Brazilian Supreme Court Upholds Land Rights of Indigenous People

A member of Brazil’s riot police trains his gun at Brazilian Indians. Photograph: Gregg Newton/Reuters

Land rights activists applaud rejection of case brought by Brazilian state that claimed it was due compensation for award of territory to native inhabitants

The Brazilian supreme court has ruled in favour of two tribes in a case that is being hailed as a significant victory for indigenous land rights.

The unanimous decision – which went against the state of Mato Grosso do Sul – settled a dispute over land traditionally occupied by indigenous people and ordered the authorities to respect the demarcation of land.

Amid increasing conflict over land and diminishing rights for indigenous people in the country, the south-western Brazilian state had sought compensation of about 2bn reais (£493m) from the Brazilian government after land was declared as the territory of the Nambikwara and Pareci tribes.

A third case, involving Rio Grande do Sul state, was adjourned for 15 days.

“This is an important step towards achieving justice for indigenous people in Brazil,” said Tonico Benites, a Guarani leader. “This gives us hope the judiciary will protect our rights, which are guaranteed by the constitution and international law.”

Activists had feared judges would uphold a recommendation from the attorney general’s office that any tribe not occupying its ancestral land when Brazil’s new constitution came into force on 5 October 1988 would lose its right to live there – a time limit that had been called the worst blow to indigenous rights since the military dictatorship ended in 1985.

But Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International, said feelings were running high in Brazil against indigenous rights: “If the judges apply the same thinking in the third ruling, in theory [indigenous] land rights should be protected. But there is such a strong anti-indigenous campaign in Brazil at the moment that we have to be very careful.”

Benites said indigenous leaders would now work to overturn the 1988 cut-off date – a plan signed by President  Michel Temer last month and which critics claim is to win favour with the powerful agribusiness lobby, known as the ruralistas.

The deadline would not only halt new demarcations of indigenous land but also legitimise claims by ranchers and wealthy farmers who have long coveted Indian territories.

“It is a very cynical move,” said Juliana de Paula Batista, a lawyer working with the Socio-environmental Institute in Brasilia. “Since many indigenous people were violently expelled from their ancestral land in the colonial and military eras, they could not possibly have been living on this land in 1988.”

Campaigners have claimed Temer is using land rights as a bargaining chip to shore up his unpopular government.

Luiz Henrique Eloy Amado, a lawyer for Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), said: “The Temer government wants to remain at all costs, which requires the votes of the ruralista bloc.”

The attorney general’s recommendation of a time limit was greeted as a triumph in a video by ruralista federal deputy Luiz Carlos Heinze, potentially resulting in the dismissal of 90% of ongoing indigenous land claims. Hundreds of indigenous territories around Brazil are awaiting demarcation.

The Guarani-Kaiowás occupy only a fraction of their ancestral territories in Mato Grosso do Sul and their decades-long struggle has caused violent conflict with cattle ranchers and soy and sugar cane farmers.

Fiona Watson, director of campaigns for Survival International, estimated that 45,000 Guarani-Kaiowás would lose rights to land under the proposed cut-off point, as would other tribes across the south and north-east.

The 1988 deadline, the marco temporal, has triggered major protests across Brazil, organised by the Apib under the banner: “Our history did not start in 1988, no to the time limit”. Hundreds of people converged on Brasilia for the supreme court ruling on Wednesday.

Last week, 48 indigenous organisations and civil society bodies signed a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, denouncing violations since the 2016 visit of UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpus, who noted a “worrying regression in the protection of indigenous people’s rights”.

Brazil has experienced a rise in homicides related to rural land disputes, with 37 people killed in the first five months of this year, eight more than died over the same period in 2016, according to the Pastoral Land Commission, a non-profit group.

Eliseu Lopes, a Guarani leader from Mato Grosso do Sul, expressed relief at the outcome: “The land conflict is already killing us. Imagine what it would be like if the proposal were approved,” he said. “It would legitimise the violence against us. The vote doesn’t solve all our problems, but it gives us some breathing space.”

