Some 6,000 members of 170 tribes, many wearing feather headdresses and wielding bows and arrows, left for the seat of Brazil’s highest court, hoping to put pressure on its 11 judges. It is the most important demonstration of indigenous people ever organized in Brazil, according to the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib), which is coordinating the mobilization.
Since Sunday, thousands of indigenous people with often painted bodies have pitched tents, singing and dancing near the modernist buildings of the Presidential Palace, the Supreme Court and the Parliament. These shimmering rallies are being held quietly for now, with organizers calling on protesters not to clash with riot police at the scene.
In June, protests for their native lands had escalated. Three demonstrators were injured, along with three police officers, by arrows. The court’s decision may not be known today, or even this week.
A judgment that will concern hundreds of reservations
The judges must confirm or reject the “temporal thesis” which recognizes as ancestral only the lands which were occupied by the natives when the Constitution was promulgated in 1988.
It is by deciding on the specific case of a reserve in the State of Santa Catarina (south) – deciding whether the “temporal thesis” applies to it or not – that the Supreme Court will render a judgment which will concern dozens, if not hundreds, of other reserves that have been the subject of litigation for years.
President Jair Bolsonaro has already warned that “chaos” would arise if the “temporal thesis”, also favorable to illegal deforestation and mining exploration activities, was not upheld by the Supreme Court. He has said in the past that he would never cede 1 cm2 of land to the natives.
“All of Brazil is indigenous territory”
“If the Supreme Court accepts the ‘temporal thesis’, it could legitimize violence against indigenous peoples and exacerbate conflicts in the Amazon rainforest and other regions,” warned Francisco Cali Tzay, UN special rapporteur for rights. indigenous peoples.
“All of Brazil is an indigenous territory,” Tai Kariri, 28, chief of the Kariri tribe, in the state of Paraiba (northeast), told AFP, “we have always lived there”. Demonstrators are also protesting what they believe to be systematic violations of their rights since the far-right president took office in January 2019.
“This government is attacking indigenous peoples,” Syrata Pataxo, a 32-year-old chief of the Pataxo tribe of the state of Bahia (northeast) told AFP. Jair Bolsonaro supports a bill that would open up indigenous lands to the exploitation of natural resources.
For the defenders of the environment, the protection of indigenous lands is also the means of halting the destruction of the Amazon, victim of record deforestation under Bolsonaro. The approximately 900,000 indigenous people of Brazil represent 0.5% of the 212 million inhabitants and their lands cover 13% of the territory of the immense country.