While the Amazon burns, Brazil’s indigenous peoples rise up

As people around the world pray for Amazonia, indigenous Brazilians are taking action for social and environmental justice.

Originally published at wagingnonviolence.org on September 17, 2019.

Free Land Camp is the main and largest annual assembly of indigenous leaders coming from the five regions of Brazil. (Greenpeace)

Making the invisible visible

There are approximately 800,000 indigenous people in Brazil. Although they make up less than one percent of the Brazilian population, there are 305 ethnic groups and 274 unique languages among them. Most live in the Amazon region, where they have found the resources and conditions needed to sustain their way of life for generations. Some tribes still have no contact with modern society.

An indigenous woman protests in front of the National Congress in Brazil’s capital during Free Land Camp in 2017. (Agência Brasil/José Cruz)

Changing roles, changing rules

Since the beginning of this year, illegal mining has exploded in the Yanomami indigenous territory, in the Brazilian Amazon, where tribal leaders have reported the presence of more than 10,000 illegal miners on their land. It is the largest invasion since the land was demarcated in 1992, which the Yanomami people have exclusive use of according to the law.

Defending the defenders

From 2005 to 2012, deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon dropped by about 70 percent, thanks to effective environmental policies and zero-deforestation commitments adopted in the country by the government and corporations. However, these strategies haven’t been maintained and the situation has been worsening in recent years.

Global sustainability researcher. Writing about the controversial relationships among People, Nature, and Economy.