By the Guardian published on August 17, 2017 

[SOURCE]

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Brazil Suspends Amazon Dam Project Over Fears For Indigenous People

CaptureBrazil

In this file November 28, 2014 photo, Munduruku Indians do a traditional dance around officials from Brazil’s national Indian agency (Funai), in western Para state, to protest the construction of the planned Sao Luiz do Tapajos hydroelectric dam. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation – Apr 22, 2016

By Chris Arsenault

Land rights campaigners have welcomed the suspension of a mega-dam project in Brazil’s Amazon basin which would have flooded an area the size of New York City and displaced indigenous communities.

The São Luiz do Tapajós dam would have forced Munduruku indigenous people out of their traditional territory while disrupting the Amazon ecosystem, a campaigner said on Friday.

The move by Brazil’s environment agency IBAMA to suspend construction permits for the dam followed a report by the country’s National Indian Foundation which said the project would have violated indigenous land rights protected under Brazil’s constitution.

“The areas that would have been flooded include sites of important religious and cultural significance,” Brent Millikan, a Brasilia-based campaigner with the non-profit rights group International Rivers told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“The local communities have a huge amount of knowledge about the resources where they are – if they were forced off the land and into cities they would become unskilled workers.”

Brazil’s environment agency said this week that it suspended licensing due to “the infeasibility of the project from the perspective of indigenous issues”. The dam would have flooded 178,000 hectares of land.

The decision comes as South America’s largest country faces a political crisis following a congressional vote to impeach President Dilma Rouseff who is embroiled in a corruption scandal as the nation grapples with its worst recession since the 1930s.

Supporters of the dam, which was expected to produce around 8,000 megawatts of electricity, say it would have provided green power and jobs in a country which needs both.

Hydroelectric power plants produce about 80 percent of the electricity generated in Brazil.

Backers of the dam have a 90 day period where they can appeal the suspension and submit revised plans on the size of the flooded area and how to deal with the local indigenous population, Millikan said.

http://news.trust.org/item/20160422170041-ds8vb/?source=hpOtherNews1

Indigenous Peoples Given Interactive Map To Help Secure Land Rights

A Ka'apor Indian warrior carries a chainsaw which was confiscated during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

A Ka’apor Indian warrior carries a chainsaw which was confiscated during a jungle expedition to search for and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, Brazil, August 7, 2014. REUTERS/Lunae Parracho

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation, By: Magda Mis

Indigenous peoples whose land rights have often been exploited due to lack of maps and data have a new tool to help secure their rights: a global interactive map of the land they claim called LandMark.

Indigenous peoples and communities claim to hold about two thirds of the world’s land but are legally recognised as holding only 10 percent, according to think thank World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the organisations behind the project.

“By visualizing the locations of indigenous peoples and local communities-involving perhaps 2 billion people-LandMark pushes their existence into the calculations of those making decisions about climate change, economic development, poverty alleviation, and natural resources conservation,” Peter Veit, director of the WRI’s Land and Resources Rights initiative, said in a statement.

“LandMark provides indigenous peoples and communities the opportunity to be proactive in their efforts to protect their lands, not just reactive to imminent threats.”

Without legal rights to land, indigenous communities may find their land is taken over for the exploitative development of natural resources, palm oil plantations and logging, according to the WRI.

Mapping their territory gives them an opportunity to show that their land is not vacant, idle or available for outsiders, it said.

The WRI said last week that ensuring rainforest communities have secure land rights could reduce deforestation and land-use conflicts and prevent tens of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Developed by a partnership of indigenous groups and land rights and research bodies, the beta version of the map launched on Tuesday shows the boundaries of thousands of pieces of land claimed by indigenous people and communities around the world.

It offers additional information about the lands such as land category and area.

Still in the development stage, the map is not a “crowd-sourcing” platform but aims to provide only high-quality data available from recognised organisations and experts who can submit their entries directly through www.LandMarkMap.org.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://www.trust.org)

http://www.trust.org/item/20151110185408-ccmon/?source=jtOtherNews1

Brazil: Indigenous People Set Up Protest Camp To Demand Land Rights

Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians demonstrate in Brasilia as part of the National Mobilisation Week(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians demonstrate in Brasilia as part of the National Mobilisation Week(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

By David Sim in IBTimes | Posted, April 16, 2015

About 1,400 members of various indigenous Brazilian tribes have set up camp outside the National Congress in Brasilia to demand land rights.

