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Indigenous leaders from all over Brazil attended the Mebengokrê Meeting that took place in Parque do Xingu last week. The leaders discussed strategies for protecting their land and Indigenous people from President Jair Bolsonaro racist and anti-climate agenda. (Photo: @ApibOficial/Twitter)

Indigenous People in Brazil Vow to Defeat Bolsonaro After "Perverse" Attack Claiming Tribes Are Still "Evolving" Into Human Beings

The Association of Indigenous Peoples filed a lawsuit against the president after he claimed tribes are "evolving" and vowing to "integrate" them.

Julia Conley

Indigenous leaders in Brazil on Friday vowed to stop President Jair Bolsonaro's assault on their land and people, filing a lawsuit against the president for his latest racist statements about the country's Indigenous population.

In a video posted to social media Thursday, Bolsonaro said Indigenous people in Brazil are "evolving and becoming more and more, a human being like us."

"What we want is to integrate him into society so he can own his land," Bolsonaro added.

"We Indigenous peoples, who are native to this land, demand respect! Bolsonaro once again tears the Constitution by denying our existence as human beings."
—Sonia Guajajara, APIB

The Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) announced shortly after the video's publication that it would file suit against the president for the crime of racism, which can carry a sentence of up to five years in Brazil.

"We Indigenous peoples, who are native to this land, demand respect!" wrote Sonia Guajajara on Twitter. "Bolsonaro once again tears the Constitution by denying our existence as human beings."

Brazil's approximately 900,000-strong Indigenous population mainly lives on reservations that make up about 12% of Brazilian land. Bolsonaro has sought to roll back that land even further, suggesting that he would place reservation boundaries under review.

Last year, human rights and green groups blamed Bolsonaro's pro-deforestation policies for the burning of millions of acres of the Amazon rainforest, where Indigenous tribes have lived for millennia, as the administration encouraged loggers and ranchers to burn the forest to make way for their business interests. 

The intense burning of the forest came shortly after Bolsonaro took office, vowing to make Indigenous people part of "the real Brazil" and "give them value as real Brazilians."

Bolsonaro has expressed admiration for the military dictatorship which forced Indigenous people to move into cities from 1964 to 1985, as business interests developed parts of the Amazon.

"We need to put a stop to this perverse man," Guajajara said Friday after Bolsonaro's latest claim that Indigenous people must change their way of life for the benefit of mining, logging, and ranching industries.

Earlier this month, Bolsonaro's government sent a bill to Congress proposing the legalization of hydroelectric dams and oil and gas exploration in Indigenous lands.

Last week, Chief Raoni Metuktire hosted Indigenous leaders from across the country at a four-day summit in Xingu Indigenous Park, to discuss a path forward for combating Bolsonaro's attacks.

The attendees issued a call to protect Brazil's Indigenous people from Bolsonaro's planned "genocide, ethnocide, and ecocide."

"The riches Bolsonaro speaks of are white man's riches, to buy cars and planes and ranches," Kayapó tribe leader Megaron Txucarramãe told Reuters during the meeting. "Our riches are in the forest and the rivers here."


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