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  • Main languages: Portuguese, indigenous languages. In Brazil, according to the 2010 Census, there are as many as 274 distinct indigenous languages. Demographically larger indigenous peoples have a better chance of protecting their languages, but there are also less populous communities with languages moving towards extinction, some with very few and elderly speakers. For example, the indigenous Apiaká and Umutina peoples of the state of Mato Grosso recently lost the last of their community elders with a mastery of their ancestral languages. According to UNESCO, 12 of Brazil’s languages are extinct, 45 critically endangered, 19 severely endangered, 17 definitely endangered and 97 vulnerable.

    Main religions: Christianity (majority Roman Catholic, also Pentecostal), Afro-Brazilian religions (Candomblé, Umbanda), Judaism, indigenous spirituality.

    Minorities: 45.3 per cent pardo or mixed ethnicity, 10.6 per cent preto or Black, and 1.3 per cent Asian (including Japanese, Chinese and Korean).

    Overall population: 203,080,756. (2022 Census)

    Indigenous peoples live in every state of Brazil and represent 305 different ethnic groups and 274 indigenous languages. According to the 2022 Census, the country’s indigenous population reached 1,693,535 people, which represents 0.83 per cent of the total population. Most of the country’s indigenous people (44.48 per cent) are concentrated in the North. There are 753,357 indigenous people living in the region. Next, with the second largest number, is the Northeast, with 528,800, comprising 31.22 per cent of the country’s total. Together, the two regions account for 75.71per cent of this total. The rest are distributed as follows: Midwest (11.80 per cent or 199,912 indigenous people), Southeast (7.28 per cent or 123,369) and South (5.20 per cent or 88,097). Analyzing the indigenous populations by state, together, the states of Amazonas and Bahia account for 42.51 per cent of the country’s indigenous population. They are the states with the largest numbers: 490,900 and 229,100, respectively. They are followed by Mato Grosso do Sul (116,300), Pernambuco (106,600) and Roraima (97,300). The majority of the country’s indigenous population (61.43 per cent) lives in these five states. On the other hand, Sergipe (4,700 indigenous people), the Federal District (5,800) and Piauí (7,200) are the states with the lowest number of indigenous residents.

    In 2010, when the previous census was carried out, 896,917 indigenous people were recorded in the country. This is equivalent to an increase of 88.82 per cent in 12 years, whereas the growth in the total population over the same period was 6.5 per cent. The significant increase in the number of indigenous people in the period between censuses is mainly explained by the methodological changes made to improve accuracy. In the previous census, the colour or race questionnaire was applied to all people registered in the country. When respondents were residents of officially delimited indigenous lands, the supplementary question ‘Do you consider yourself indigenous?’ was asked. In 2022, this question was extended beyond territories delimited by the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI), Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, to other indigenous localities, which include indigenous groupings identified by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) and other indigenous localities in urban or rural areas with a proven or potential presence of indigenous people. In the 2022 Census, around 27.6 per cent of the country’s indigenous population declared themselves this way using this coverage question.

    According to the IBGE, just over half (51.2 per cent) of Brazil’s indigenous population is concentrated in the Legal Amazon, an area that corresponds to 59 per cent of Brazil’s territory and which is the largest socio-geographic division in the country containing all eight states (Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins) and part of the state of Maranhão (west of the 44ºW meridian), making up 5.0 million km². Of the country’s 5,570 municipalities, 4,832 (86.8 per cent) have indigenous residents.

    In fact, the majority of people who identify themselves as indigenous (63 per cent) live outside the 573 lands officially demarcated by FUNAI. No less than 42.51 per cent live in just two states, Amazonas (490,900) and Bahia (229,100). In the municipalities of the Legal Amazon, 867,919 individuals were counted, or 51.25 per cent of the total. The location with the largest indigenous population in the country is the Yanomami Indigenous Land (AM/RR), with 27,152 individuals, closely followed by the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land (RR), with 26,176 individuals, and by the Évare I Indigenous Land (AM), with 20,177 inhabitants. A total of 6,245 indigenous groups were identified in the country, 1,023 of them outside officially delimited Indigenous Lands.

    Despite being the state with the fifth highest number of indigenous residents, Roraima has the highest proportion of this population among its total inhabitants: 15.29 per cent. The state is followed by Amazonas (12.45 per cent), Mato Grosso do Sul (4.22 per cent), Acre (3.82 per cent) and Bahia (1.62 per cent). Of the 5,568 Brazilian municipalities, plus the Federal District and Fernando de Noronha, 4,832 had at least one indigenous resident in 2022, which represents 86.7 per cent of the total. Of these, 79 municipalities had more than 5,000 inhabitants who declared themselves indigenous. The three Brazilian municipalities with the highest number of indigenous people are in Amazonas: the capital, Manaus, with 71,700 people, São Gabriel da Cachoeira, with 48,300, and Tabatinga, with 34,500.

    The urban indigenous population faces shared challenges. Some towns and small cities in Amazonas, Roraima and Rio Negro are largely populated by indigenous displaced people or migrants, who live in basic conditions and experience urban poverty in all its aspects, including poor access to water and sanitation, violence, and women and girls being forced into the sex trade. In this context, displaced indigenous communities may end up struggling with urban life while trying to maintain their traditional cultures, particularly in larger cities such as Rio de Janeiro, where a large proportion of the thousands of indigenous residents are concentrated in favelas.

    Isolated indigenous peoples

    The term ‘isolated indigenous peoples’ refers specifically to indigenous communities who have no permanent relations with other populations or who interact infrequently, either with non-indigenous groups or with other indigenous peoples. According to FUNAI’s guidelines, ‘isolated’ indigenous communities are those who have not established permanent contact with the national population, as opposed to indigenous peoples who have long-standing and regular contact with non-indigenous people. To describe these autonomous communities, the Brazilian state uses the legal and administrative term ‘isolated’. In the field of indigenismo, however, there are others: ‘autonomous’, ‘resistant’, ‘hidden’, ‘uncontacted’, ‘in voluntary isolation’ or ‘free peoples’. They live physically apart from other collectives, which does not necessarily mean that there are no relationships with outsiders. They often give unequivocal warnings that they reject contact. They deliberately leave traces, coverings and traps – explicit messages denying invasion and destruction of their territories.

    Isolation is generally a choice made by these communities. There are no records of isolated indigenous peoples before the colonization of Brazilian territory. They prefer to keep their distance from non-indigenous people, and even from other ethnic groups, for various reasons. Historical records show that the decision to remain isolated can be the result of encounters with negative impacts on their societies, such as infections, diseases, epidemics, acts of physical violence, plundering of their natural resources or other events that made their territories vulnerable, threatening their lives, their rights and their historical continuity as culturally differentiated peoples. One of the main reasons for the refusal to maintain a link with the state and to exist in accordance with the logic of profit, is that many have already been victims of this situation, having experienced the killings of their peers. According to the Organização dos Povos Isolados (‘Organization of Isolated Peoples’), there are numerous cases of violence and displacement affecting isolated indigenous peoples during Brazil’s military dictatorship that remain little documented or addressed by the country’s justice system. This act of wanting to isolate themselves is also related to a desire for social and economic self-sufficiency, where they meet their social, material and spiritual needs autonomously, avoiding social relations that could trigger inter-ethnic tensions or conflicts.

    As there is generally no verbal communication with indigenous peoples in isolation, which could allow for a broader comprehension of their cultures, they can be identified by their geographical locations. There are names like ‘isolated from Alto Xeruã’, ‘isolated from Rio Copaca/Uarini’ and ‘isolated from Igarapé Lambança’. FUNAI, through its General Coordination of Isolated and Newly Contacted Indigenous and Ethno-Environmental Protection Fronts, is responsible for guaranteeing the continued isolation and traditional way of life of these communities. Contact can only take place when there is an imminent threat to this population.

    According to the NGO Observatory on Isolated Indigenous Peoples in Brazil, there are 114 cases of recorded presence of these peoples, of which 28 have been officially confirmed, after a process of localization and verification that must be carried out by specialists. Therefore, 86 officially recognized records still need to be researched and remain ‘unconfirmed’, which raises the vulnerability levels of these groups. There are at least 20 officially designated Indigenous Lands (TIs) where the presence of isolated indigenous peoples has been confirmed; this represents 23 per cent of the total surface area of TIs in the country. Of the 10 TIs most affected by deforestation between 2008 and 2021, seven have records of isolated peoples. In addition, 40 records were found showing the presence of isolated indigenous peoples outside the protection of TIs; approximately 15 of these are in regions with high rates of deforestation. The Brazilian Amazon is home to the largest number of isolated indigenous peoples known on the planet. In Brazil, only one isolated indigenous community lives outside the biome, the Avá-Canoeiro, who occupy parts of Tocantins and Goiás.

    The state of Amazonas has the greatest number of records of isolated indigenous peoples. There is evidence of their presence in practically every region of the state. The Vale do Javari Indigenous Land, located on the border with Peru, is where there is the largest number of these peoples in the country. The state of Acre also has a significant presence of isolated indigenous peoples. The corridor formed by Acre and the departments of Ucayali, Madre Dios and Cuzco, in Peru, is a territory that is home to an immense diversity of isolated, recently contacted or initially contacted peoples.