Organisers of the Tierra Libre (Free Land) camp aim to discuss issues of land demarcation and indigenous rights with authorities.

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Members of some of Brazil’s indigenous tribes demonstrate in front of the Planalto Palace in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

An indigenous Brazilian man aims his bow and arrow at the National Congress in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilian natives dance in the rain in front of the Planalto Palace in Brasilia during National Mobilisation Week(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilian Indians from various indigenous ethnic groups dance and sing in the rain at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

“A hundred groups from across the country are here to express their dissatisfaction and denounce attacks against their rights, which are happening in Congress,” Cleber Buzzato, executive secretary of the Indigenous Missionary Council told AFP.

Indians fear that legislators will allow the use of their ancestral lands by agribusiness, which has the backing of a group of parliamentarians and the new Minister of Agriculture, Katia Abreu. Many believe that new legislation threatens to shrink the size of some reserves for indigenous groups.

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Brazilian Indians take part in a protest in front of the National Congress in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

An indigenous Brazilian man takes part in a protest in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

Brazilians from various indigenous ethnic groups take part in a protest at the Esplanade of Ministries in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A man smokes a pipe in front of a row of riot police officers outside the Planalto Palace in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A Brazilian Indian participates in the National Indigenous Mobilisation camp in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

Members of the Xucuru ethnic group attend the Terra Livre Camp (Free Land Camp) in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A member of the Kaingang ethnic group protests during National Indigenous Mobilisation week in Brasilia(Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

brasilia indigenous protest

A member of a Brazilian indigenous tribe plays the guitar at the so-called Free Land camp in front of the National Congress in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

brasilia indigenous protest

Indigenous men pose for a selfie while setting up a tent at the Ministries Esplanade in Brasilia(Evaristo Sa/AFP)

The indigenous land rights ruling that could transform Canada

Fish Lake on Tsilhqot’in territory in British Columbia, where the Indigenous Tsilhqot’in nation has prevented a copper and gold mine from being built. Photograph: Friends of the Nemaiah Valley

Fish Lake on Tsilhqot’in territory in British Columbia, where the Indigenous Tsilhqot’in nation has prevented a copper and gold mine from being built. Photograph: Friends of the Nemaiah Valley

October 21  2014, Guardian: 

Indigenous rights offer a path to a radically more just and sustainable country – which is why the Canadian government is bent on eliminating them

The unrest is palpable. In First Nations across Canada, word is spreading of a historic court ruling recognizing Indigenous land rights. And the murmurs are turning to action: an eviction notice issued to a railway company in British Columbia; a park occupied in Vancouver; lawsuits launched against the Enbridge tar sands pipeline; a government deal reconsidered by Ontario Algonquins; and sovereignty declared by the Atikamekw in Quebec.

These First Nations have been emboldened by this summer’s Supreme Court of Canada William decision, which recognized the aboriginal title of the Tsilhqot’in nation to 1750 square kilometres of their land in central British Columbia – not outright ownership, but the right to use and manage the land and to reap its economic benefits.

The ruling affects all “unceded” territory in Canada – those lands never signed away through a treaty or conquered by war. Which means that over an enormous land-mass – most of British Columbia, large parts of Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and a number of other spots – a new legal landscape is emerging that offers the prospect of much more responsible land stewardship.

First Nations are starting to act accordingly, and none more so than the Tsilhqot’in. They’ve declared a tribal park over a swath of their territory. And they’ve announced their own policy on mining – a vision that leaves room for its possibility, but on much more strict environmental terms. Earlier this month they erected a totem pole to overlook a sacred area where copper and gold miner Taseko has for years been controversially attempting to establish itself; no mine will ever be built there.

And the Canadian government’s response? Far from embracing these newly recognized Indigenous land rights, they are trying to accelerate their elimination. The court has definitively told Canada to accept the reality of aboriginal title: the government is doing everything in its power to deny it.

