Brazil’s indigenous population

Brazil’s indigenous population includes nearly 900,000 people and more than 300 unique groups. They face a litany of issues including discrimination, threats to their native lands and extreme poverty. Here are six facts about Brazil’s indigenous population.

6 Facts About Brazil’s Indigenous Population

  1. Indigenous people can be found living in areas ranging from Brazil’s cities to remote regions of the Amazon rainforest. Totaling over 300 groups, they represent a diverse and varying subsect of the Brazilian population. Depending on a group’s culture, history or location, they encounter different problems and require separate solutions. This is essential to keep in mind when discussing issues facing Brazil’s indigenous population as a whole.
  2. Indigenous Brazilians endure severe forms of discrimination and prejudice. As recently as the 1960s, there was a coordinated effort to eradicate Brazil’s indigenous population entirely. The “Figueiredo report” details the genocide, torture, rape and enslavement of indigenous people during a 30 year period. Today, the period’s brutal legacy lives on. “It’s a shame that the Brazilian cavalry wasn’t as efficient as the Americans, who exterminated their Indians,” Brazil’s recently elected president Jair Bolsonaro once said.
  3. Due to discrimination, Brazil’s indigenous population’s access to education and health care is limited compared to their non-indigenous compatriots. A 2008 United Nations report highlighted the low education and health standards endured by this population. Additionally, reports allege that they are often denied care by public health services due simply to their affiliation with indigenous groups.
  4. Many of Brazil’s indigenous population have been crowded into reservations that are constantly shrinking in size. Brazilian businesses and the government have partnered to continue deforestation of the Amazon, which is home to many indigenous tribes. The largest tribe left is the Guarani, with roughly 51,000 members, but most of their land has been replaced by cattle farms and sugar cane plantations. Armed bands of “grileiros” have recently launched attacks on indigenous communities, pushing them further into the Amazon, burning the rainforest, and planting grass for cattle. The NGO Repórter Brasil published a report in 2019 that found that 14 indigenous communities are currently being invaded or are seriously threatened by one.
  5. These conditions have led to a reality where many of Brazil’s indigenous population live in extreme poverty. While no official count exists, it is widely maintained that indigenous groups face poverty at a much higher rate than the rest of Brazil.
  6. NGOs such as Survival International and Cultural Survival provide hope for Brazil’s struggling indigenous population. These NGOs attempt to lobby international organizations and human rights groups on issues of indigenous concern, such as the issues outlined above. Both groups identify international action as the only viable path left for indigenous Brazilians. Cultural Survival works with indigenous groups to develop media and advocacy projects; thus far, the organization has invested $2.5 million into indigenous groups. Further, the team actively trains members to become community radio journalists, allowing for indigenous groups to have a voice in the media.

Pushed from native lands and facing serious threats to life, many members of indigenous groups are doing what they can to survive in a nation often hostile and violent towards them. “Today, we are seeing the biggest attack on our rights in Brazilian history,” said indigenous lawmaker Joênia Wapichana.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr