Annual Indigenous Free Land Camp Occupies Brasília | Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch

Annual Indigenous Free Land Camp Occupies Brasília

April 19, 2022 | Ana Paula Vargas | Eye on the Amazon

All photos by Isis Medeiros / Amazon Watch.

In Brazil, Indigenous communities organized and mobilized to celebrate “Indigenous April” at their 18th annual Free Land Camp (ATL), held in Brasília from April 4-14, 2022. It’s the most important annual event organized by APIB (Association of Brazil’s Indigenous People) and Brazil’s Indigenous movement. Attendees declared 2022 to be the last year of Bolsonaro’s genocidal administration and marked the launch of several actions leading up to national elections in October. With this election year ahead, ATL’s theme was “Retaking Brazil: Demarcating Territories and Indigenizing Politics,” and the event brought together 7,000 Indigenous people in Brasilia before key votes in Brazil’s Congress on bills that would violate the rights of Indigenous peoples, including Bill 191/2020, which would open up Indigenous lands to mining and other extractive industries.  

“Bill 191/2020 would authorize and deliver our lands to large mining companies and to illegal mining. This is a risk that we are already feeling. The mere fact that this bill is being processed has already led to an increase in invasions of Indigenous lands. In the report [Complicity in Destruction IV] published by Amazon Watch and APIB, we can see more concrete data, and it’s estimated that 62,000 hectares of land in the Amazon will be destroyed. The approval of Bill 191/2020 will have global repercussions.” 

Dinamam Tuxá
Dinamam Tuxá, Executive Coordinator of APIB

Bill 191 was scheduled for a vote in the lower house in early April, but has since been postponed to an undetermined time, just days after the mobilization of thousands of Indigenous people and their allies at the camp.

Amazon Watch supported and amplified ATL with funding for Indigenous delegations’ travel via our Amazon Defenders Fund (ADF), communications capacity, technical support, the publication of a special Free Land Camp edition of the report Complicity in Destruction IV, and the launch of a new Forest & Finance mining website. Via ADF, Amazon Watch supported travel to Brasília for eight Indigenous delegations from the Amazon and other Brazilian states. We also sent funds for food during the trip and ten buses carrying Indigenous peoples from the Amazon. In total, Amazon Watch alone supported the participation of almost 1,000 people in the camp. 

In addition, our team in Brazil was on the ground offering support by covering and promoting the event and strengthening its international visibility. Two thousand copies of Complicity in Destruction IV – Special ATL Edition were printed and distributed to ministers of the Supreme Court, members of Congress, and embassy officials, supporting the Indigenous campaign against Bill 191/2020 and the threats mining brings to their territories. During the activities, Amazon Watch also launched a new mining data website with our Forest & Finance coalition partners – a platform that complements the data in Complicity in Destruction IV with updated findings on who finances mining in the Amazon.

Indigenizing politics: 2022 elections

Throughout ATL, Indigenous people used their traditions, songs, and slogans to denounce the anti-Indigenous policies of the Bolsonaro administration, which since his election has promoted a political agenda threatening the lives and territories of Indigenous people across Brazil. A key plenary session took place — “Indigenizing Politics: ourselves for those who preceded us, ourselves for us, and ourselves for those to come” — aimed at “building the bench” for Indigenous women’s representation for the upcoming 2022 elections. Shortly before the start of the ATL, Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara announced that she is running for Brazil’s Congress as a federal deputy for the state of São Paulo. 

“The demarcation of lands of all Indigenous peoples in Brazil continues to be our main goal. But to guarantee the demarcation, the protection of our lands, we must also ‘Indigenize politics’ with the presence of diversity, of women occupying the positions of power and decision-making positions.”

Sonia Guajajara
Sonia Guajajara

By “Indigenizing politics,” Indigenous leaders are working to strengthen an inside and outside political strategy. 

Brazil’s lower Congress currently has 513 deputies and only one Indigenous representative: deputy Joênia Wapichana from the state of Roraima in the Amazon. The ruralist/agribusiness caucus, the main enemies of socio-environmental rights, agrarian reform, and Indigenous rights, has about 250 deputies and is the majority in the House. Sonia’s campaign, in addition to ensuring the representation of the Indigenous movement in the legislature, is part of a clear political strategy of the Indigenous movement to occupy political spaces as a way to strengthen the fight for their rights, lands, and culture, and for the environment. 

“We are tired of seeing our children being killed by mining dredges, we are tired of seeing our children being contaminated by the mercury and mud of the mining companies, which isn’t worth anybody’s life,” Guajajara said at the plenary session on Indigenous women’s electoral strategy. “We have accepted this challenge, because we are tired of seeing our forest bleed, we don’t want to see animals being burned, we don’t want to see the agribusiness destroying our lands and poisoning children who are still in their mother’s womb.”

Besides Sonia and Joênia (who will seek re-election), other Indigenous women are expected to run for political offices in this year’s elections, such as Val Terena (MS), Célia Xakriabá (MG), Eunice Kerexu (SC), Simone Karipuna (AP), Eliane Bakairi (MT), Juliana Genipapo Kanindé (CE) and Chirley Pankará (SP), among others. 

“2022 is a historic year — APIB has assembled an Indigenous Caucus, a Caucus comprising Indigenous women to also run for election and unseat, once and for all, the ruralist caucus in the National Congress. When we talk about indigenizing politics, we want to ensure that we have Indigenous representatives in these spaces, in institutional policy-making,” APIB’s coordinator Sonia Guajajara urged.

After the Free Land Camp, the struggle continues. Amazon Watch will support an Indigenous and Land Defender delegation to Europe in May 2022 to denounce the genocidal acts of the Bolsonaro government and raise awareness of the ecocide unfolding in Brazil, and especially the threats mining corporations like Belo Sun pose to the Amazon, the Xingu river, and its people. In June, we will be supporting the Indigenous movement’s battle against the Marco Temporal vote in the Federal Supreme Court (STF). If approved, this “temporal framework,” a time-limit clause attempting to restrict Indigenous communities’ right to claim land ownership, could deal an enormous blow to Indigenous land demarcation, with consequences for all Indigenous peoples in Brazil and the biomes they live in and protect.

2022 is a crucial year for democracy in Brazil, for Indigenous peoples, for the Amazon, and for life in Brazil. The outcome of the organizing efforts this year could impact life on the entire planet. That’s why we say: “Defend the Earth Defenders! Protect the Amazon! Respect Indigenous Rights!”

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