Supporters of human rights organisation Survival International held a vocal protest outside the Brazilian embassy in London yesterday (2 October) in support of thousands of indigenous demonstrators in Brazil rallying against the onslaught of their hard-won land rights.
Nixiwaka Yawanawá, an Amazon Indian from Brazil, led the London protest wearing his tribe’s headdress and facial decorations. He was joined by dozens of supporters wearing tribal face paint and carrying placards.
Nixiwaka said, "We’re here to support our indigenous brothers and sisters in Brazil who are facing the worst assault on their rights in decades. We, Brazil’s indigenous peoples, have lived on our lands for as long as we can remember, and we cannot live without them. These new laws would mean the end of our rights to our lands and must not be passed!"
Protests are being held across Brazil and the world this week against attempts by the Brazilian government to water down indigenous peoples’ constitutional rights in the name of the country’s push for industrialisation and ‘development’.
Several new projects are under discussion which, if passed into law, would drastically weaken indigenous peoples’ control over their lands and severely threaten the survival of many of Brazil’s tribes, including highly vulnerable uncontacted Indians.
A proposed constitutional amendment would give Brazil’s Congress – heavily influenced by the anti-indigenous farming lobby – the power to participate in the demarcation of indigenous lands. A draft bill under discussion would open up indigenous land for army bases, mining, dams and other industrial projects, and another would open up indigenous reserves to large-scale mining for the first time.
These changes would prove disastrous for Brazil’s tribes such as the Guarani, who already suffer extreme levels of violence by local ranchers and who are pushing for their ancestral land to be returned to them; and the Awá, who have become known as Earth’s most threatened tribe because of the large-scale invasion and destruction of their forest.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, "This raft of potential laws is effectively a death sentence for Brazil’s first peoples – tribes don’t survive when their land is stolen. As Brazil prepares to welcome football fans from around the world, how many are aware of the government’s repression?"