    According to a study published in 2023, carried out by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) in conjunction with COIAB (Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon), the indigenous lands inhabited by isolated indigenous peoples are the most threatened in the Amazon. Twelve territories with isolated indigenous peoples are at ‘high’ or ‘very high’ risk from mining, land grabbing, deforestation and burning. Four of these are in a critical situation: TI Ituna/Itatá, in Pará; TI Jacareúba/Katawixi, in Amazonas; TI Piripkura, in Mato Grosso; and TI Pirititi, in Roraima. According to the study, the territories of the Kayapó and Munduruku in Pará, the Yanomami in Roraima and Amazonas, and the Sawré Muybu, also in Pará, are also, in that order, the largest areas with the presence of isolated peoples invaded by miners.


    Afro-Brazilians form the majority of the population in the north-eastern states of Brazil. Their presence reflects the historical legacies of the large agricultural plantations and slave ports that dominated this warm temperate region, although Black people are also well represented in major industrial metropolitan areas throughout the country. Indeed, numerically, Brazil’s Afro-Brazilian population is no longer a minority: for the first time, in the 2010 Census, the number of people self-identifying as preto (Black) or pardo (‘brown’ – to denote mixed ancestry) exceeded the population of Brazilians self-identifying as white.

    Although the country had been collecting data on ethnicity since the 1872 Census, the information previously did not shed light on the socio-economic conditions of Afro-descendant communities. Data sets were limited and difficult to compare across years. Afro-Brazilians were categorized in the census as mixed ethnicity, pardo or preto. In the 1980s and 1990s, Afro-Brazilian activists tried to influence the wider society to recognize their African ancestry and not deny their Blackness. Black rights groups also analyzed the census data independently and found significant socio-economic gaps between ethnic groups. The data demonstrated the close correlation between people of African origin, whether they are classified as preto or pardo, and poverty. For practical and political purposes, most researchers, academics and activists used this combined data for all Afro-descendants because the socio-economic indicators consistently showed significant differences between Afro-Brazilians (pretos and pardos) and white Brazilians, and little difference among people of African descent.

    Though Brazil only abolished slavery in 1888, making it the last country in the Americas to do so, widespread intermarriage between different groups and the lack of formal segregation in the post-abolition era has meant that the country was subsequently presented as a ‘racial democracy’ without discrimination based on ethnicity. However, beginning in the 1970s, the Movimento Negro (or Black Movement) began to condemn ‘racial democracy’ as a false concept. Indeed, this representation has been increasingly questioned by critics in recent years, who have highlighted the ongoing reality of discrimination and repression experienced by particular ethnic groups.

    Quilombola communities are direct descendants of enslaved Black people in Brazil. Quilombo settlements were born out of Black people’s struggle for emancipation, being places that served as refuges during their escape from enslavement. (Quilombolas are the Afro-Brazilian residents of quilombos, settlements originally established by escaped slaves.) While the right of indigenous peoples to possess their lands has been guaranteed in all Brazilian Constitutions since 1934, it was only with the 1988 Federal Constitution, a century after the end of slavery in Brazil, that the right to the land occupied by the remaining quilombola communities since the slavery period was established, guaranteeing the right of quilombolas to own their land. The 1988 Constitution represented the formal recognition of quilombola territories by the Brazilian state. The constitutional provision is the result of the demands of various organizations representing communities with Black ancestry who, in resistance to historical oppression, have developed specific forms of custodianship of their land. By law, these areas are considered ‘Afro-Brazilian Cultural Territory’ and must receive support from the government for their preservation. The inclusion of this constitutional provision seeks to address, at least in part, the grave historical injustices committed by Brazil’s slave-owning society against Black people, through the recognition of the rights of communities descended from former slaves, finally giving them access to ownership of their land.

    Moreover, the right of quilombola communities to maintain their own culture has been established through Articles 215 and 216 of the Constitution. Article 215 stipulates that the state must protect Afro-Brazilian cultural manifestations. Article 216, on the other hand, is more general. This provision considers Brazilian cultural heritage, to be promoted and protected by the public authorities, as the material and immaterial assets (which include forms of expression, as well as ways of creating, doing and living) of the different groups that make up Brazilian society, including, without a doubt, Black and especially quilombola communities.

    Although Brazil’s Federal Constitution of 1988 recognized the ethnic and racial diversity of its population, the duty of the state to protect their ways of living, and the right of quilombola communities to their territories, it required additional legislative provisions to make these rights enforceable. For instance, Article 68 of the 1988 Transitional Constitutional Provisions Act (ADCT) states that ‘the remnants of quilombo communities that are occupying their lands are recognized as having definitive ownership, and the state must issue them the respective titles’. However, the ADCT did not provide a definition of ‘remnants of quilombo communities’ or traditionally occupied lands. In this sense, 1994 was a significant year for quilombola communities, when the Brazilian Anthropology Association (ABA) updated its influential definition of ‘quilombos’, combining ethnicity and history while recognizing the communities’ continued resistance, and thus bringing the legal category that is represented by the word ‘quilombo’ up to date:

    These are not isolated groups or a strictly homogeneous population. Likewise, they were not always formed from insurrectionary or rebellious movements, but above all, they consist of groups that have developed daily practices of resistance in order to maintain and reproduce their characteristic ways of life and consolidate their own territory. The identity of these groups is also not defined by the size and number of their members, but by their lived experience and shared versions of their trajectory and continuity as a group. In this sense, they constitute ethnic groups conceptually defined by anthropology as an organisational type that confers belonging through norms and means used to indicate affiliation or exclusion.

    Associação Brasileira de Antropologia, Documento do Grupo de Trabalho sobre Comunidades Negras Rurais, 17/18 October 1994.

    The first decree to standardize Article 68 of the ADCT was Decree 3.912 of 2001, which regulated ‘the provisions relating to the administrative process for identifying the remnants of quilombo communities and for the recognition, delimitation, demarcation, titling and real estate registration of the lands occupied by them’. Although it demanded a technical report on the ethnic, historical, cultural and socio-economic aspects of the group, the decree did not conceptualize the word ‘quilombo’. This was then revoked by Decree 4.887 of 2003, which in its Article 2 defined the term ‘remnants of quilombo communities’:

    Art. 2 Remnants of quilombo communities are considered, for the purposes of this Decree, to be ethnic-racial groups, according to criteria of self-attribution, with their own historical trajectory, endowed with specific territorial relations, with a presumption of black ancestry related to resistance to the historical oppression suffered.

    § 1 – For the purposes of this Decree, the characterisation of the remnants of quilombo communities will be attested to by the community’s own self-definition.

    § 2 – Lands occupied by remnants of quilombo communities are those used to guarantee their physical, social, economic and cultural reproduction.

    Since then, the term ‘remnants of quilombo communities’ has gradually been replaced by the term ‘quilombolas’ in reference to this population group. Use of the word ‘remnants’ is associated with a past from which some people with common characteristics ‘remain’. This idea is strongly questioned by organizations representing the quilombola population, who affirm their existence in the present day.

    In 2002, the Legislative Branch ratified Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO). This was promulgated by Decree No. 5.051 of 2004 of the Executive Branch, with immediate application in Brazil. By defining self-identification as the fundamental criterion for determining the ethnic belonging and identity of indigenous peoples and recognizing their right to free, prior and informed consent, ILO Convention No. 169 provides an influential framework even for quilombola communities. Although they are not indigenous as such, the legislation converges towards the understanding that self-identification is the fundamental criterion for recognizing the quilombola population and their rights, in line with international recommendations.

    Despite having the right to land guaranteed by law, the regularization of a quilombola territory is a long process, made up of several phases (recognition, certification and titling) and can take years. According to a survey carried out by the São Paulo Pro-Indian Commission (CPI-SP), the first six months of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term in office accounted for three partial titles, 21 declaratory ordinances and three Identification and Delimitation Reports (RTIDs) for quilombola lands, benefiting 4,090 families. In six months in 2023, the Lula government already recognized and declared more quilombola lands than during the whole four years of the preceding administration of the right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, which only published eight declaratory ordinances. In March 2023, titles were issued for the Brejo dos Crioulos Quilombola Lands (MG), Lagoa dos Campinhos and Serra da Guia (both in Sergipe), benefiting 960 families. In all three cases, titles were issued regularizing parts of the lands, but the titling processes were not closed. In addition to these processes of regularization, the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) recognized and declared 133,227.38 hectares of 21 Lands. The 2,634 quilombola families covered by the measure are distributed across 13 Brazilian states.

    The RTIDs of three quilombo lands belonging to 501 families were also published: Boa Vista do Pixaim (BA), Forte Príncipe da Beira (RO) and Bocaina e Camarinha (MT). The publication of the technical report is the first time a quilombola community has had its boundaries identified by the government.

    CENSO carried out the country’s first ever census of quilombolas in 2022. As a significant part of the quilombola territories have not been regularized and the quilombola population has significant territorial diversity, being present in different geographical situations, in urban and rural spaces, the census identified a significant number of quilombola locations outside the officially delimited territories. In Brazil, there are 1,327,802 self-declared quilombolas, but only 62,859 people, 4.3 per cent of the total, live on demarcated land. Recognition of the communities by INCRA, a necessary step for demarcation, is also low: only 494 quilombos are officially demarcated in Brazil, with 167,202 residents (12.6 per cent of the total). Of the 3,583 self-declared quilombola communities in Brazil, the lands of only 147 are demarcated. In addition, INCRA has 1,802 land regularization processes open by quilombolas awaiting demarcation.

