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News > Brazil

Brazilian Indigenous People to Defend Their Ancestral Rights

  • Indigenous peoples rally in Brazil, June, 2023.

    Indigenous peoples rally in Brazil, June, 2023. | Photo: Greenpeace

Published 6 June 2023

The Indigenous management of these lands, most of which are environmental protection areas, is considered as a "shield" against global climate change.

Brazilian Indigenous people will mobilize starting this Tuesday to defend their "ancestral rights" to the land, which they consider threatened by initiatives being processed both in Parliament and the Supreme Court.


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On the judicial front, the highest court is preparing to resume a trial on the so-called "temporal framework," which recognizes as Indigenous lands only those that the native peoples occupied on October 5, 1988, the day the current Constitution was promulgated.

The same issue is being discussed in Parliament, where last week the Lower House approved a bill that gives legal form to the "temporal framework" thesis, which still needs to be debated by the Senate.

The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) has denounced that the "temporal framework" is promoted by powerful agribusiness groups, supported in Parliament by far-right sectors, who intend to advance productive activities in the Amazon, where most of the disputed lands are located.

The tweet reads, "What a relief to have a President who respects the environment and Indigenous peoples! For that alone, it was worth having supported him by making the L symbol. World Environment Day. Lula pays a beautiful tribute to Bruno and Dom and launches several environmental policies."


APIB, the largest Brazilian Indigenous organization, is preparing mobilizations throughout the country against a thesis that seeks to "limit and rewrite history" from 1988 onwards and "disregards the past," as the Indigenous peoples had already occupied those territories "hundreds of years before."

They argue that this is duly guaranteed in the Constitution’s Article 231, which recognizes the Indigenous people's right to "their social organization, customs, beliefs, and traditions," and their "original rights over traditionally occupied lands," which must be demarcated by the State.

The "temporal framework" also ignores the fact that many Indigenous peoples were forcefully evicted from lands they occupied before 1988 by settlers who later illegitimately took possession of those areas, which has led to recurring and violent conflicts.


Since 1988, when the Constitution determined that the State must demarcate Indigenous lands, 487 reserves have been created, which account for almost 14 percent of the national territory.

The demarcation process was suspended between 2019 and 2022 by the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, but the current progressive President Lula da Silva has resumed it and expressed his rejection of the "temporal framework."

According to APIB, there are around 200 Indigenous areas awaiting regularization, representing about 2 percent of the country's territory, mostly located in the Amazon.

The already demarcated areas are occupied by around 500,000 of the nearly 1.6 million Indigenous people currently in the country, distributed among 305 ethnic groups that speak 247 different languages, according to previous estimates from last year's national census.

The Indigenous management of these lands, most of which are environmental protection areas, is also considered as a "shield" against climate change.


On Wednesday, the Supreme Court is scheduled to resume a process that can set a precedent and be decisive in the controversy surrounding the "temporal framework."

The trial began last year, with one vote in favor and one against this thesis so far, and eight more members of the court still need to pronounce their opinions.

It reached the Supreme Court from lower courts through a lawsuit filed by the State against a ruling from a second-instance court that recognized a public agency from the southern state of Santa Catarina as the owner of certain lands.

For centuries, those areas were occupied by the Xokleng, Guarani, and Kaingang ethnic groups, forcibly evicted in the mid-20th century, and ended up in the hands of Santa Catarina’s Foundation for Technological Development, favored by the ruling now being debated by the Supreme Court.

That ruling, supported by the concept of the "temporal framework," argued that in October 1988, those lands were under the possession of that foundation and disregarded the fact that, starting in 1996, the Indigenous people had retaken some of those settlements.


Lula da Silva
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