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Recognition of Indigenous Lands in Raposa Serra do Sol, Brazil


The indigenous people of Raposa Serra do Sol (the Makuxi, Wapichana, Tuarepang, Ingarik and Patamana communities) have fought for 30 years in order to restore and protect their rights to ancestral lands, threatened by fazendeiros and garimpeiros (cattle breeders, rice producers and gold hunters), who have exploited and occupied their lands for centuries.

Land grabbing is coupled also with military deployment. Under the guise of reinforcing Brazilian army presence on its borders, military presence on indigenous lands goes together with recurrent violent repression of the communities [1 & 2].

Native people reacted against violations of their Constitutional right to live in territories that cannot be seized, an essential requirement for self-determination. During the General Assembly Tuxauas in 2002 the indigenous communities' leaders pinpointed to the diverse activities penetrating their terriroty without their consent and threatening its integrity and precarious equilibrium, amongst which the illegal gold mining, landowners, the construction of a military compound in Uiramutà (and the Calha Norte military program), an electricity grid etc... On top of that, two national parks (Monte Roraima and Serra Da Mocidade) prevent the indigenous communities to have an exclusive access to the natural resources [6]. Gathered at the General Assembly Tuxauas in 2002, the indigenous communities called in an open letter to the authorities for the official delimitation of their territory. Such advancement would legally protect Raposa Serra do Sol from outsiders’ settlers. This is done in 2005 by Lula’s presidential decree, which recognizes Raposa Serra do Sol territorial continuity and by doing so also grants indigenous communities’ autonomy and implies landowners’ evacuation of the area.

Still the Roraima State federal government and the landowners appealed to the Supreme Court, contesting the delimitation of Raposa Serra do Sol as an indigenous territory. By the beginning of 2009, the Supreme Court satisfied the indigenous communities’ land rights. Nevertheless the Supreme Court decision was followed by 19 conditions which restrict those very same rights. Indeed, in case of natural resources found on their territory, the communities don’t have to be consulted [3]. The argument for such way of proceeding is to place the national sovereignty principle as a priority on top of indigenous’ rights.

In 2013, a gathering in Borro, Raposa Serra do Sol, commemorated the Supreme Court decision of 2009. It was also the opportunity to protest against the proposed constitutional amendment (PEC) 215 [4]. The amendment would have transferred the power decision to demarcate indigenous lands from FUNAI to the Congress, rendering new recognitions of land much more difficult. The (PEC) 215 raised strong, broad and nation-wide contestation. It was finally rejected by the end of 2015 [5].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Recognition of Indigenous Lands in Raposa Serra do Sol, Brazil
State or province:Roraima
Location of conflict:Reposa Serra do Sol
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Military installations
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Indigenous leaders have been murdered since 1970 seeking for the recognition of their land. The deforestation occurred in these lands is of an equivalent of 22,000 hectares.

The Roraima State extension is of 22,411,800 hectares, out of which it is demarcated as indigenous territory an area of 10,311,679 hectares. The participation of indigenous territory in Reposa Serra do Sol is of a 7.8% while the indigenous population is of 46,309 out of 394,493 in Reposa Terra do Sol.

Today Raposa Serra do Sol Reserve is the second largest in Brazil in extension (1.7 million hectares) and the most populous with 17.000 inhabitants [3].

Project area:10,311,679
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:10/1970
Relevant government actors:