Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court is poised to make a critical decision on the Marco Temporal, a legal argument with profound implications for the land rights of Indigenous peoples. Dinamam Tuxá, the Executive Coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), and Suzanne Pelletier, the Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation US, condemn this “time limit” on land rights in an op-ed featured on Mongabay.
Started working in 1988
Worked with partners representing over 500 communities
Supported the demarcation of nearly 42 million acres (17 million hectares) of Indigenous territories
While the Rainforest Foundation US has worked in Brazil since our founding, our focus is currently concentrated in the state of Roraima in the northern Brazilian Amazon. In western Roraima, the Yanomami Territory is the largest swath of rainforest under Indigenous control in the world. The biodiverse savannah and forest ecosystems of eastern Roraima are home to Raposa Serra do Sol, a key territory in the struggle for Indigenous land rights in Brazil.
Our partnership with Indigenous representative organizations in these areas seeks to address the destructive presence of illegal miners and large-scale agribusiness and build on their historic leadership in the movement for Indigenous peoples’ rights in Brazil.
Our current projects in Brazil are aligned with our three strategic priorities:
Territorial Protection & Governance
RFUS supports our partners in Brazil by strengthening and expanding Indigenous-led forest monitoring programs. Over 5.44 million acres (2.2 million hectares) of Indigenous territories are monitored, through the coordination of four monitoring hubs, spanning four of the most vulnerable territories under the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR): Wai Wai, Raposa Serra do Sol, Moskow, and Boqueirão. Our strategic vision encompasses the integration of 15 monitoring stations by 2028.
Rainforest Foundation US’s earliest work on land rights happened in Brazil, including precedent-setting titling work in territories like Panara and Raposa Serra do Sol. We continue to support our partners in Brazil in defending their rights and advancing legal recognition of their ancestral territories. Our comprehensive support includes efforts in mapping, community organizing, legal support, and advocacy.
Our current work is also focused on co-developing safety and security protocols and contingency plans designed to ensure the protection and well-being of Indigenous environmental defenders and activists. The aim is to equip defenders with the knowledge and resources needed to navigate challenging situations and safeguard their physical and emotional safety while advocating for their rights and protecting their lands.
Rainforest Foundation US collaborates with CIR and Hutukara to strengthen their territorial governance and facilitate effective project management. We support both organizations in securing funding for their initiatives and conduct community training sessions on Indigenous rights, including Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) protocols, to ensure communities know the steps they can take if their rights are infringed upon.
Brazil is the most biodiverse country in the world. Fifteen to 20% of the world’s biological diversity is found across the country’s six biomes. With 59.4% forest cover, Brazil also contains the Earth’s largest area of tropical rainforest and two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest.
The Brazilian Amazon rainforest is home to a wide range of species—some of them endangered and many endemic—such as the Amazon river dolphin, the giant river otter, and the harpy eagle. Brazil’s Amazon rainforest is part of the largest above-ground carbon store. Its survival is essential in the fight to curb the global impacts of the climate crisis.
Brazil’s Indigenous population numbers 1.65 million, comprising 0.81% of the country’s total population. Home to 305 Indigenous peoples—including the Yanomami, Ashaninka, Guarani, Tukano, Macuxi, and Wapichana, to name a few—and they speak more than 270 languages. In addition, decades of careful research suggests that more than 100 Indigenous communities remain uncontacted, living in voluntary isolation in the forest.
Indigenous peoples of Brazil have a long history of organizing to achieve land rights and state recognition. In 2023, many Indigenous women assumed political office in the Brazilian government, including Sônia Guajajara, the first Indigenous woman to serve as Minister of Indigenous Peoples, Joênia Wapixana, the first Indigenous woman to be appointed Director of the Federal Bureau of Indigenous Affairs, and Célia Xakriabá, the first Indigenous woman to represent Minas Gerais state in Congress. While the Brazilian Indigenous movement has achieved many victories, much work remains to ensure the rights of the country’s many Indigenous peoples.
To date, 761 Indigenous territories–representing nearly 13.8% of Brazil’s land mass–have been officially recognized. However, an estimated 478 additional territories are awaiting titles, an essential step for Indigenous communities to defend themselves from violence and deforestation.
After achieving remarkable success in reducing deforestation while increasing economic productivity between 2005-2010, Brazil is losing its forests at an alarming rate. Brazil has already lost 90% of its Atlantic rainforests, along with about 17% of its historic Amazon rainforests. In 2019, Brazil lost 2.60 million ha of forest cover, with deforestation increasing by 85% in the Brazilian Amazon.
The shifting political climate and current rhetoric encourages exploitation and intensive land uses as well as violence and intimidation to suppress Indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect their territories.
According to Global Witness, 24 environmental defenders were murdered in Brazil in 2019, the majority of them in the Amazon.
Credit: Chico Batata | Greenpeace
Rainforests absorb and store more carbon dioxide than all other types of forests, making rainforest protection one of the most effective solutions to climate change. Support Indigenous peoples on the frontlines of rainforest protection.
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