Landmark Victory for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Brazil

Written by Tracy Solum

Topics: Frontline Communities

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In 2001, through our role as an advisor to Global Greengrants Fund, RAN helped make a $5,000 grant to Indigenous Council of Roraima to support an international campaign to demarcate the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous reserve in the northern Brazilian Amazon.

Photo by Aldenir Cadete

Photo by Aldenir Cadete

Today we are celebrating a landmark victory for Indigenous peoples’ rights in Brazil. Congratulations to the Indigenous Council of Roraima and the Indigenous residents of Roraima state, whose decades-long struggle has at last ended in victory!

Raposa Serra do Sol is the traditional home of some 19,000 Ingaricó, Macuxi, Patamona, Taurepang and Wapichana people in Northern Brazil. Located on the boundary of Guyana and Venezuela, RSS is over 6,000 square miles of mountains, savannas, and forests.

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In April 2005, President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva ratified RSS as an Indigenous land, recognizing over 30 years of struggle of the Indigenous peoples of the area. As stipulated by the decree, all non-Indigenous occupants should have been removed from RSS within a year. A handful of powerful rice-growers refused to leave however, and vowed to use force in order to remain.

In March 2008, the Federal Government finally began a process of removing the remaining occupants. They resisted, burning bridges and attacking community centers, and instigating violence that culminated in the shooting of ten Indigenous people on May 5th.

By then, the State Government had filed an injunction asking for the removal process to be stopped, and questioning the demarcation of RSS as a whole.

The Supreme Court suspended the removals, pending their review. Yesterday, the judges voted 10-1 to retain the boundaries of the reserve, rebuffing rice farmers’ efforts to splinter it into smaller land segments.

The President of the Supreme Court said, ‘The basis we established in this case, the conditions and procedures, will serve as a guide for other disputes. We are putting an end to the issues surrounding similar cases.’

There can be no solution to the problem of deforestation without addressing Indigenous rights. Please support the efforts of frontline communities like those in Roraima by making a donation to RAN’s Protect-an-Acre program and the Global Greengrants Fund.

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