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Brazilian Supreme Court Takes Crucial Step Towards Recognizing Indigenous Rights

Vilhalva, one of the leaders of the Guyra Roka community. ©
Sarah Shenker/Survival

A small
community of Brazilian Indians has won a land rights case at
Brazil’s Supreme Court that could have major repercussions
for indigenous people across the country.

The Court
has ruled that a 2014 judicial decision canceling the return
of some of their ancestral territory to the Guarani
community of Guyra Roka must be revisited because the
Guarani themselves were not involved in the process. Now,
they must be given a fair hearing before the Court votes
again on the return of their territory.

The ruling
will potentially affect other communities whose lands have
been stolen, but who hope to reclaim them.

the chances of the Guarani recovering their land any time
soon are remote.

Most of the area has been taken over
by a powerful politician and rancher, José Teixeira, who
has been implicated in a series of attacks on the Guarani.
One of the leaders of Guyra Roka, Ambrosio Vilhalva, who acted
in the feature film Birdwatchers
, was stabbed
to death
in 2013.

Vilhalva and others led a
“re-occupation” in 2000 to recover a small parcel of
their land from the rancher.

of the leaders of Guyra Roka, Ambrosio Vilhalva, was
murdered in 2013. © Sarah

Tito Vilhalva, a
religious leader of the Guyra Roka community, said: “I’m
99 years old now. [When I was young] Guyra Roka was forest
– there was no road, no fences. It was just forest and
Indians, monkeys and tapirs. There were no Brazilians

The 2014 cancelation of the Guyra Roka’s
territory was based on what campaigners have called the “Time
Limit Trick”
– a ploy by anti-indigenous politicians
to manipulate the constitution and steal indigenous

The Time Limit Trick says that unless
indigenous peoples were living on their ancestral lands on
October 5, 1988 [the day the Brazilian Constitution was
adopted] they no longer have any right to them. If
successful, this genocidal manoeuvre would put hundreds of
indigenous territories and dozens of uncontacted tribes at
grave risk.

from the huge farms surrounding Guyra Roka poison their
fish, Brazil. © Sarah

The Supreme Court
is due to rule in a separate case shortly concerning the
Xokleng tribe that will set the definitive precedent for the
Time Limit Trick. If it is upheld in that case, indigenous
rights will be set back decades and many tribal peoples, and
their lands, could be destroyed.

The indigenous lawyer
Eloy Terena said: “Instead of protecting indigenous
interests, [the state and its agents] worked with the
region’s farmers to evict the indigenous people from their
lands and to promote genocidal agribusiness.”

Time Limit Trick is just one of a series of measures that
President Bolsonaro’s government is pushing aimed at
opening up all indigenous lands in the country to mining,
ranching and logging. These measures constitute the biggest
attack on indigenous peoples in decades
, and if passed
could have the effect of completely
destroying tribal peoples in Brazil

Research & Advocacy Director Fiona Watson, who has
visited the Guyra Roka community, said today: “This is a
stunning victory for a group of people who have been
relentlessly persecuted for decades but never stopped
fighting to recover their land. The Guarani and their many
allies around the world will fight for their land to be
returned. The Guarani have endured a decades-long
humanitarian crisis in which almost all their land has been
stolen, their leaders murdered, and their means of survival
destroyed. Like other tribal peoples across Brazil,
they’re confronting a government whose policies and
actions have the clear and genocidal aim of wiping them

© Scoop Media


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