, national park access, and the relationship of land to indigenous cultural history.
To Read the Full Dossier, Click Here –––––> Indigenous Land Disputes in Brazil Dossier