Indigenous defend the fundamental right to land and say no to TEMPORAL FRAMEWORK

Images: Archive of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB)

@daldeiaoficial – kauri Waiãpi

More than 170 indigenous ethnicities were present and camped in the Federal District to accompany the vote at the Federal Supreme Court (Superior Tribunal Federal: STF) for Extraordinary Appeal (Recurso Extraordinário) 1017365, which includes the Temporal Framework (Marco Temporal) defended by the rural caucus.  Planned for 01 September 2021, the vote was postponed the previous week (on 26 August) and, because of its estimated duration of 10 hours of arguments and oral submissions by lawyers, once again was not concluded, with the decision transferred to 02.09 and later to the 08 September.  CESE has supported more than 200 indigenous people from 23 different ethnicities to travel to Brasilia, an essential mobilization to pressurize the STF and provide a counterpoint to the strong rural lobby.  The vote has already been postponed five times and yet the decision is defining for the future demarcation of indigenous lands around the country. Demonstrations on the streets and in urban areas across the whole of Brazil have brought visibility to original peoples’ struggle for their rights.

The Temporal Framework, defended by the rural caucus and the President of the Republic, determines that indigenous peoples will only have the right to lands they were already in possession of in 1988, when the Citizens Constitution was enacted. This ignores the long process of rights violations experienced over the years by these peoples, in invasions, forced removals and expulsion from their territories, either by agribusiness or miners.  Currently under discussion at the STF is a repossession claim filed by the Santa Catarina Environmental Institute (Instituto do Meio a Ambiente: IMA) against the National Indian Foundation (Fundação Nacional do Índio: FUNAI) and the Xokleng indigenous people, involving an area claimed by the Ibirama-Laklanõ Indigenous Land. As noted by these indigenous people, throughout the 20th century the disputed territory was reduced, and what is interpreted in this case will serve as guide for other situations, creating a benchmark.  The STF discussion will delimit the scope of article 231 of the Federal Constitution, which recognizes the right of original peoples to the lands they occupy, while the Federal Government is responsible for demarcating them.

Telma Taurepang

Telma Taurepang

“The Temporal Framework’s greatest impact is to remove our rights. It’s reversing what was guaranteed under the 1988 Constitution.  This proposal violates our rights, threatens our lives and the context of indigenous peoples,” asserted Temal Taurepang, a member of the Union of Indigenous Women of the Brazilian Amazon (União das Mulheres Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira: UMIAB), which is with the Taurepang people in Brasilia.  For this leader, so many postponements explain the low priority of original peoples’ rights against the interests of capital.  The entire mobilization is aimed at drawing the authorities’ attention to indigenous lives and to mobilize society. “For us, it is uncomfortable to live under canvas for seven, eight days. But, however long it takes, we’ll be in that dark place in Brasilia, making sure our rights are not further violated,” she added.

The Brazilian press consider the indigenous camp in Brasilia to be one of the largest demonstrations against the Federal Government, which is totally tied up with agribusiness.  “Given the impact of the invasions that have been happening on indigenous lands, we could no longer be silent, we could no longer go on while our bases are under attack.  Our indigenous lands have been invaded by illegal loggers, by miners, and this has happened more frequently because of the president’s speeches.  All his talk just increases the danger and violence on indigenous lands,” declared the leader, who is also involved in the Indigenous Women’s March, planned for the 07 to 11 September in Brasilia.


 Ana Patté Xoklen during the #LutaPelaVida (#FightForLife) camp. Credit:@midiaindiaoficial

Ana Patté, who is from the Xokleng people and is a member of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil: APIB), shares concerns about the possibility of new delays and political manoeuvres, which could make the  mobilization process even more strenuous. “Our fear is that some minister will ask for views about the process and delay everything all over again.  We’re there at a mobilization that will last almost two months,” the leader declared.  In her opinion, help from partners and supporters who have covered the basic expenses has been essential to in ensuring that indigenous peoples’ presence in the Praça dos Três Poderes (Three Powers Plaza) is effective. “We have to rely on supporters to pay for food and buses and it hasn’t been easy, but we expect a positive result, that the minsters will act consistently with indigenous lands.  It’s the least they can do after all the setbacks that have affected indigenous peoples,” she noted.

PL-490 – In addition to the decision at the STF, the Chamber of Deputies is debating a Draft Bill that seeks to institute a Temporal Framework, PL-490. In a statement to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper on Tuesday 31 August 2021, the proposal’s rapporteur at the Constitution and Justice Committee, DEM Deputy Rodrigo Maia, signalled that even if the supreme court decision goes against the Temporal Framework, nothing will prevent its advance and possible approval in Congress.  According to Ana Patté of the APIB, “PL-490 is a draft bill created by the rural caucus and aims to create more setbacks for indigenous communities.  In other words, issues about the demarcation of indigenous lands: those that have been demarcated will be reviewed and those in the demarcation process won’t be demarcated.”  In her assessment, this will be a significant setback to hard won indigenous rights, a real offensive, which will principally impact on the autonomy of the most isolated, and consequently most vulnerable, peoples.  “They say this is about the autonomy of indigenous peoples, so that they can exploit indigenous lands.  This is not our objective! We have a totally different view of land from that of white people.  We have a vision of care and protection, while they don’t.  They think of exploitation, which is why they want to pass a totally unconstitutional draft bill, one that does not meet the demands of indigenous peoples,” she noted.

What is at stake, both in the STF and in Congress, is the recognition or denial of original peoples’ fundamental right: the right to land.  A view that only considers indigenous presence on the land since the 1988 Constitution ignores the entire historical process from the colonial period up to the most recent disputes and crimes, during the dictatorship.  If approved, many lands belonging to isolated peoples will not be recognized, which opens up the possibility of the extermination of these ethnicities and is one more incentive for the invasion of territories during the demarcation process.  At least 303 processes in Brazil are awaiting an outcome.