    The quilombola population is distributed among the following Brazilian states: Amazonas, Alagoas, Amapá, Bahia, Ceará, Distrito Federal, Espírito Santo, Goiás, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Pará, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Paraná, Piauí, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Norte, Rio Grande do Sul, Rondônia, Santa Catarina, São Paulo, Sergipe and Tocantins. The states of Bahia and Maranhão account for half (50.16 per cent) of Brazil’s quilombola population. In Bahia, 397,059 quilombolas live (29.90 per cent of the census population). In Maranhão, 269,074 people were registered (20.26 per cent of the total). In third and fourth place are Minas Gerais (135,310) and Pará (135,033), which together account for 20.36 per cent of the country’s quilombola population. Quilombolas are the majority (over 50 per cent) in five municipalities in the country: Alcântara (MA), 84.57 per cent; Berilo (MG), 58.37 per cent; Cavalcante (GO), 57.08 per cent; Serrano do Maranhão (MA), 55.74 per cent; and Bonito (BA), 50.28 per cent.

    Other minorities

    Brazil’s Jewish population, estimated at around 110,000, lives mainly in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre, Belém and Manaus. The country has the second largest Jewish community in Latin America. Since 1945, Jews have played a part in all areas of Brazilian political, economic and military life. Historically antisemitism was not a major social problem in independent Brazil, and Jewish communities were able to retain their religion while serving in public life, unlike in neighbouring countries, such as Argentina, where conversion was required in order to obtain high-ranking positions in the military and government.

    Since 2001, violence against Brazilian Jews has increased. Brazil has several neo-Nazi and antisemitic organizations, active since the 1930s. Carecas (skinhead) groups operate in Brazil, mainly in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Like their counterparts in Europe, many of them are neo-Nazi, antisemitic and xenophobic. The Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB), founded in 1951, represents all the Jewish federations and communities in Brazil and campaigns against antisemitism in the media and more generally in Brazil. Significant numbers of Brazilian Jews have reportedly been emigrating to Israel in recent years to escape the country’s economic and political instability. According to the Report on Antisemitic and Related Events in Brazil produced by the Jewish Observatory of Human Rights in Brazil, under the government of President Bolsonaro, between 1 January 2019 and 30 June 2022, there were a total of 55 cases of antisemitism and 114 cases of neo-Nazism. Most of the violations, 52 per cent, were perpetrated by extremists and Bolsonaro supporters. According to a report issued by the Henry Sobel Jewish Observatory for Human Rights in Brazil, manifestations of intolerance and antisemitic attitudes have become increasingly common in Brazilian society and politics, with 26 records of such actions in 2019. In the first half of 2020 alone, the number reached 30 records.

    Excluding the period 1941-50, Japanese migration to Brazil has continued uninterrupted since 1908. By the 1980s their numbers had reached 750,000. Today, Brazil has the largest Japanese-descendant population outside of Japan, and there are strong ties between the two countries. Prior to 1914, the majority of Japanese immigrants were contracted labourers. Later, efforts were made to establish agricultural settlements. Many also worked on coffee plantations. Although they were the subject of popular protests by xenophobic elements in Brazil in the early 1900s, Japanese and their descendants have become acculturated, and many have joined the country’s middle class; trends in social mobility, industrialization and urbanization contribute constantly to this process. The largely Japanese-descendant Liberdade neighbourhood is a prominent example of the Japanese-descendant presence in the heavily industrialized city of São Paulo. Mixed marriages among Issei (first-generation immigrants) are almost unknown, although they are common among second- and third-generation Japanese Brazilians living in urban areas.

    Brazil is known for its ethnic and cultural diversity, resulting from the influences of various people who migrated to the country and helped build what we now recognize as Brazilian identity. While some cultures are exalted, others suffer erasure, as is the case with Roma culture, which nevertheless continues to shape aspects of Brazilian life, including through music, dance and cuisine. Roma have lived in Brazil since the 16th century, but they are largely rendered invisible and do not have access to public initiatives or policies. There are three main communities in Brazil: the Calon, who lived on the Iberian Peninsula and came to Brazil during colonization; the Rom, from Eastern Europe; and the Sinti, from Central Europe. The last two groups migrated to Brazil during the Second World War, fleeing Nazi persecution. Each community has its own language and customs. Within each group it is also possible to have sub-groups. As is true elsewhere, the term Roma is used for the minority as a whole.

    It is difficult to estimate the size of the Roma population in Brazil, as they have never been included in the census. Roma representatives have been demanding to be included in the census since the early 2000s but have so far not been successful. The resulting lack of disaggregated data and statistics on Roma in Brazil contributes to their lack of targeted public initiatives, increasing their social vulnerability. The lack of data also has a direct impact on any efforts to tackle child labour and protect Roma children and adolescents. In 2023, the National Congress, through the Commission on Human Rights, Minorities and Racial Equality of the Chamber of Deputies, held a public hearing with members of the government and Roma representatives, concerning the proposed Statute of the Roma People, which is currently being reviewed.

    Brazil is a predominantly Christian country with Islam being a minority religion, first brought by African slaves and then by Lebanese and Syrian immigrants. According to the First Report on Islamophobia in Brazil, published in June 2022 by the University of São Paulo, the most common victims of Islamophobic and anti-Muslim violence in the Muslim community are women who wear the hijab. Most of the attacks take place in public places but also in schools and universities, and at work. Seventy-three per cent of those interviewed said that they had faced aggressive behaviour on the streets. Most of the attacks were verbal, although 10 per cent of respondents said that they had been physically assaulted. As noted by the researchers, there is a class element as well. Muslim women living in poorer neighbourhoods are more likely to walk and take public transport and are therefore less protected from attacks. Women who convert to Islam are particularly vulnerable, with 42 per cent of converts facing rejection by their families of their beliefs.

  • Brazil’s diverse population of over 203 million is comprised primarily of Euro- and Afro-descendants, the latter including both preto (Black) and pardo (mixed) individuals, as well as a smaller but highly diverse indigenous population, a minority comprising Japanese-descendants, and other smaller minorities. But while generations of intermarriage and the absence of a formal system of segregation has led some scholars to celebrate the country as a ‘racial democracy’ where different ethnicities have been able to enjoy equal rights, indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in Brazil still struggle with the legacy of colonialism and with racist stereotypes reinforcing inequalities – a major element in what has been described as a ‘dictatorship of whiteness’.

    The 2022 Census showed that there has been a reduction among those who declare themselves as being white. In 2012, 46.3 per cent of Brazilians identified themselves as white. In 2022, the percentage fell to 42.8 per cent, a reduction of 3.5 per cent. All of Brazil’s major regions registered a drop in the number of people who consider themselves white, with the South standing out: between 2012 and 2022, this share varied by 6 per cent, from 78.8 per cent to 72.8 per cent in the region. The proportion of the Brazilian population that declares itself Black has jumped in 10 years. In 2022, 10.6 per cent of Brazilians declared themselves Black, compared to just 7.4 per cent in 2012. It was the biggest increase among Brazilian racial and ethnic groups. The greatest number of people are those who declare themselves pardo, with 45.3 per cent of responses in 2022.

    Nevertheless, the census also highlighted the severe disparities that continue to divide Brazilian society along ethnic lines. Besides experiencing widespread social exclusion, lower wages and fewer educational opportunities, Afro-Brazilians also suffer significantly higher levels of violence than Brazilians of European descent – a trend that appears to be increasing today. According to the official Atlas of Violence published in 2023, produced by the Institute of Applied Economic Research in 2021, 79 per cent of all homicide victims in Brazil were Black.

    The Atlas also points out that the homicide rate for Black women grew by 0.5 per cent in the country between 2020 and 2021. In the same period, there was a 2.8 per cent reduction for non-Black women, which includes white, Asian and indigenous women. In 2021, 2,601 Black women were victims of homicide in Brazil. This figure represents 67.4 per cent of all women murdered. It also corresponds to a rate of 4.3 victims for every 100,000 people. This rate is 79 per cent higher than that of non-Black women. With regard to murders of women, it is important to note that the crime of feminicide was first categorized in 2015, which is still very recent. As such, law enforcement agencies are still in the process of understanding and applying the correct classification. The crime of feminicide is characterized as murder involving domestic and family violence, contempt, or discrimination against women. As such, not every homicide in which a woman is the victim qualifies as femicide.

    Despite this harsh reality, Brazil’s Afro-descendant population has achieved international fame for its rich cultural heritage. Afro-Brazilian culture has a history that dates back to the arrival of the first slaves from West Africa. To preserve their heritage, they developed sophisticated ways to maintain their cultures in secret, which continue to be practised in different forms to this day: for example, the spiritual practices of Candomblé and Capoeira, a martial art and dance sport that is now celebrated worldwide. There are also strong African heritage roots in the annual Carnival in Brazil.

    Just as Brazil’s large Afro-descendant community is a legacy of colonialism, the decimation of the country’s indigenous peoples from a population of tens of millions to a fraction of that size today began with the arrival of the first European settlers. Today, they continue to be marginalized and struggle to secure recognition of their cultures and land rights, and other rights. Notwithstanding these challenges, Brazil’s diverse indigenous population still resides across the country, with 305 different ethnic groups and 274 indigenous languages. This includes at least a hundred indigenous communities without contact. In 2021, a field research team organized by National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI) identified a previously unknown group of isolated indigenous people in the south of the state of Amazonas. According to the researchers, the community comprises dozens of individuals that inhabit a forest area in the municipality of Lábrea (AM), near the Purus River. With the discovery, the group is the 115th isolated indigenous people identified in Brazil.

