Indigenous rights in Brazil are under unprecedented attack. The government of President Michel Temer, which took power last year with the support of corrupt politicians, rural elites and big-business interests, knows that indigenous peoples defend their own territories better than anyone else. Driven by short-term economic interests, the Temer government and a conservative agribusiness lobby in the Brazilian Congress are besieging those rights on multiple fronts in order to turn the Amazon – a global treasure that sustains life on Earth, and the ancestral home of many indigenous peoples – into their personal piggy bank.
In March, the Temer government slashed the budget and staff of Brazil’s Agency for Indigenous Affairs, dealing a huge blow to the agency’s work to grant legal titles for indigenous community territories. With support from Temer, the agribusiness lobby in Congress is pushing through a constitutional amendment to suppress additional legal titling of ancestral indigenous lands, fulfilling a long-term goal of their allies in the agribusiness lobby. And they have advanced legislation to open up already-titled indigenous territories to massive mining and dam projects.
Brazil’s indigenous people are the best stewards of their lands, waters and forests. If the government succeeds in stripping them of their rights, not only will they suffer dire cultural and physical consequences, our shared global climate will face even greater peril. The Amazon rainforest is home to indigenous peoples, and a vital ecosystem that sustains life on Earth for all of us.