Canadians can be pardoned for believing that when the country’s highest court renders a decision, the government clicks their heels and sets themselves to implementing it. The judiciary directs, the executive branch follows: that’s how we’re taught it works. But it doesn’t always – and especially not when what’s at stake is the land at the heart of Canada’s resource extraction.

The new land rights ruling is now clashing directly with the Canadian government’s method for cementing their grip on lands and resources. It’s a negotiating policy whose name – the so-called Comprehensive Land Claims – is intended to make your eyes glaze over. But its bureaucratic clothing disguises the government’s naked ambition: to grab as much of Indigenous peoples’ land as possible.

This is what dispossession by negotiation looks like. The government demands that First Nations trade away – or in the original term, to “extinguish” – their rights to 95 percent of their traditional territory. Their return is some money and small parcels of land, but insidiously, as private property, instead of in the collective way that Indigenous peoples have long held and stewarded it. And First Nations need to provide costly, exhaustive proof of their rights to their own land, for which they have amassed a stunning $700 million in debt – a debt the government doesn’t think twice about using to arm-twist.

Despite the pressure, most First Nations have not yet signed their names to these crooked deals – especially when the Supreme Court is simultaneously directing the government to reconcile with First Nations and share the land. But the Supreme Court’s confirmation that this approach is unconstitutional and illegal matters little to the government. What enables them to flout their own legal system is that Canadians remain scarcely aware of it.

Acting without public scrutiny, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is trying to shore up support for this policy – now forty years old – to finally secure the elimination of Indigenous land rights. The process is led by the same man, Douglas Eyford, who has been Harper’s advisor on getting tar sands pipelines and energy projects built in western Canada. That is no coincidence. The government is growing more desperate to remove the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of a corporate bonanza for dirty fossil fuels: the unceded aboriginal title of First Nations – backed now by the Supreme Court of Canada.

A public commenting period opened during the government’s pr blitz has created an opportunity for the indigenous rights movement and concerned Canadians to demand a long-overdue change in the government’s behaviour. Recognizing aboriginal title, restoring lands to First Nations management, would be to embrace the diversity and vision we desperately need in this moment of ecological and economic crisis.

Because the government agenda is not just about extinguishing Indigenous land rights. It’s about extinguishing another way of seeing the world. About extinguishing economic models that prize interdependence with the living world, that recognize prosperity isn’t secured by the endless depletion of resources. And about extinguishing a love for the land, a love rooted in the unique boundaries and beauty of a place.

Chief Roger Williams (left) at the the Supreme Court of Canada (Photo: Pei-Ju Wang)

Chief Roger Williams (left) at the the Supreme Court of Canada (Photo: Pei-Ju Wang)

“The land is the most important thing,” Tsilhqot’in Chief Roger William told me. “Our songs, our place names, our history, our stories – they come from the land that we are a part of. All of it is inter-related with who we are.”

The few days I spent in Tsilhqot’in territory five years ago made that vivid. It is a land of snow-capped mountains – Ts’il?os, who in their stories was a man transformed into giant rock after separating from his wife. Wild horses stalk the valleys. Salmon smoke on drying racks. The Tsilhqot’in carefully protect and nurture these fish – running stronger in their rivers than anywhere else in the province.

That’s why the habit of government officials, of media and even of Supreme Court judges to call the Tsilhqoti’in “nomadic” bothers William so much: his people have lived on these lands for thousands of years, while it is non-natives who are constantly moving and resettling. And what could be more nomadic and transient than the extractive industry itself – grabbing what resources and profits it can before abandoning one area for another.

As Canadians look more closely, they are discovering that the unceded status of vast territories across this country is not a threat, as they’ve long been told. It is a tremendous gift, protected with love by Indigenous nations over generations, to be seized for the possibilities it now offers for governing the land in a radically more just and sustainable way for everyone.

