Xavante indigenous people from Maraiãwatsede with traditional body paint for war. Due to conflicts over land ownership, this traditional painting is now a daily ritual in their lives.
Today, Brazil celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day. However, on a day that is supposed to celebrate their ancestors, culture and stories, many of Indigenous Peoples are instead fighting for their lands and their rights.
According to a survey by CIMI (Indigenous Missionary Council), there are no less than 452 government development projects currently underway in Brazil, 201 of which directly impact Indigenous Lands. Illegal logging and ranching continues to encroach on Indigenous Lands and conflict and violence is prevalent in the Amazon region.
According to CIMI, an average of 50 murders of Indigenous Peoples occur annually in Brazil. Even more shocking, in the state of Mato Grosso, a leading state for deforestation, there is an average of four deaths per month. From 2003 to 2012, 315 Indigenous Leaders were murdered in connection to forest destruction.
Earlier this week, several hundred Indigenous Peoples occupied the main plenary of Brazilian House of Deputies in protest of PEC-215, a constitutional amendment that would transfer the power to demarcate indigenous lands to the legislative branch of government.
Following hours of protest: the head of the House, Henrique Eduardo Alves, pledged to postpone, the selection of the Special Committee that would discuss PEC-215 for six months. Meanwhile, Alves created a Negotiating Committee, comprised of parliamentarians, representatives from Indigenous Peoples and government officials to discuss all issues related to indigenous peoples filed at the House of Deputies.
The leaders from the Indigenous Peoples communities considered the postponement and creation of the new committee a victory in an increasingly difficult battle for the rights guaranteed to Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities in Brazil. But the fight for their rights and an end to the violence associated with forest destruction is far from over.
"We are being attacked with proposals that aim to erase us from the history of Brasil. They are allowing the constiution to be torn apart, just like the Forest Code was torn apart. As long as there is one of us standing, there will be a fight to protect the forests' cried the Chief Ninawa, of the Huni Kui people of Acre.