Last week, six thousand Indigenous people of 176 distinct ethnicities from all regions of Brazil set up camp in the heart of Brazil’s capital to insist that their existence and voices be recognized and respected by the government.
They traveled for days on packed buses, some under the threat of ambushes, to be united for the “Struggle for Life” camp, the country’s largest Indigenous mobilization in the last 30 years, to demand Brazil’s Supreme Court reject the so-called “marco temporal” clause. If upheld, this deceptive legal theory would invalidate the land claims of Indigenous groups who did not physically occupy their territories on the day that the new constitution was signed in 1988, ignoring centuries of genocidal oppression that forced many peoples to flee their ancestral homes and flying in the face of the expressed intent of the document itself.
Amazon Watch took part in this powerful historic moment in the struggle of Indigenous peoples in Brazil. The organizers were careful to manage COVID risks by providing testing sites and adhering to strict public health protocols. Together with my colleagues – legal advisor Ana Carolina Alfinito and Indigenous advisor Airton Gasparini – we marched in solidarity, accompanied several plenary sessions, provided logistical and legal support, and heard reports from Indigenous groups on the impacts of mining in their territories.
“It is one of the most important judgments in history,” said Sonia Guajajara, Executive Coordinator of the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB), “The struggle of Indigenous peoples is a struggle for the future of humanity.”
After multiple delays, the Brazilian Supreme Court (STF) resumed deliberations this week on the Xokleng case, which will define the future of Indigenous peoples of Brazil, and consequently of the world’s forests, biodiversity, and climate. In response to the delays, Indigenous leaders decided to continue the mobilization in Brasília and in their territories this week.
“The marco temporal clause represents for us, Indigenous peoples, a declaration of extermination,” said Eloy Terena, during an event last Thursday. He pointed out that many of Brazil’s 114 uncontacted peoples, which rely on government protection, live in territories that could be threatened if the marco temporal legal thesis is upheld and becomes precedent.
As the Indigenous movement told the International Criminal Court, the removal of Indigenous groups from their land means the eradication of their forms of living and organizing their lives. Those who govern Brazil today envision a country without Indigenous lands, and consequently without Indigenous peoples. The struggle of the Indigenous movement for their lands is against genocide and for the survival of all life on our planet.
Words alone cannot describe how it felt to accompany our partners at the Struggle for Life Camp.
In addition to APIB’s ability to safely turn out thousands of people representing diverse cultures, languages, and worldviews motivated around a singular political goal, there also was an inspirational spiritual component to last week’s events.
We felt this at a powerful moment when the mobilization set off to march on the STF without knowing when the marco temporal hearing would actually begin. Yet just as hundreds began to march, we learned that the proceedings had begun. We felt we had received a call telling us “it’s time to march, it’s time to fight for our rights.” It has been an honor to march alongside the Munduruku, the Xikrin, the Kayapó, the Pataxó, the Guarani, and so many peoples who are struggling for our common future.
During the Struggle for Life camp, Brazil’s Indigenous movement was not alone. Allies from around the world joined the resistance against the attacks on their rights. An important delegation from Progressive International traveled to Brazil and joined the camp in Brasília, including Indigenous leaders and two U.S. Congressional staffers, and released a joint statement with APIB.
You can also join us in this struggle, as the Global Week of Action for the Amazon kicks off this Sunday, September 5. There will be both online and in-person opportunities to get involved and collaborate with one another – all for the protection of the Amazon rainforest!