    Indigenous cultures in Brazil were systematically attacked by the original Portuguese settlers, but the more remote communities, particularly in the Amazon, managed to retain their cultures largely intact due to their relative isolation from the European invasion. Nowadays, after many years of invisibility, indigenous cultures enjoy renewed appreciation: Amazonian artists and performers are famed for their elaborate woven handicrafts and their dances, traditional dress and heritage. Furthermore, with increasing international awareness about the challenges of climate change and resource destruction, Brazil’s indigenous peoples are gaining recognition for their culture of respectful stewardship of the Amazonian rainforest and other eco-systems. Yet this recognition comes at a time when indigenous cultures are as much under threat as ever – particularly in the form of land expropriation. Their locations in often remote and undeveloped areas rich in forestry and minerals have placed them at particular risk of logging, mining and other activities.

    Brazil’s rapid development and poorly regulated resource exploitation has resulted in widespread ecological destruction, including the devastation of large swathes of pristine rainforest – exacting a heavy toll not only on the environment but also on the cultures, spirituality and livelihoods of the many minority and indigenous communities who depend on it for their survival. While corruption, discrimination and the unchecked power of the country’s business elite have contributed to catastrophic levels of deforestation, environmental activists have highlighted the positive role that stronger land rights and community stewardship could play in conservation.

    Violence affecting indigenous and Afro-Brazilian communities

    Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian communities frequently suffer land grabbing at the hands of agribusinesses, other corporations and local farmers, often accompanied by extraordinary levels of violence.

    Quilombola territories (i.e. Afro-Brazilian lands originally settled by escaped slaves) are vulnerable to conflicts over land ownership, and face violence and intimidation from criminals such as drug traffickers. After all, only 12.6 per cent of quilombolas live in officially titled territories. In the state of Bahia, home to the largest number of quilombos in Brazil, land conflicts around quilombola communities are one facet of the growing public security crisis facing the state. Bahia is also witnessing escalating disputes between criminal factions, leading to massacres of civilians and an increasingly militarized and lethal police response over the last eight years.

    In 2023, quilombola leader and yalorixá (spiritual leader) Bernadete Pacífico, 72, was shot dead in Simões Filho (BA) six years after the murder of one of her sons, Fábio Gabriel Pacífico dos Santos, or Binho do Quilombo, in 2017. She was the matriarch of the Pitanga dos Palmares quilombo and the former Secretary of Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality in Simões Filho. Bernadete was known as Mãe Bernadete and spent her life fighting for the rights of quilombolas. Since 2017, she had been fighting for justice for Binho’s murder, which to this day remains unpunished. Bernadete had long been denouncing the threats she received and the persecution of quilombolas.

    Peaceful occupation by indigenous communities of their traditional lands has become increasingly common in recent years, despite the significant threat of retaliatory violence. These communities are also at the forefront of land rights activism, which frequently results in the murder and intimidation of those involved, with the NGO Global Witness recording 34 documented killings of land and environmental activists in 2022 – an increase from 26 in 2021 and the second highest number in any country worldwide. These murders, however, are only a fraction of the widespread violence targeting indigenous communities in Brazil.

    In April 2017, for instance, reports emerged of an assault on indigenous Gamela by farmers armed with rifles and machetes that left a number of community members injured, with their hands and feet severed by their assailants. The community, displaced from the area during the military dictatorship in the 1960s, had recently reoccupied their traditional land in protest against the historic theft of their territory. Survivors alleged that police officials failed to intervene to prevent the attack.

    The Guarani-Kaiowá are one of the indigenous peoples most affected by recent violence and conflicts. They have lost approximately 360 of their peers as a result of violent attacks from the 1990s to mid-2022. The Guarani-Kaiowá people in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul have for years faced insecurity without any definitive solution to their plight. They claim the Guyraroká Indigenous Land, comprising approximately 12,000 hectares in the municipality of Caarapó. According to their leaders, around 24 families live there with a total of approximately 120 people. Anthropological research has confirmed the historical connection of the Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous people to Guyraroká, and the Indigenous Land has already had its declaratory decree published by the Ministry of Justice in 2009. It awaits definitive demarcation and final approval by FUNAI and the Presidency of the Republic. However, conflicts with local landowners and sugarcane producers, together with pressure from the ruralist caucus in the National Congress and the actions of the judiciary itself, for instance through the delays caused by members of the Federal Supreme Court, have hindered solutions that protects indigenous peoples. In May 2022, a Guarani-Kaiowá community member was killed on a rural property in Coronel Sapucaia, in the state of Mato Grosso. This incident led to hundreds of Kaiowás occupying a farm in Amambai that they assert as part of their territory. Two weeks later, the place was the scene of a sordid and disproportionate police action that culminated in the death of one indigenous person and at least eight wounded.

    The constant persecution of indigenous populations also affects the Guajajara, which is one of the most numerous indigenous peoples in Brazil, according to the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). Speaking a language belonging to the Tupi-Guarani family, the Guajajara people live in more than ten indigenous lands in Maranhão, located on the eastern edge of the Amazon – the central region of the state. The main threat to the lives of the Guajajara comes from attacks by loggers, who use intimidation strategies, arson and murder to halt the process of land demarcation and expel them from the region.

    Illegal mining on indigenous lands

    According to a study published in August 2022 by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in partnership with the University of South Alabama in the United States, illegal mining on indigenous territories in the Legal Amazon increased by 1,217 per cent in 35 years, jumping from 7.45 km² affected by this activity in 1985 to 102.16 km² in 2020. Almost all (95 per cent) of these wildcat mining areas are concentrated in three Indigenous Lands: Kayapó, followed by Munduruku and Yanomami. The steady increase in illegal mining on indigenous territories worsened after 2017. In that year, illegal mining occupied 35 km² of indigenous land and, by 2020, it had increased to almost 103 km². The study concluded that most of the illegal mining inside indigenous land in the Legal Amazon is related to gold extraction (99.5 per cent) and only 0.5 per cent to tin mining. This activity is most intense in the Kayapó Indigenous Land, where the estimated area occupied by miners in 2020 (77.1 km²) was almost 1,000 per cent higher than in 1985, of 7.2 km². In the Munduruku Indigenous Land, mining activity has grown significantly since 2016, jumping from 4.6 km² to 15.6 km² in just five years. The same pattern was found in the Yanomami Indigenous Land, where illegal mining occupied 0.1 km² in 2016 and increased to 4.2 km² in 2020.

    Mercury contamination

    The indigenous peoples of the Amazon depend on natural resources to live, but the growing impacts of other human activities threaten their health and livelihoods. In the middle Tapajós River, in the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairão, in the state of Pará, the Munduruku indigenous people are suffering from the impact of mercury, which is widely used in mining activities particularly for gold. A study published in 2020 and carried out by Fiocruz in partnership with WWF-Brazil indicated that all the Munduruku participants in the research were affected by this contaminant. Of every ten participants, six had mercury levels above safe limits: around 57.9 per cent of participants had mercury levels above 6µg.g-1 – which is the maximum safe limit set by health agencies. Contamination is highest in the areas most impacted by mining, particularly in villages on the banks of the affected rivers. In these locations, nine out of ten participants showed a high level of contamination. Children are also affected: around 15.8 per cent of them showed signs of neurodevelopmental problems.

    The most critical situation was found in Sawré Aboy village, on the banks of the Jamanxim River. The right-bank tributary of the Tapajós is one of the waterways currently most affected by illegal mining. In that village, 9 out of 10 people assessed had mercury levels above what is considered safe. The results confirm that the closer you are to the mining activity, the higher the contamination rate.

    The study also concluded that fish are contaminated, including those eaten by Munduruku villagers. Data obtained through interviews indicated that 96 per cent of the participants ate fish regularly. A total of 88 fish were caught by the research team, belonging to 18 different species: all of them were contaminated. As a result, the study discovered that the estimated daily intakes of mercury for the participants, according to the five species of carnivorous fish sampled, were 4 to 18 times higher than the safe limits recommended by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    A 2022 report by the Federal Police on river contamination in the Yanomami Indigenous Land (TI)(AM-RR) revealed that four rivers in the region are highly contaminated with mercury: 8,600 per cent higher than the maximum stipulated for water for human consumption. Samples of running water were analyzed from the Couto de Magalhães, Catrimani, Parima and Uraricoera rivers, close to illegal mining sites where invaders use products harmful to nature, especially mercury, during mineral extraction. With regard to water used to irrigate crops, as well as for fishing and navigation, the samples showed a mercury content of 860 per cent above the safety limit. Mercury contaminates animals, river water, the soil and even the air. Highly toxic and difficult to remove, the metal represents a very serious health and environmental risk.

    In the beginning of 2023, the humanitarian crisis experienced by the Yanomami people came to light. Brazil’s largest indigenous reserve, the Yanomami Indigenous Land, covers more than 10 million hectares spread over the states of Amazonas and Roraima, where most of the Yanomami live. The report Yanomami under attack, released in 2022, by the Hutukara Associação Yanomami (HAY) revealed that the devastation caused by illegal mining on Yanomami territory had grown by 46 per cent compared with 2021. This represented the worst year-on-year increase in destruction in the Yanomami Indigenous Land’s history since the demarcation and approval of the territory almost 30 years ago. In 2021, the devastation affected 3,272 hectares, compared to 2,234 hectares in 2020 — 1,038 hectares more in one year. The report states that from October 2018 to the end of 2021, the area destroyed by illegal mining almost doubled in size, exceeding 3,200 hectares.

    The Yanomami Indigenous Land has been invaded since the 1970s. The intrusion reached its peak during the 1980s, when more than 40,000 miners arrived – five times more than the indigenous population in the territory – bringing infectious and sexually transmitted diseases, hunger, destruction and increasing violence. Other serious harms include the grooming and coercion of young people for sex, as well as the contamination of rivers, and the poisoning of people, animals and crops.

