Three indigenous women, Sonia Guajajara, Celia Xakriabá, and Watatakalu Walapipiti, participate in the First March of Indigenous Women in Brasilia, Brazil in August 2019. The march was held to demonstrate the key role indigenous women leaders have in protecting their communities, and to protest the policies of the new Bolsanaro government that harm indigenous peoples and their lands.
Since President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration in January 2019, he has come under fire for violating indigenous sovereignty and land rights. The touchstone of this conflict has been Bolsonaro’s push to clear and develop parts of the Amazon rainforest to exploit its rich natural resources. The Amazon is home to over one million indigenous people divided among more than 400 tribes, and the forest and its resources are the foundation of many of these tribes’ survival and cultural traditions. Activists allege that President Bolsonaro’s public statements pushing for greater economic development in the Amazon have encouraged illegal loggers and miners to invade indigenous territories, causing not only environmental devastation and exacerbating climate change, but also leading to violence against land defenders. Several indigenous leaders have been killed in the confrontations, and advocates warn that Bolsonaro’s statements in favour of development will increase the frequency and scale of such violence.