The demonstrations were conducted in more than 22 states, as well as the capital Brasília on Thursday, January 31, and were convened by the National Indigenous Peoples Association (APIB) and Brazil's National Indigenous Movement (MNI).
Indigenous peoples protest against changes introduced by President Jair Bolsonaro on his first day in office, but also to express fear of increased violence and discrimination.
One of President Bolsonaro’s first moves was to shift responsibility for the process of establishing new indigenous territories from the Indigenous Directorate FUNAI to the Ministry of Agriculture. This strips FUNAI of a an important function it has managed for decades.
In addition, the directorate itself was moved from the Ministry of Justice to a smaller, less important ministry.
– This change is seen as an intended de-prioritization of the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands in favor of agricultural interests, explains the head of the Brazil program in Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), Ellen Hestnes Ribeiro.
The protests in Brazil are also about indigenous and forest peoples being subjected to violence in connection with illegal intrusions into their territories. The intruders are often people who run illegal logging or mineral extraction.
Rainforest Foundation Norway fears that de-prioritization of FUNAI will diminish its local presence and a worsening of the situation.
– We share our Brazilian partners' concerns about increased violence against indigenous peoples and other minorities in Brazil. We hope the new government will collaborate with the representative organizations of indigenous and forest dependent peoples and with the established academic community in Brazil in order to counter threats and violence that particularly affect indigenous leaders and communities, Hestnes Ribeiro of RFN says.