An indigenous mother and child enjoy an Amazon river. The establishment of the Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa, covering 1.2 million hectares along the Middle Negro River in Amazonas state, is a major victory for indigenous groups in Brazil, at a time when many government decisions have gone against their ancestral land rights. Photo: Zanini H. / Visual Hunt

By Sue Branford
18 September 2017

(Mongabay) – The Temer government, widely criticized for its attacks on indigenous rights, has approved its first significant measure in favor of the country’s indigenous communities.

Last week, Brazil’s official gazette published a decree, signed by Justice Minister Torquato Jardim, establishing the Indigenous Territory of Turubaxi-Téa along the middle reaches of the Negro River in the state of Amazonas. More than 900 Indians from ten different groups, distributed in eight villages, inhabit the reserve, which covers 1.2 million hectares (2.9 million acres).

It is an important victory for the Indians, who have been struggling for over two decades to have their lands recognized. The long delay has harmed the communities, as the un-demarcated land has been repeatedly invaded by loggers and farmers.

The indigenous groups are confident that the situation will now improve. “We are still suffering threats and other acts of disrespect,” said Carlos Nery Pira-Tapuya, president of the Association of Indigenous Communities on the Middle Negro River (ACIMRN). “But we believe that, once our territory is demarcated, there will be fewer invasions and in this way our communities will be able to make great advances in administering the territory.”

Marivelton Barroso Baré, president of the Federation of the Indigenous Organization of the Negro River (FOIRN), said the government has finally done what it should have done years ago: “It is the duty of the Brazilian state to recognise the rights of the indigenous population as the original inhabitants. Now we need to go on struggling to speed up other demarcations in the region.”

Despite the repeated incursions by loggers and farmers, the dispute over this land has by no means been as fierce or violent as in the southern Amazon basin, where large scale agribusiness has arrived and highway construction has increased access to outsiders and led to a rocketing in land prices.

No one in Brasilia was lobbying against the creation of Turubaxi-Téa reserve and no one contested its boundaries, established by the indigenous agency FUNAI after an anthropological study. In the southern Amazon, the ruralistas have worked aggressively to undermine indigenous rights and dispute land claims. [more]

Indigenous victory: Brazil’s Temer decrees 1.2 million Amazon reserve

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