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  • Writer's pictureU.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil

Indigenous Land Rights in Brazil: Strategies for Advocacy and Resistance

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

Please join the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil for a conversation with:

August 19, 2021 | 6pm EST / 19h -21h (Brasília)

Sonia Guajajara - Executive coordinator of Articulation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB)

Nick Estes - journalist and historian, citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

Eloy Terena -Lawyer, legal coordinator of Articulation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB)

Leonardo A. Crippa - Senior Attorney at Indian Law Resource Center

Moderated by Tracy Devine Guzmán, Associate Professor, University of Miami/NAGIS

Zoom Webinar with Translation ENG-PORT. Also live-streamed via the YouTube and Facebook pages of the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil (USNDB), and media partners.

Organized by the Indigenous Rights Working Group of the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil with support from Defend Democracy in Brazil Committee New York, Amazon Watch, Smoke Signal Monitor, UM/NAGIS, Grassroots International and Coletivo Por Um Brasil Democrático - LA #emergenciaindígena #struggleforlife #lutapelavida #MarcoTemporalNão

About: This event will address the Indigenous ancestral land rights at stake during the upcoming Brazil’s Supreme Court hearing on August 25; damaging federal legislation under consideration; parallels with Native rights in the United States; and strategies for national and international mobilization and solidarity.

As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on the “Marco Temporal” legal theory, Indigenous peoples across Brazil will demonstrate in Brasília from August 22-28 to draw attention to the ruling. The Working Group on Indigenous Rights of the U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil invites scholars, activists, students, journalists, community leaders, and other supporters of Indigenous Rights to join in conversation with Sonia Guajajara, Executive coordinator of Articulation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB); Eloy Terena, attorney and legal coordinator of APIB; Nick Estes, journalist, historian, citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, and Leonardo A. Crippa, senior attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center (USA), to discuss the urgent challenges at hand, as well as strategies for protecting Indigenous ancestral lands.

Context: On August 25th 2021, the Brazilian Supreme Court will rule on a case that could change the fate of Indigenous peoples in Brazil. After living on and fighting for the right to their ancestral lands for centuries, Indigenous Peoples in Brazil are once again threatened by a legal theory called Marco Temporal, which has renewed potential to legalize the theft of their traditional territories.

The political and economic forces behind Marco Temporal aim to deny Indigenous peoples the right to any territories that were not already occupied in 1988, when the Brazilian Constitution guaranteed them such rights. However, many Indigenous peoples had been displaced from their lands prior to that date and were already fighting to recover them. Their campaign to stop this effort therefore states: “Our History does not begin in 1988!”

Meanwhile, proposed legislation (PL-490) seeking to open Indigenous lands to industrial agriculture, mining, and other extractive activities recently passed in Brazil’s lower chamber of Congress.

Nearly half the Amazon’s intact forest is on Indigenous-held lands. In a context of rapidly increasing global warming, Brazil has a key role to play, and securing the land rights of Indigenous and other traditional communities is crucial to protecting forests and biodiverse ecosystems. Indigenous peoples are not only fighting settler colonialism, but for their very survival, including just relations with human and nonhuman beings, as well as with the Earth.

We invite you to join this urgent discussion. How can international solidarity help stop land grabbing and the destruction of ecosystems with the potential to impact all of humanity?


Sonia Guajajara is the executive coordinator of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) and one of the main Indigenous leaders in the world today. From the Guajajara/Tenetehar people, she has a degree in Modern Languages and Nursing and a postgraduate degree in Special Education. Before working for APIB, she was the vice-coordinator of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB). In 2018, she was the first Indigenous woman to run for the office of Vice President of Brazil. Sonia is also a member of the Consultative Council of the Interreligious Initiative for Tropical Forests in Brazil.

Eloy Terena is an attorney, researcher, Indigenous land rights activist, and currently, the legal coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB). From the Terena People (Mato Grosso do Sul state), he holds a post-doctoral fellowship from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris, France; and a PhD in Social Anthropology from the National Museum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil. Eloy Terena is a leading legal expert on the history of the movement for Indigenous rights in Brazil. In 2020, he was the second Indigenous lawyer to successfully argue a case before the Supreme Court (the first was Congresswoman Joenia Wapichana), and the first to win a constitutional jurisdiction suit since the Court's creation. On August 9th, 2021, he led a team of Indigenous lawyers and experts that helped APIB file a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), denouncing the government of Jair Bolsonaro for genocide.

Leonardo A. Crippa is an international law scholar and senior attorney for the Indian Law Resource Center, a non-profit law and advocacy organization established and directed by American Indians. An enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation, he is a policy specialist in multilateral development bank's policies and project-complaint mechanisms and continues to practice international law within the United Nations and the Inter-American Human Rights System. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the National University of Tucuman (Argentina) and a Master of Laws from American University Washington College of Law (US) International Legal studies.

Nick Estes is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. He is an Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico. In 2014, he co- founded The Red Nation, an Indigenous resistance organization. For 2017-2018, Estes was the American Democracy Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University. Estes is a member of the Oak Lake Writers Society, a network of Indigenous writers committed to defend and advance Oceti Sakowin (Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota) sovereignty, cultures, and histories.

APIB is a key organization in Brazil’s Indigenous movement, created from the bottom up. It brings together Indigenous regional organizations and was born to strengthen the unity of Indigenous peoples, to unite different Indigenous regions and organizations across the country; and to mobilize Indigenous peoples and organizations against myriad threats and aggressions.

The Indian Law Resource Center provides legal assistance to Indigenous peoples of the Americas to combat racism and oppression; to protect their lands and environment; to protect their cultures and ways of life; to achieve sustainable economic development and genuine self-government; and to realize their other human rights. The Indian Law Resource Center seeks to overcome the grave problems that threaten Native peoples by advancing the rule of law by establishing national and international legal standards that preserve human rights and dignity, and by challenging world governments to accord justice and equality before the law to all Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The U.S. Network for Democracy in Brazil is a decentralized, democratic, non-partisan national network of academics, activists, union leaders, community organizers, and NGO representatives, with three primary objectives:

(1) Educate the U.S. public about the current situation in Brazil.

(2) Defend democratic interest in Brazil--social, economic, political, and cultural.

(3) Support social movements, community organizations, NGOs, universities, and other activist groups, who are vulnerable in the current political climate.

Read more on the Marco Temporal and other current threats to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples:


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