Lula approves six new indigenous territories

Brazilian President Lula da Silva approved the demarcation of six indigenous territories on Friday, April 28, strengthening the protection of the Amazon rainforest.

LAND RIGHTS: Protesters demanding indigenous land rights at a national gathering of Indigenous peoples in Brasilia in April 2023. Photo: Veera Mo/Rainforest Foundation Norway

The demarcation of the six indigenous territories was one of Lula's campaign promises for his first hundred days as president. The announcement came in connection with a national gathering of indigenous peoples in the capital Brasilia, where land rights were a key demand. The demarcation protects the indigenous territories from intruders and increases the protection of the rights of its inhabitants.

"Lula fulfills his promise by officially approving these areas. He shows Brazil and the world that he is serious about strengthening the rights of indigenous people and preserving the forest," says Toerris Jaeger, Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

LAND RIGHTS: Indigenous people from across Brazil gather at the yearly Acampamento Terra Livre or "Free Land Camp" protest in Brasilia, April 2023. Their key demand is officially recognized indigenous land rights. Photo: Veera Mo/Rainforest Foundation Norway

Indigenous areas crucial to preserving the Amazon

The six new territories total 6 217, 15 square kilometers and are now designated as indigenous territories with special protection. The process of recognizing areas as indigenous territories has been paralyzed for several years, mainly due to a lack of political will by Brazil's previous government. Several more areas are awaiting demarcation.

"Indigenous areas are crucial to preserving the Amazon, the world’s central bank for biological diversity. Today’s announcement is also an important recognition that indigenous people are the ones best able to guard this wealth," says Jaeger.

The landmark nature agreement agreed on at COP15 in Montreal in 2022 obliges the world's countries to protect 30% of the world's seas and land areas by 2030. Jaeger emphasizes the importance of including the most vulnerable and species-rich areas, such as all the world’s rainforests, in the 30% total.

APPLAUDS: Marivelton Baré, leader of the indigenous organization FOIRN, applauds the recent demarcations and expects more demarcations to follow. Photo: Juliana Radler/ISA

Provides protection against intruders

One of the indigenous territories getting its seal of approval is Uneiuxi in the Rio Negro region, an area totaling 5,520 km².

The leader of the indigenous organization FOIRN, Marivelton Baré, who attended the annual indigenous gathering in Brasilia, said:

"The formal recognition of the indigenous territory of Uneiuxi, the home of the Nadebe people, is a great victory! This is a fulfillment of the promises President Lula made during the election campaign and now as president. Now, we expect the decision will be followed up with the recognition of additional indigenous territories that still lack this approval."

The rainforest in the Rio Negro region in Northern Brazil is threatened by illegal mining and drug traffic. The recognition of areas as indigenous territories is important to strengthen the protection and security of the many indigenous groups that live here. Formal recognition and demarcation of indigenous territories makes it more difficult for outsiders to enter and threaten the rainforest and the indigenous way of life.

The Amazon rainforest and how we work to protect it

Ellen Hestnes Ribeiro

Team Leader, Brazil Program
(+47) 402 81 386