    In the 30 years since demarcation, the territory is currently experiencing the worst levels of environmental devastation, which directly affects the way of life of the Yanomami people. In January 2023, the Sumaúma news agency reported that 570 children up to five years old died of preventable diseases between 2019 and 2022 in the Yanomami Indigenous Land. The photos of malnourished children and elderly people published in the press and on social networks caused commotion in Brazil and abroad. The Missão Yanomami report, published by the Ministry of Health in January 2023, showed that 332 Yanomami had died in 2020, with a mortality rate of 10.7 per 1,000 inhabitants. The percentage of deaths was 40.6 per cent higher than in 2018, when there were 236 deaths. The number reached 249 in 2021 and 209 between January and September 2022.The reasons for the current situation are the breakdown of indigenous health care and the invasion of illegal small-scale miners known as garimpeiros, contributing to a series of health, environmental, sociocultural and economic impacts on Yanomami communities. The Minister of Justice, Flávio Dino, ordered the Federal Police in January 2023 to investigate possible crimes of genocide and omission of aid by the previous administration in the indigenous territory.


    It can nevertheless often be government-sponsored megaprojects that are displacing or otherwise affecting local communities, including indigenous peoples, such as the controversial hydroelectric Belo Monte Dam being built on the edge of indigenous territory. Tens of thousands have been displaced as a result of the Belo Monte Dam, with some estimates ranging as high as 50,000 people. This development, besides undermining the lives of local inhabitants long dependent on the Xingu River, is also encouraging mass migration of labourers into the region. This rapid urban development and the indirect effects of sudden, unregulated investment have devastated local indigenous communities, whose traditional cultures, livelihoods and organizational structures have been threatened by these changes.

    Concerns about state-sponsored land expropriation only intensified following a major proposed amendment to Brazil’s Constitution, the Constitution Amendment Bill 215/2000, known as PEC 215, which would devolve the authority to protect and allocate indigenous territories from the Executive branch (the President, FUNAI and the Ministry of Justice) to the National Congress. As hundreds of its members are reportedly associated with ruralist business interests such as the extractive industries and agricultural corporations, the amendment is widely expected to pave the way for land allocation that favours the agricultural and mining sectors, at the risk of many already beleaguered indigenous territories. Among other provisions, PEC 215 would enable a range of caveats and exceptions to current protections that could jeopardize the integrity of communal areas and expose them to the risk of redevelopment. Although the amendment was originally proposed during the presidency of Dilma Rousseff, since her impeachment in 2016 it was then championed by her successor President Michel Temer, a right-wing politician with strong links to agribusiness. If approved, it could present a major threat to the ability of many indigenous communities to maintain their way of life and identity in the future. At the present moment, PEC 215 has been archived by the House of Representatives.

    Search for justice

    In December 2014, the final report of the National Truth Commission (CNV) was released, indicating that at least 8,350 indigenous people were killed during the military dictatorship between 1964 and 1984. However, only ten peoples were studied by the collegiate body, representing 3.3 per cent of the ethnic groups in Brazil, which indicates that this number could be much higher. Of the country’s 305 indigenous peoples, the CNV identified and recorded serious violations of the rights of the Tapayuna, Parakanã, Araweté, Arara, Panará, Waimini-Atroari, Cinta-Larga, Xetá, Yanomami and Xavante peoples. Throughout the years of state repression, the ‘guardians of the forest’ suffered torture and countless attempts at dehumanization, such as arbitrary imprisonment, slavery-like labour and a ban on speaking their mother tongue.

    In Minas Gerais, in 1969, the Krenak reformatory was set up in the municipality of Resplendor. In this place, compared to a concentration camp by the CNV, indigenous people from 23 ethnic groups were imprisoned. The violence suffered by the victims came to light in a report written in 1967 by the then prosecutor Jader de Figueiredo Correia, from the Ministry of the Interior. The document, which was over 7,000 pages long, disappeared for four decades and was only found in 2013 at the Indian Museum (now the Museum of the Indigenous Populations) in Rio de Janeiro. The evidence contained in the report were the result of an expedition that travelled more than 16,000 kilometres at the request of the then Minister of the Interior, Albuquerque Lima, in 1967. Among the forms of torture, the prosecutor reported ‘human hunts’ carried out with machine guns and dynamite thrown from airplanes, ‘purposeful inoculations of smallpox’ in isolated villages and donations of sugar mixed with the poison strychnine.

    The CNV proposed 13 recommendations for reparations to indigenous peoples following these and other grave human rights violations. In addition to setting up a National Indigenous Truth Commission, the CNV recommended a public apology from the state, the creation and strengthening of public policies, as well as the establishment of a ‘working group within the Ministry of Justice to organise the instruction of amnesty and reparation processes for indigenous people affected by acts of exception, with special attention to the cases of the Krenak Reformatory and the Indigenous Rural Guard’. In 2021, the Federal Court condemned the Union for crimes against the indigenous peoples of Minas Gerais during the dictatorship. The judgement ordered the federal government to speed up the process of demarcating the Sete Salões land – considered sacred by the Krenak.

    In April 2023, the Minister of Human Rights and Citizenship, Silvio Almeida, announced the creation of a commission to monitor compliance with the recommendations of the CNV. Of the 29 recommendations made in total by the CNV, a recent analysis by the Vladimir Herzog Institute and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Brazil found that only two had been carried out, namely the repeal of the National Security Law and the introduction of custody hearings for persons in detention, neither of which specifically addressed the wrongs done to indigenous peoples.

  • Environment

    Brazil is the largest and most populous country in South America. Minority and indigenous communities live in all regions of this diverse country. Brazil has approximately 500 million hectares covered by forests. According to data obtained by the Brazilian Forest Service based on surveys conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in 2018, 97 per cent of this area is composed of natural forests. The Amazon Rainforest alone occupies more than 334 million hectares of the national territory and is home to 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. The rest of the country is covered by vegetation whose characteristics vary among the biomes. The Atlantic Forest, for example, has more than 19 million hectares of natural forest.

    The country’s unique ecological resources, in particular the large area of the Amazon Rainforest within its border, have however been threatened by continued deforestation mainly for agriculture and especially for cattle raising activities. The construction of roads, hydroelectric plants, mining and an intensive urbanization process also contribute significantly to the reduction of forests. The construction of the 2,500-kilometre Southern Interoceanic Highway linking the Pacific Ocean in Peru to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil is focused on increasing trade between Peru and Brazil. In Peru, the project crosses the departments of Cusco, Madre de Dios and Puno – located in the south-east of the Peruvian Amazon. The construction of the motorway has left considerable socio-environmental damage along its route, including in indigenous territories.

    According to the Institute of Man and Environment of the Amazon (Imazon), the area of the Amazon Rainforest that was deforested reached 9,069 km² between January and September 2022, which corresponded to almost eight times the size of the city of Rio de Janeiro. It was the largest devastation in 15 years, since Imazon implemented its Deforestation Alert System (SAD) for the Legal Amazon in 2008. In addition to deforestation, which is the total removal of vegetation, forest degradation caused by burning and logging has increased by 359 per cent in the Amazon.

    During the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro, the destruction of Brazil’s natural resources was rampant. The government sought the systematic dismantling of the structures and public policies that promoted environmental protection, in addition to the premeditated absence of any plan, goal or budget capable of protecting Brazil’s natural wealth.  In organizations such as the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) the environmental workers suffered punishments and warnings and were even threatened with being transferred to another city if they expressed an opinion that was contrary to the interests of the bosses and coordinators.

    The report The financing of environmental management in Brazil: an assessment from the federal public budget, published by the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) found that funding reductions have affected key agencies for combating deforestation in the Amazon, such as IBAMA, ICMBio and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

    Moreover, during President Bolsonaro’s time in office, the agribusiness sector grew stronger both politically and financially. The agribusiness lobby in Brazil is institutionalized. It functions in the National Congress through the Parliamentary Front for Agribusiness (FPA, formalized under this name in 2008), the most organized face of the rural caucus in Brasília. One of the aims of the group is to weaken the state’s defense of territories belonging to indigenous peoples and quilombolas (the Afro-Brazilian descendants of escaped slaves), as well as its environmental conservation units, in the face of the expansion of agribusiness. The sector increasingly needs to expand its territory to maintain its profit margins.

    The scenario is changing after President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s election in 2022. In June 2023, the government announced a package of measures to expand environmental protection policies. Created at the start of President Lula’s first administration, the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon (PPCDAm) was mainly responsible for the 83 per cent drop in deforestation from 2004 to 2012. With the revocation of the PPCDAm in 2019 and the dismantling of environmental agencies under the last government, deforestation reached the 13,000 km² mark in 2021, which had not happened since 2006 and took the country further away from the targets set by international agreements. The new plan establishes a commitment to achieve zero deforestation by 2030. It is structured around four thematic axes: sustainable production activities; environmental monitoring and control; land and territorial planning; and regulatory and economic instruments aimed at reducing deforestation and implementing the rest of the plan.

    According to data from Imazon, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest fell by 40 per cent in the period called the ‘deforestation calendar’ – which runs from 1 August 2022 to 31 July 2023. During this period, 6,447 km² of forest were cut down, of which 4,045 km² occurred during the final months of the Bolsonaro administration. Eight of the nine states in the Legal Amazon showed a drop in the figures. Considering the period covered by the Lula administration alone – 1 January to 31 July – the reduction in forest destruction was 63 per cent. In the first seven months of the year, 2,402 km² were cut down, compared to 6,528 km² in the same months of the previous year. Roraima was the only state in which forest destruction increased, from 75 km² from January to July 2022 to 114 km² in the same period this year – an increase of 52 per cent. In Mato Grosso, Amazonas and Pará, despite the drop, the numbers remain high. These three states are responsible for 76 per cent of the deforestation (1,831 km²).

