Resumption of land demarcations is the focus of Brazil's greatest indigenous mobilisation

abril, 24 2023

Today starts the 19th edition of Free Land Camp (ATL). The event will gather thousands of people until Friday
By Ayla Tapajós and Fábio de Castro

This Monday (24), in Brasilia, the Free Land Camp (ATL, in Portuguese) 2023, the largest mobilisation of indigenous peoples in Brazil, begins. The 19th edition of the event will have intense activity in the federal capital until April 28th. With the theme “The indigenous future is today. Without demarcation, there is no democracy!”, the ATL will discuss the rights of indigenous peoples and the demarcation of Indigenous Lands - central themes for Brazil's socio-environmental agenda, for combating the climate crisis and for the survival of the planet.

Coordinated by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples from Brazil (Apib, in Portuguese), ATL 2023 has the central goal of reinforcing the importance of the demarcation of indigenous lands in the country, which have been paralysed in recent years, while the original peoples have experienced an intense escalation of attacks on their rights. These threats included, for example, an agenda of Legislative setbacks and the intensification of illegal mining in indigenous territories, leading to mercury contamination, serious health problems and violent conflicts.

The original and traditional peoples are recognised as the main guardians of the biomes and the demarcated Indigenous Lands are an important factor in controlling deforestation in the Amazon. What allows them to play this nature conservation role are their ways of life and ancestral knowledge about local ecosystems and forest preservation.

According to data from MapBiomas, only 1.6% of deforestation in Brazil between 1985 and 2020 occurred in Indigenous Lands. In the period of greatest reduction in deforestation in the Amazon - between 2004 and 2012, when an 83% drop was recorded - more than 100 Indigenous Lands were demarcated in the country, in addition to other measures.

As deforestation is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil, the demarcation of Indigenous Lands that have not yet been officially recognised by the State and the protection of territories already demarcated is fundamental in combating the climate crisis.Therefore, it is essential that native peoples take part in the construction and conduct of any public policy focused on the climate issue. Throughout this week in Brasilia, indigenous peoples will reinforce their role in this struggle.

“It is very emblematic for us that the theme of ATL 2023 highlights the issue of the importance of demarcations for the future of indigenous peoples and democracy”, says Kleber Karipuna, executive coordinator of Apib. “The idea is to draw the attention of the entire Brazilian society and the international community to the importance of resuming the demarcation of indigenous territories and work for their protection. Because it is not enough just to demarcate new Indigenous Lands, it is necessary to guarantee the protection of these territories to ensure the physical, cultural and spiritual survival of the peoples in their territories.”

He also points out that the contribution of indigenous territories to reducing deforestation and tackling the climate crisis has already been proven by science. “The protection of territories is a theme closely linked to our historical moment. Indigenous peoples have been warning for a long time about the whole process of climate crisis that the world has been experiencing. Therefore, we stress that 'the indigenous future is today': we cannot waste any more time. The defence of indigenous territories is a factor of utmost importance in facing the climate crisis”, says Kleber.

“Demarcated territory is synonymous with living forest, with standing forest, with the survival of humanity, because we know that the climate crisis is there and it is getting worse and worse”, says Marciely Ayap Tupari, coordinator-secretary of the Coordination of Indigenous Organisations in the Amazon Brazilian (Coiab).

“We have always been aware of the importance of flora and fauna for our existence, but also for the entire planet. In recent years, we have suffered a huge setback in our rights, with invasion of our territories and no demarcation of new Indigenous Lands. Today we live in a different scenario, with the hope that things will get better”, says Marciely.

She claims that the demarcation of territories is more than an obligation of the Brazilian State towards indigenous peoples: it is a matter of survival for the planet. “The most protected territories are the indigenous territories - even those that are not demarcated are less destroyed, because we do the self-demarcation and that provides already more protection than a territory open to invasion, deforestation and land grabbing. But demarcating is the guarantee that we will have the forest alive. We bring this message, that we need the territory demarcated and protected so that we can fight the climate crisis”, says Marciely.

The demarcation of Indigenous Lands is an ancestral right provided for in the Federal Constitution. Therefore, in addition to being essential for the conservation of all the country's biomes, the demarcation of territories is also central in the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples and the maintenance of Brazilian democracy. According to Funai (National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples), there are around 680 regularised indigenous territories in Brazil and more than 200 are awaiting analysis to be demarcated.

During ATL 2023, indigenous peoples will focus their efforts on the struggle for the demarcation of 13 Indigenous Lands considered a priority. In December 2022, the transitional government set up the Original Peoples Working Group, with the participation of Apib, which identified these 13 Indigenous Lands that have no pending issues in their processes and are therefore ready to be ratified.

With the demarcation of these 13 Indigenous Lands, Brazil would have more than 1.5 million hectares of new protected areas. They are the Indigenous Lands Uneixi, of the Makoto Tukano people, and Acapuri de Cima, of the Kokama people (both in Amazonas state); Arara do Rio Amônia, from the Arara people, and Rio Gregório, from the Katukina people (both in Acre); Morro dos Cavalos, from the Guarani people, and Toldo Imbu, from the Kaingang people (both in Santa Catarina); Kariri-Xokó, from the Kariri-Xokó people, and Xukuru-Kariri, from the Xukuru-Kariri people (both in Alagoas); Cacique Fontoura, from the Karajá people (Mato Grosso); Tremembé de Barra do Mundaú, from the Tremembé people (Ceará); Aldeia Velha, from the Pataxó people (Bahia); Potiguara de Monte-Mor, from the Potiguara people (Paraíba); and Rio dos Rios, from the Kaingang people (Rio Grande do Sul).
This Monday (24), in Brasilia, the Free Land Camp (ATL, in Portuguese) 2023, the largest mobilisation of indigenous peoples in Brazil, begins
© Edgar Kanaykõ / WWF-Brasil
ATL will discuss the rights of indigenous peoples and the demarcation of Indigenous Lands
© Edgar Kanaykõ / WWF-Brasil