In this battle between the love of the land and a drive for its destruction, those behind the extractive economy have everything to lose and Indigenous peoples everything to win. The rest of us, depending on our stand, have a transformed country to gain.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/true-north/2014/oct/21/the-indigenous-land-rights-ruling-that-could-transform-canada

Chiapas Indigenous oppose the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway

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Residents of five communities, in the municipalities of San Cristóbal, San Juan Chamula and Huixtán warned they will not allow the highway to link Palenque with San Cristóbal to pass through their lands because “it will not benefit them at all”.

“We, men, women, children, and old people, will not allow this project of death, we will fight to the end to prevent them from taking our mother earth,” said the villagers of La Candelaria, San Antonio Las Roas and Predio Santiago, from San Cristóbal; Nichnamtic, from Chamula and Monte Bonito, from Huixtán.

With an investment of about ten million pesos, the federal government is planning to build a free highway to link San Cristóbal with Palenque, the two tourist areas in Chiapas which are most visited by Mexicans and foreigners.

In a document the protesters said: “The government has planned that the highway will pass through part of our land, which will affect our food supply, crops, the springs which are the source of the holy water for our life and the piped water supply.”

They said that the project “will not benefit us at all and although the bad government says it will pay us for the affected land, the money will run out, and then how will we live? And besides, a mother is not for sale.”

They emphasised: “We can live without a highway; without water we will die; with a highway the big capitalists will get richer and we will become poorer; we can live without a highway, but without our lands we will die.”

They stated that “to defend life, we ​​are willing to give life,” while asking the authorities to “not to continue robbing the indigenous peoples of our resources, because we are human beings with the right to live and to own our springs and lands.”

The indigenous protesters against the project said that the government “only acts for the interests of big business and for this reason is making many reforms, not for the benefit of Mexicans but for the big people who are ambitious for the wealth of our country.”

They added: “With great sadness we see that our mother earth is threatened because the neoliberal policies which have been implemented in recent years make it easier for large national and foreign capitalists to take over the country’s resources: land, oil, minerals, water, wood and archaeological sites, among others.”

They said that “the government promotes the interests of big business and therefore promotes laws and changes in the Constitution, in order to benefit them through taking over resources.”

Translated and posted by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity

dorset chiapas solidarity

Chiapas Indigenous oppose the San Cristóbal-Palenque highway

By Elio Henriquez, correspondent

La Jornada, Mon, July 14, 2014

The Chiapas government reported that the road from Palenque to San Cristóbal would be 160 kilometres long.  The Chiapas government reported that the road from Palenque to San Cristóbal would be 160 kilometres long.

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas. Residents of five communities, in the municipalities of San Cristóbal, San Juan Chamula and Huixtán warned they will not allow the highway to link Palenque with San Cristóbal to pass through their lands because “it will not benefit them at all”.

“We, men, women, children, and old people, will not allow this project of death, we will fight to the end to prevent them from taking our mother earth,” said the villagers of La Candelaria, San Antonio Las Roas and Predio Santiago, from San Cristóbal; Nichnamtic, from Chamula and  Monte Bonito, from Huixtán.

With an investment of about ten million pesos, the federal government is planning to build a free highway…

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First Nations chiefs willing to go to jail to stop Enbridge’s proposed pipeline

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Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says he’s prepared to go onto the land itself

 

July 14, 2014,  NEWS1130.

VANCOUVER – Some First Nations chiefs are willing to get arrested to stop Enbridge’s proposed pipeline project.

Numerous legal proceedings were filed in appeal court seeking to overturn the federal government’s decision to move forward with the plan.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says he is prepared to go out onto the land itself to oppose activities being brought forward by Enbridge‘s contractors.

“For myself personally it won’t be the first time that I have been arrested in that situation and it won’t be the last time,” he adds.

Phillip says this effort is not about money. It’s about the sea, the environment and indigenous land rights.

“We will stand with our brothers and sisters in the courtrooms, and if necessary we will stand with our brothers and sisters in solidarity on the land itself,” he warns.

Phillip says he’s not taking action in an effort to get a better deal; it’s to protect the integrity of the land and the rights of his people.

http://www.news1130.com/2014/07/14/first-nations-chiefs-willing-to-go-to-jail-to-stop-enbridges-proposed-pipeline/