    A 2023 study by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) carried out in partnership with Greenpeace Brazil, the Indigenous Research and Training Institute (Iepé), the Socio-Environmental Institute and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Brazil) indicated that fish from all six Amazonian states showed levels of mercury contamination above the acceptable limit (greater than or equal to 0.5 micrograms per gram) set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The worst rates are in Roraima, where 40 per cent of fish have mercury above the recommended limit, and in Acre, where the rate is 35.9 per cent. The lowest indicators are in Pará (15.8 per cent) and Amapá (11.4 per cent).

    Droughts and floods are normal phenomena in the Amazon. Normally, the rainy season runs from November to March, and the dry season begins in April and ends in mid-October. However, in 2023 the Amazon region experienced a severe drought, which affected the livelihoods of indigenous and riverside populations. Lack of drinking water, uncontrolled fires, deaths of dolphins, difficulties with transport including the cutting off of riverine communities, interruption in energy production and increased public health challenges were some of the consequences of the drought, which was caused by the convergence of the El Niño phenomenon, high temperatures in the North Atlantic and global warming. According to data from Cemaden (Natural Disaster Monitoring and Alert Centre), linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, parts of Brazil have recorded the lowest rainfall in the July-October period in the last 40 years. In the state of Amazonas, 50 municipalities – out of a total of 62 – declared a state of emergency. In the state of Rondônia, the low level of the Madeira River led to the temporary suspension of the operation of the Santo Antônio hydroelectric plant, one of the largest in Brazil. In the state of Acre, Rio Branco needed to be supplied with drinking water by water trucks like those that operate in the semi-arid north-east of Brazil.

    Brazil’s largest urban environmental catastrophe is currently underway in the state of Alagoas. The disaster is happening in Maceió, the capital of Alagoas and a key centre of Afro-Brazilian heritage and culture. In 2018, caves opened by the extraction of rock salt, carried out by Braskem since the late 1990s, began to close after five neighbourhoods began to sink. Since 2019, almost 60,000 people have had to leave their homes for fear of earthquakes that have created cracks in properties in the region. According to the Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM), the exploitation of 35 rock salt mines by Braskem was responsible for leaving thousands of people homeless and transforming once bustling and populous neighbourhoods into practically deserted places. Now, the mine is in danger of collapsing, as the ground has caved in by two metres and continues to sink at a rate of 0.3 cm per hour.

    President Lula’s new administration is promoting an environmental agenda to put Brazil back on the international stage. Lula’s participation at the 2022 UN climate conference known as COP27 (or the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC) suggested that environmental protection would be one of the priorities of his government. He launched Belém’s candidacy to host the 2025 climate conference, or COP30. The UN accepted the candidacy, so the city will indeed hold COP30, a move that is seen as a major comeback for the country on environmental issues.

    During the inauguration ceremony of the new cabinet, ministers promised the revocation of a series of actions taken by the previous government. The highlights were the return of the Amazon Fund; the rescinding of a decree that legalized illegal mining in the Amazon; and the restructuring of the National Council on the Environment (Conama). Nevertheless, President Lula has still faced opposition in the the National Congress over the country’s environmental protection needs. A congressional committee approved Provisional Measure 1,154 of 2023, setting out the mandates of the new government and its ministries. Unfortunately, the committee significantly reduced the powers of the Ministries of the Environment and Indigenous Peoples. The revised text removed the ANA (National Water and Basic Sanitation Agency) from the Environment Ministry and transferred it to the MIDR (Ministry of Integration and Regional Development). The competence to deal with the national water resources policy was also passed to the MIDR. The Indigenous Peoples Ministry lost its mandate to demarcate indigenous lands, returning this role to the Ministry of Justice.

    In May 2023, IBAMA vetoed a request from Petrobras to carry out test drilling of an oil well off the coast of Amapá. Since then, the government has upheld the agency’s decision, showing support for Marina Silva, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. However, President Lula said he found it ‘difficult’ that oil exploration near the mouth of the Amazon River would cause environmental problems in the region. In a further sign that economic interests can outweigh environmental concerns, Lula also approved a package in the same month to stimulate car production, giving tax incentives to an industry that produces vehicles that run on fossil fuels. Finally, OPEC+ has been courting Brazil for some years, but in December 2023, the government confirmed that it was reviewing an invitation to join the group from 2024. The announcement was highly controversial as it coincided with Lula’s attendance at COP28. The President later clarified that Brazil would only become an observer of OPEC+ and not a full member.


    Brazil’s history of human settlement stretches back thousands of years before the beginning of the colonial era. With the help of satellite images, archaeologists have recently documented traces of large-scale structures stretching across the southern Amazon region. The researchers have been drawing on satellite image surveys while conducting site visits and excavations. In 2018, they published the resulting report describing the remnants of a vast network of fortified settlements, ceremonial centres and mounded ring villages, dating back to approximately 1250-1500 CE. The structures span an 1,800-kilometre belt from the Llanos de Moxos plains of Bolivia through the southwestern Amazonian Rainforest of Acre to the Upper Xingu in Mato Grosso state in Brazil. The earthworks are believed to have been built by Arawak-speaking and other peoples, sharing a common culture of land stewardship, cross-regional integration and extensive exchanges between communities.

    By the time of the arrival of the Portuguese – unlike most of Latin America, Brazil was colonized by Portugal – it is estimated that as many as four million indigenous inhabitants, including Tupinambá, Munduruku and Yanomami, lived across the territory.

    Initial relations between the Portuguese and the indigenous population were friendly but colonists eager to exploit trade in wood and sugar soon provoked conflict. The massacres and slavery which almost exterminated the coastal Tupi initiated a pattern repeated over the next 500 years. Rival colonial powers, France and the Netherlands, exploited existing hostilities between indigenous communities. Colonists brought dysentery, smallpox, influenza and the plague. Epidemics of these European diseases swept through the reduções (settlements) instituted by Jesuit missionaries, killing many thousands of indigenous people within a few decades. According to the NGO Survival International, the indigenous population of Brazil is less than seven per cent of what it was in 1500. It is thought that during pre-colonial times there existed up to 2,000 distinct tribes and nations, while today only an estimated 305 of these remain.

    In the early nineteenth century, Brazil increased its traditional exports of cotton, sugar and coffee, encroaching still further on indigenous lands. A reported 87 indigenous peoples were exterminated in the first half of the twentieth century through contact with expanding colonial frontiers. Between 1964 and 1984 foreign companies and international lending banks tightened their control over Brazil’s economic structure, continuing to expand the colonizing frontier. Roads stretching across the Amazon basin forced the removal of 25 indigenous peoples at the time and the same trends continue. Pressures to expand the Brazilian economy have continued to aggressively erode the Amazon.

    After the decimation of the local indigenous population in the seventeenth century an estimated 3.65 million enslaved Africans were imported to Brazil, and the majority of these were brought to Brazil’s first capital, Salvador da Bahia. Urban slave labour differed from plantation life; slaves were not passive victims of the system, and many escaped to establish their own quilombos, or settlements.

    Brazil did not abolish slavery until 1888. The abolition of slavery was the result of a process of popular struggle, which was supported by considerable portions of the Brazilian society and was characterized by slave resistance. Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. The Black population did not receive support to integrate into the free society, being marginalized and excluded. Through the intergenerational inheritance of racism and inequality, the perception of society in relation to Afro-Brazilians has always denoted prejudice and discrimination in various spheres. Their marginalization, since the time of slavery, has contributed to a distorted and stereotyped perception of racial values through jokes about hair, body, speech, among other attributes. As a consequence of these labels, structural racism is present in culture, politics, the labour market, public and private institutions, education, and many other places. Initially the Portuguese colonial authorities promoted miscegenation as a way of ensuring a Portuguese presence in under-populated regions. But, fearing the rising Black population, Brazil subsequently opened its country to white immigrants, who were given preference over Black people in jobs, housing and education.

    The marginalization of minorities and indigenous peoples in Brazil persisted throughout the twentieth century, exacerbated by a number of broader crises in the country that served to reinforce their exclusion. The two-decades long military dictatorship (1964 – 85), in particular, with its widespread human rights abuses and brutal repression of dissent, saw a series of policies that, while affecting Brazilians in general – particularly low-income citizens, impacted disproportionately on Afro-Brazilian and indigenous communities. For example, the military government’s notorious favela eradication programme targeted the poorest urban settlements, a large proportion of whose residents were Black or pardo. The military also ushered in an era of mass deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon, accompanied by an influx of migrants and continued encroachment of indigenous territory. It also continued the systematic abuse of indigenous communities by officials, loggers and ranchers, as subsequently documented by the National Truth Commission.

    The last months of 2018 heralded dramatic shifts in the political landscape of Brazil with repercussions that were undoubtedly wide-ranging and serious for the country’s minority and indigenous communities. Jair Bolsonaro, a member of the National Congress with avowedly far-right views, won the presidential election in October, defeating ex-São Paolo mayor Fernando Haddad. Bolsonaro secured over 55 per cent of the vote, after having conducted a divisive campaign including promises to stamp out corruption and crime. Bolsonaro promised to shut down the human rights ministry and replace it with a ministry focusing on women, families and indigenous peoples to be headed by evangelical preacher Damares Alves. He also promised to open up indigenous lands to commercial farming and mining. Sadly, these developments came at the same time as reports that deforestation in the Amazon had reached the fastest rate in a decade, with nearly 8,000 km² destroyed in the year leading up to July 2018.

