Indigenous protesters march on Bolsonaro’s office for land rights

Indigenous protesters land regulation
Indigenous protesters set fire on an avenue in front of the presidential palace. Photo: Fernanda Pierucci/Futura Press/Folhapress

Indigenous protests in Brasília entered their fifth day today, with activists marching on the president’s office on Friday morning. Thousands of indigenous people have camped out in the capital this week, in an attempt to put pressure on the Supreme Court to trial a case which could drastically alter what constitutes indigenous territory in Brazil.

The case in question concerns a land dispute in the southern state of Santa Catarina, in which rural producers argue that the Xokleng people have no territorial claim over a strip of land on the banks of the Itajaí River — as they cannot prove they occupied the land on October 5, 1988, the day Brazil’s Constitution was enacted.

Ruling in favor of farmers would set a dramatic precedent for indigenous land rights, as proving occupation of land on a date almost 30 years ago is near impossible for traditional communities. The Supreme Court began the trial on Thursday, and it is set to continue next week.

Besides respecting ancestral rights to land, the preservation of indigenous territories in Brazil is key to protecting the environment. The country’s recognized indigenous reserves are the best-preserved areas in Brazil, with an average deforestation rate of just 1.6 percent over 35 years, according to a MapBiomas survey.