Indigenous people protest ahead of landmark ruling on land claims in Brazil

Hundreds of indigenous people danced and chanted in front of Brazil’s Supreme Court on Wednesday to urge judges not to rule in favor of a 1988 deadline for their land claims, a proposal backed by the agricultural sector.

The protest has attracted an unprecedented 6,000 indigenous people from 176 tribes to camp in the Brazilian capital to pressure the court to reject the deadline, organizers said.

A defeat in court for indigenous peoples could set a precedent for the dramatic rollback of native rights championed by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. He says that too few of them live on too much land, which blocks agricultural expansion.

“The Bolsonaro government wants to finish us off. If it were up to him, there would be no indigenous people left in Brazil,” said Xukuru chief Ricardo, from northeast Brazil. He wore a long headdress of blue macaw feathers and held a maraca.

The protesters unfolded banners reading “Time Frame NO”, rejecting the time frame adopted in 2016. By late afternoon, the court had not yet started debating the issue.

The ruling will affect 230 pending land claims, many of which offer a bulwark against deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Most have waited decades for recognition.

Powerful agricultural interests would have a stronger legal foundation to challenge indigenous land claims, and Congress would have the green light to write a restrictive definition of indigenous lands in federal law.

The case reached the Supreme Court in an appeal by the Xokleng people of the southern state of Santa Catarina against what they argued is an overly narrow interpretation of indigenous rights by recognizing only the lands occupied by native communities at the time the constitution was ratified. from Brazil in 1988.

The Xokleng were removed from their traditional hunting grounds more than a century ago to make room for European settlers, mostly Germans fleeing economic and political turmoil. If they win the case, 830 farmers face eviction from the small properties where their families have lived for decades.


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