    The four years of President Bolsonaro’s administration were marked by the blatant mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, vast environmental devastation, the undermining of democratic principles, permanent attacks on Brazilian institutions, especially the Supreme Federal Court, and the erosion of the rights of Black, trans and indigenous communities. Bolsonaro’s defeat in 2022 led to the return of President Lula for a second term in office. On his first day in office, Lula signed several measures, such as, for example, a decree that reduced access and suspends the registration of new weapons for use by hunters, marksmen and -women and collectors (shortened to CACs – a particular category of licences); the resumption of the Amazon Fund; and repeal of the measure that encouraged illegal mining in the Amazon. Relaxed requirements for a CAC licence, a hallmark of the Bolsonaro era, had led to a massive increase in gun ownership in Brazil; according to one NGO, Sou da Paz, the number of people holding a CAC licence had increased by 500 per cent since 2018.

    The legacy of segregation under Brazil’s dictatorship has persisted in the democratic era as a result of successive governments’ failure to address the country’s underlying inequalities. In light of this, Brazil continues to confront significant human rights challenges, including use of torture and inhumane treatment, unlawful and arbitrary police killings, prison overcrowding, and ongoing impunity for crimes committed by the military regime. Despite attracting growing international attention in the 1980s, the country’s rainforests and indigenous territories have also continued to be systematically destroyed by illegal logging, government-sponsored megaprojects and plantations.

    In a broader context of corruption and political instability, the situation of Brazil’s minorities and indigenous peoples has remained precarious to the present day. Although the country has witnessed substantial economic development in recent years, little of the benefits have trickled down to the poorer and more marginalized sections of Brazilian society.


    In recent years, there have been signs of a broader re-evaluation of racism in Brazil and a growing commitment to addressing its underlying causes. Brazil has launched a number of affirmative action programmes: in 2012, for instance, the Law 12.711/2012, also known as ‘Lei de Cotas’ was enacted; it reserves 50 per cent of places in Brazilian federal universities for students from public schools, poorer households and of African or indigenous descent families to address the under-representation of marginalized social groups in higher education. The Ministry for the Promotion of Racial Equality has played an important role coordinating these new inter-agency initiatives, but there has been concern that the ministry faces severe structural limitations because it does not have an independent budget and instead must mobilize resources from the very agencies it is attempting to influence. Furthermore, these measures have not been without controversy: for example, a November 2013 opinion piece in one of Brazil’s most influential newspapers opposed the introduction of quotas for Afro-descendants in the federal parliament as ‘electoral apartheid’.

    In 2023, through PL 5.384, the ‘Lei de Cotas’ was updated. The PL stipulates that, among other changes, quota candidates will also be able to compete for general vacancies, and only if they fail to get an entry grade will they be able to compete for reserved vacancies. In addition to improving the quota policy for admission to federal higher education or technical secondary education establishments, the text changes socio-economic criteria (to take into account income and public school education) and includes quilombolas among those benefiting from the reservation of places, which already included Black people, pardos, indigenous people and people with disabilities.

    In 2021, Brazil ratified the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance, originally signed by the member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Guatemala in 2013. With its ratification, the Convention acquires the status of a constitutional amendment in Brazil, enabling laws which violate its provisions to be contested in the court. Although until 1951 there was no formal recognition of discrimination in its legislation, Brazil has more recently developed a legal framework to tackle the issue.  Enacted in 1988 after the end of the dictatorship period and considered the milestone that inaugurated Brazil’s democratic period, the country’s Constitution includes Article 5 which outlines guarantees of such fundamental rights as the rights to education, health, work, social security, leisure and security, as well as protection of motherhood and childhood, and assistance to the disadvantaged. Furthermore, the Constitution contains different clauses related to racial discrimination, making it a crime subject to the penal code, while also establishing state protection for indigenous and Afro-Brazilian cultures.

    The Law nº 7.716/1989 on racism, also known as ‘Lei Afonso Arinos’, was passed the following year, criminalizing a range of discriminatory practices. This law was considered a historical landmark in the fight against racial discrimination in Brazil, because, by categorizing certain forms of discriminatory conduct as violations punishable as crimes, it offered legal recourse for those who had suffered discrimination. In 1997, the law was extended by parliament to include racist hate speech. Despite this, however, hate speech remains widespread. In 2022, more than 74,000 suspected crimes involving hate speech on the internet were referred to the National Center for Cybercrime Reporting by Safernet, an organization that defends human rights in the virtual space. According to the organization, this was the highest number ever received by the agency since 2017 and represented an increase of 67.7 per cent compared to 2021. In Brazil the crime of racism is imprescriptible and non-bailable, with a penalty of up to five years in prison. In the beginning of 2023, President Lula approved a law that equates the crime of racial slurs to racism and increases penalties. Racial insult is now punishable by imprisonment from 2 to 5 years. Previously, the penalty ranged from 1 to 3 years.

    Despite these and other efforts, racism in Brazil is not practiced in a hidden way, but openly especially considering its structural and institutional aspects. Unequal opportunities in the labour market, distribution of income, percentage of the prison population and housing conditions only highlight this fact. In July 2023, the Peregum Institute and the Education System for an Anti-Racist Transformation (SETA) released the study Perceptions of Racism in Brazil, which shows that 81 per cent of Brazilians consider their country to be racist. However, when asked if they are racist, only 11 per cent admit to having racist attitudes. This indicates that Brazilians recognize the existence of racism in society but cannot see themselves behaving in a racist way.

    The 1988 Constitution guarantees indigenous peoples’ rights to inhabit their ancestral lands, though not their legal right to own them. It made no provision for land reform. In April 2005, after much delay, President Lula ratified the Federal Supreme Court ruling to establish the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Reserve in the state of Roraima. After many years of violence and land disputes in this region, this action called for the demarcation and titling of land for a number of indigenous communities, including the Macuxi, Wapichana, Taurepang, Ingaricó and Patamona peoples, as well as the expulsion of non-indigenous settlers and rice farmers from the territory. Where land has been demarcated, the exclusive rights of indigenous peoples to these resources is recognized under Article 231 of the Constitution.

    For the first time in Brazilian history, a Ministry of Indigenous Peoples was created in 2023 and headed by Sônia Guajajara, member of the Guajajara people of Maranhão. Guajajara, who was elected federal deputy for the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) in São Paulo in the 2022 elections, is internationally recognized as an indigenous activist and leader in the fight for the promotion and rights of indigenous peoples. Guajajara was born on the Indigenous Land of Araribóia, in the state of Maranhão, and belongs to the Guajajara/Tentehar people. In 2018, Guajajara was the first indigenous woman to be on a presidential ticket in Brazil. The activist was PSOL’s candidate for Vice-President of the country, alongside Guilherme Boulos, now also a federal deputy. Aside from overseeing the work of National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (FUNAI), as Minister of State, Guajajara will manage all government bodies responsible for services to indigenous communities.

    Furthermore, after more than five decades, FUNAI is for the first time presided over by an indigenous woman. The lawyer Joenia Wapichana was officially appointed FUNAI`s new President in January 2023. Wapichana was the first indigenous parliamentarian in the Brazilian National Congress, elected in 2018, and was also the first indigenous woman to graduate in law in Brazil in 1997 from the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR).

    It is undeniable that 2023 brought some significant policy advances for indigenous peoples in Brazil. FUNAI worked to revoke Normative Instruction (IN) 12/2022, which regulated logging on indigenous lands. The revocation was published on 16 January, as IN 12/2022 violated constitutional articles, contradicted provisions of the Indian Statute (Law No. 6,001/1973) and undermined the principle of free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples, established by Convention No. 169 of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

    Nevertheless, despite bringing indigenous leaders and organizations into the governance arena and committing itself to complying with the Federal Constitution by demarcating the lands of indigenous peoples, the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples ended up being constrained, at least initially, by a lack of budgetary resources. As a result, indigenous communities continue to face a range of vulnerabilities caused by the lack of adequate access to basic services such as safe drinking water, rubbish collection and healthcare.

    Marco Temporal

    In 2021, the Federal Supreme Court began its deliberations of the ‘Marco Temporal,’ which is a legal thesis that proposes a radical change in the policy of demarcating indigenous lands in Brazil. The thesis reached the Court through Extraordinary Appeal (RE) 1017365. The Extraordinary Appeal is a request for repossession brought by the Environmental Agency of the State of Santa Catarina (IMA) against FUNAI and the indigenous Xokleng (or Laklãnõ) people, involving an area already identified as part of their traditional territory. The disputed land, which is also home to indigenous Guarani and Kaingang peoples, is part of the Ibirama-Laklãnõ territory, which was drastically reduced over the course of the 20th century. The conflict has been going on since the Xokleng people had their lands reduced, first by a demarcation process by the now defunct Indian Protection Service (SPI) and then with the construction of the Northern Dam beginning in the 1970s, which led to part of the remaining territory of the Xokleng people being flooded. The dispossession follows on from campaigns of extermination beginning in the 19th century and carried out by bugreiros, gunmen specializing in attacking and decimating entire villages. Sometimes only indigenous girls were ‘spared’ and enslaved.

    According to the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), to this day the affected indigenous communities have not been properly compensated. There has never been the construction programme of houses, bridges and roads promised by the government. Although the damage is immeasurable and cumulative, no study has been carried out so far to verify the environmental, socio-cultural and psychological impacts on the indigenous population. After the villages were flooded by the construction of the dam, the community had to move to higher ground and face more directly deforestation, illegal logging, and tensions and conflicts with squatters and farmers.

