Indigenous Peoples in Brazil and the Amazon

The Indian Law Resource Center has a long history of work with indigenous peoples in Brazil, going back to 1979 when we brought the first indigenous rights case to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arguing for demarcation of Yanomami land in the Amazon rainforest. The case and many years of advocacy in the Organization of American States and United Nations was part of a forceful and successful international campaign that led to the creation of a 23+ million acre Yanomami indigenous territory and expulsion of gold miners from the region.

Today, the rights and protections for the Yanomami and hundreds of other indigenous peoples in Brazil are threatening to unravel.

In October, 2018, Brazil elected Jair Bolsonaro as its next President. On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro pledged to scrap environmental laws, throw the Amazon open to ranchers and miners, and confiscate the lands of Brazil’s indigenous peoples.  He said if he were elected President, "not one square centimeter” of Brazil will be reserved for the country's original inhabitants.

Since taking office in January, 2019, he is moving quickly in this devastating direction, instituting policies that severely weaken the government agencies that oversee protections for indigenous peoples and the environment to pave the way for agri-business, mining, logging, and unsustainable exploitation of the country’s natural resources. 

The Bolsonaro administration argues that too much indigenous land is being set aside for the benefit of too few people.  For the seven and a half billion people who inhabit the Earth and depend on the Amazon rainforest – the lungs of the planet – to combat climate change, Bolsonaro’s charge could not be further from the truth.  

The Indian Law Resource Center is working with and assisting indigenous leaders and advocates in Brazil to bring international attention and world pressure to bear on the Brazil to ensure that it’s political leaders uphold the rights and protections guaranteed in Brazil’s Constitution and in international law and policy standards. As was proved in our work with the Yanomami, pressure from outside Brazil can be a tipping point to protecting indigenous lands and communities.

Domestically, we are working to ensure that indigenous peoples voices and concerns are respected and reflected in the financing decisions of the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES). BNDES has become one of the largest development banks in the world and provides financing for mega-infrastructure and energy projects that crisscross the entire continent with roads, oil pipelines, and energy lines without regard to the people who live in these areas and who depend on healthy ecosystems to maintain their cultural integrity, livelihoods, and physical survival.


Update on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (September 2019)

Indigenous Organizations advocate for enhanced protections before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (September 2019)

The Center's Partnership Announcement with COIAB | Español | Português (August 2019)

COIAB's Statement Against Amazon Destruction Process | Español | Português (August 2019)

Nota da COIAB contra os ataques ao povo Waiãpi | English (July 2019)                                                        *Original in Portuguese, English translation provided by the Indian Law Resource Center

Call for a thorough investigation and preventive measures in Brazil | Español | Português (July 2019)

Statement of Solidarity with indigenous peoples of Brazil (March 2019) 

Brazilian Attorney General's Legal Opinion on Bolsonaro's Provisional Measure No. 870 (March 2019) *Available only in Portuguese

Report on the Situation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil | Español | Português (February 2019)

Indigenous organizations denounce Bolsonaro’s policies before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (February 2019) 

President Bolsonaro's Provisional Measure No.: MPV 870/2019 (January 2019)                                                 *Available only in Portuguese