Eye on the Amazon

Protests Sweep Brazil Demanding End to Attack on Indigenous Rights

Historic mobilization coincides with the 25th anniversary of Brazil's constitution, which affirmed its commitment to indigenous rights

Protests Sweep Brazil Demanding End to Attack on Indigenous Rights

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Last week you met courageous indigenous leader Mayalú Txucarramãe, who shared with us her concerns about threats to the Kayapó people and her home in the Xingu River basin due to construction of the Belo Monte dam and recent assaults on indigenous peoples' rights. Today Mayalú is back in Brazil, where she joins her family and thousands of indigenous people from across the nation in a sweeping movement to dispute attempts by the Brazilian government to drastically water down indigenous peoples' constitutional rights under the mask of "development" and rapid industrialization as the World Cup nears.

In response to this widespread attack on indigenous peoples' rights and territories by Congress – backed by agribusiness, mining and energy interests – Brazil's National Indigenous Association (APIB) called for widespread protests until October 5th. Ironically, the historic mobilization coincides with the 25th anniversary of the founding of Brazil's constitution, which affirmed the country's estimable commitment to uphold indigenous rights.

Pending projects – if passed into law – would seek to undermine Article 231 of the constitution, which assures the indigenous right to an exclusive and permanent usufruct to resources on their ancestral territories. A draft bill under discussion would open up indigenous land for army bases, mining, dams and other industrial projects; and another would open up indigenous reserves to large-scale mining for the first time.

Such laws would drastically weaken indigenous peoples' control over their territories and threaten the very survival of many Amazonian tribes, including uncontacted peoples living in the rainforest as they have for millennia. If Brazil denies the rights of these traditional populations many risk extinction, groups rarely survive when their land is taken away. This is something the world simply cannot afford – these are the guardians of the rainforests – the lungs of our panting planet – and an irreplaceable wealth of knowledge, culture and stewardship that benefits all of humanity and this planet that we share.

"We are here because Congress wants to take our rights and extinguish our people," said Chief Raoni Metuktire, a legendary Kayapó leader and Mayalú's uncle. "This assembly is important because it aims to unite our peoples against this threat."

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