    The Xokleng community went to court to enforce a protocol of intent signed with the state of Santa Catarina, FUNAI and the federal government. The indigenous people won at first instance, but IMA and the state appealed, and the case was now before the Supreme Court. It was only in 1998 that the FUNAI began the process of reviewing the demarcation of the Ibirama-Laklãnõ Indigenous Land, so that there could be reparations for the dispossession and confinement that the Xokleng people had suffered from the state itself. The Xokleng have never stopped asserting their claim to the land, which was identified by FUNAI and declared by the Ministry of Justice as part of their traditional territories.

    The ‘Indigenous Lands’, to which Article 231 of the 1988 Constitution refers to, concerns those territories that have been occupied by indigenous peoples since before the Brazilian state was established. Thus, their heritage, culture and values are also recognized as dating back centuries. In stark contrast, the Marco Temporal thesis maintains that indigenous peoples only have the right to claim a certain territory if they already occupied it on 5 October 1988, the day on which the Constitution was promulgated. Thus, if a certain indigenous people were not on the land to which they assert their rights on that date, it would be necessary to prove in court that there was a judicial dispute in progress or a conflict taking place at the time of the promulgation of the Constitution.

    It is widely understood that the Marco Temporal is part of a strategy of ruralists and farmers to bar the advance of indigenous land demarcations in Brazil. Due to a request to examine the case by one of the Supreme Court members, the trial of the Xokleng people concerning the Marco Temporal was temporarily suspended in September 2021. The demarcation of indigenous lands in Brazil was put on hold, and it is estimated that hundreds of demarcations are pending in the courts.

    The Xokleng people’s case was considered the trial of the century for Brazil’s indigenous peoples. In addition to the immediate harm to the affected communities, a negative decision would cause considerable damage to indigenous peoples’ land rights. In September 2023, the Federal Supreme Court finally ruled that application of the Marco Temporal for indigenous lands was unconstitutional. There were nine votes against the time frame thesis by: Justices Edson Fachin, the rapporteur of the case, Alexandre de Moraes, Cristiano Zanin, Luís Roberto Barroso, Dias Toffoli, Luiz Fux, Cármen Lúcia, Gilmar Mendes and Rosa Weber. Justices André Mendonça and Nunes Marques voted in favour.

    Following the Federal Supreme Court’s decision, the Xokleng people who live on the Ibirama-Laklãnõ Indigenous Land (TI) that was the focus of the case have reported that they have been suffering threats from non-indigenous people. According to one of the community’s nine chiefs, Tucun Gakran, the threats are constant and made directly by farmers who occupy areas historically claimed by the Xokleng people. As they were deprived of their land when the current Federal Constitution was promulgated, the overturning of the Marco Temporal thesis should in principle guarantee that the restitution of the area that was at stake.

    The Marco Temporal was first introduced in a judgment of the Federal Supreme Court in 2009. On this occasion, the Court used it to determine the creation of the Raposa Serra do Sol Indigenous Land in the state of Roraima. It is important to mention that the Court declared at the time that the thesis was only valid for this case. This discussion became more acute in 2017, when the Solicitor General of Brazil (AGU) issued an opinion establishing a series of restrictions on the demarcation of indigenous territories and declaring the Marco Temporal as the standard for deciding any disputes over land. Since then, the thesis has repeatedly been used to block proposals for new Indigenous Lands.

    The demarcation of indigenous territories serves to guarantee indigenous peoples’ right to their lands, as it establishes the extent of indigenous possession, and helps to ensure the protection of the demarcated limits and impede occupation by third parties. After the stage of physical demarcation and publication of the Ministry of Justice’s decision, these lands are ratified and registered as federal property, but with usufruct for the indigenous people.

    According to a document issued in 2023 by the transitional government working group on indigenous peoples (GT), the Amazon has 424 recognized Indigenous Lands, in various stages of the demarcation process, and the 36 lands pointed out by the report in the region represent 8.5 per cent of this total. The document also recommends the immediate demarcation of 13 Indigenous Lands, five of them in the Amazon, namely in the states of Acre, Amazonas and Mato Grosso. The document also points out another 66 Indigenous Lands, 31 of them in the Legal Amazon, where the processes are relatively less advanced. The 5 Amazon Indigenous Lands indicated as priorities by the GT are: the Cacique Fontoura Lands, between the municipalities of Luciara and São Félix do Araguaia, in Mato Grosso; the Arara do Rio Amônia Lands, in Marechal Taumaturgo, Acre; the Rio Gregório Lands, in Tarauacá, also in Acre; and the Uneiuxi, in Santa Isabel do Rio Negro, and Acapuri de Cima, in Fonte Boa, both in Amazonas. Together they amount to 813,000 hectares. They were chosen by the GT since they have no pending disputes in the demarcation proceedings.

    Unfortunately, the threat posed to indigenous peoples’ rights by the Marco Temporal does not appear to be over. Despite the positive outcome of the Xokleng people’s case before the Federal Supreme Court, shortly afterwards Brazilian legislators approved legislation that would have made Marco Temporal legal. In October 2023, President Lula vetoed the central elements of the bill, but the National Congress overturned his veto in December and adopted what became Law 14.701/2023. The indigenous rights organization Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) stated that it would file a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality (ADI) with the Supreme Federal Court.

    Land demarcation

    FUNAI currently records 761 indigenous lands. These areas represent approximately 13.75 per cent of Brazilian territory and are located in all biomes, especially in the Legal Amazon. Of this total, 475 are regularized, eight approved and 73 declared. There are 44 delimited areas and 137 under study for demarcation. In addition, there are around 478 claims by indigenous peoples under prior analysis by FUNAI, with no processes underway yet. The process of land regularization of an indigenous territory, which is based on the original right of indigenous peoples and regulated in Article 231 of the Federal Constitution, follows several stages that can take years to complete. After an indigenous people have presented their claim, the identification and delimitation studies are the first step in the process of regularizing an Indigenous Land (TI). This is followed by the declaratory stage which is carried out by the Ministry of Justice. The physical demarcation of the area, an action which is, in theory, the responsibility of FUNAI, can now be carried out concomitantly with the steps required by the specific legislation. Then the President must sign the approval of the TI by means of a presidential decree, so FUNAI can then register it with the real estate registry as Union property.

    Despite having inherited 54 land demarcations, already assessed at the beginning of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s time in office, no indigenous lands were demarcated during his term. He became the first President since Brazil’s re-democratization not to carry out any land demarcation during his term. In April 2023, during the closing of the ‘Acampamento Terra Livre 2023’, which is the largest Assembly of Indigenous Peoples and Organizations in Brazil, decrees were issued for the approval of six Indigenous Lands.  The decrees concerned: TI Arara do Rio Amônia in Acre, with a population of 434 people; TI Kariri-Xocó in Alagoas, with a population of 2,300 people; TI Rio dos Índios in Rio Grande do Sul, with a population of 143 people; TI Tremembé da Barra do Mundaú in Ceará, with a population of 580 people ; TI Uneiuxi in Amazonas, with a population of 249 people; and TI Avá-Canoeiro in Goiás, with a population of nine people.

    On 5 September 2023, the date on which International Amazon Day is celebrated, President Lula signed off on the demarcation of two more new Indigenous Lands in the country. The President ratified the territories of Rio Gregório in Tarauacá, Acre, an area traditionally occupied by the Katukina and Yawanawá peoples, with more than 187,100 hectares, and Acapuri de Cima in Fonte Boa, Amazonas, occupied by the Kokama people, with more than 18,300 hectares.

    In 2023, FUNAI created and reconstituted six Technical Groups (GTs) for the identification and delimitation of Indigenous Lands in the states of Acre, Amazonas, Rondônia and Rio Grande do Sul. The aim of the GTs is to carry out multidisciplinary ethnohistorical, anthropological, environmental and cartographic studies of the areas, which is one of the stages of the demarcation process. The following areas are the focus of these acts of reconstitution:

    • Jaminawa Indigenous Land of the Caeté River, belonging to Jaminawa indigenous people and located in the municipalities of Sena Madureira (AC) and Boca do Acre (AM);
    • Nawa Indigenous Land, belonging to the Nawa indigenous people and located in the municipality of Mâncio Lima (AC);
    • Inclusion of specialists in the working group of the area asserted the Cassupá and Salamãi indigenous peoples, located in the municipalities of Chupinguaia and Vilhena (RO);
    • Inclusion of specialists in the working group for the Ka’aguy Poty Indigenous Land, claimed by the Guarani people, located in the municipality of Estrela Velha (RS); and
    • Change of member of the working group for the Manchineri Indigenous Land of Seringal Guanabara/Jaminawa do Guajará (Riozinho Iaco), asserted by the Manchineri and Jaminawa indigenous peoples, located in the municipalities of Assis Brasil and Sena Madureira (AC).

    Furthermore, two detailed Identification and Delimitation Reports (RTID) were published: the Sawre Ba’pim Indigenous Land, located along the middle course of the Tapajós River, in the municipality of Itaituba (PA), was delimited with 150,300 hectares. The territory fulfils a long-standing demand of the Munduruku people in the region, which is constantly threatened by major infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric power stations, railways and ports. And, in Minas Gerais, the Krenak TI of Sete Salões was identified and delimited with 16,600 hectares in the Rio Doce region. The publication of the report, also signed by the President of FUNAI, Joenia Wapichana, fulfils a court decision obtained by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of an action for reparations for the harms caused to the Krenak people by the military dictatorship.

  • Afro-Brazilians

    Indigenous peoples

    Environmental organizations

Updated February 2024

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