Brazil was “discovered” by the Portuguese in 1500. In that period, about 8 million native peoples lived there, dispersing in more than a thousand ethnic groups who date back over 15,000 years.
Archaeological excavations have found remnants of communities dating back 50,000 years in Brazil, according to new findings. Studies show that the communities lived in a communal, decentralized way without monotheistic belief. The spiritual connection of the native people is believed to centre around nature and animals and their way of survival is believed to be heavily dependant on agriculture and hunting. Surplus goods were commonly exchanged for other necessary goods with neighboring communities.
Colonization of Brazil
With the arrival of the Portuguese, believed to have arrived on the coast of india in search of spices in 1500, thousands of native people were abducted from their homelands. A heavy genocide was committed by the occupiers who had reached unexploited land who used biological warfare as a mechanism to perpetuate this killing.
Diseases such as measles and smallpox were used to contaminate the native peoples who had weak immune systems to such diseases which were foreign to the terrirtory. This tactic is still used by farmers, hunters and miners to kill indigenous people to this day.
Today in Brazil, there are approximately 900,000 indigenous people – about 10% of the numbers before the arrival of the colonizers.
During the period of the military dictatorship (1964-1985) the native people suffered several attacks from the government, which was interested in building state infrastructures within their preserved territories. It is estimated that during this period, about 10,000 native people were killed by the Brazilian state. However, this killing did not stop after the period of re-democratization…Even after the creation of institutions to defend the ancestry, culture, territory and history of indigenous peoples – as is the case with FUNAI and IBAMA, Brazil today is the country that kills the most environmental activists and indigenous leaders.
The 1988 constitution recognized the rights of the original peoples in its Article 231, and defined that their lands be demarcated and preserved. However, the process of demarcating indigenous lands has been sabotaged since its publication by the country’s ruralists and evangelicals.
The situation worsened after the election of nationalist candidate Bolsonaro. On the day it was declared that Bolsonaro had been elected president, farmers and miners set fire to a school and a health post serving the indigenous populations in the north of the country. Since then, Bolsonaro completely stopped the demarcation process, weakened the institutions of protection, allocated military personnel to command these institutions, and promised to pass a law regulating mining within indigenous lands. In addition, he closed all social programs to support indigenous peoples (an effect that was felt immediately, in January 2019, 77 deaths of babies of indigenous origin were registered due to lack of immunological hospital care).
In addition, the corona virus is being used as a weapon by miners, loggers and farmers against indigenous peoples. To date, 11,270 indigenous people have been infected with the virus and 418 have died.
The Brazilian government does little to prevent the contamination of indigenous peoples in its territories and to halt the advance of both illegal mining and the advancement of the virus to the communities where a threat is posed. The government’s inactivity has led the Articulation of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples – APIB, to develop its own strategy to combat the virus.
The government wants to publish a Provisional Measure that revises the criteria of indigenous demarcation and transform into law the regularization of mining within these regions. This speech motivated miners to attack and occupy indigenous territories, with the hope that they will have their lands regularized soon. At this very moment, 15 communities are suffering attacks. A cycle of violence may begin on Yanomami Land after two young indigenous people were executed by invading miners in the region, is what the Hutukara Yanomami Association fears in a letter released on 26 June.
Original Yanomami, 24, and Marcos Arokona, 20, have been killed. Today Brazil has just under 900,000 Indians, from 300 different ethnic groups and 270 dialects.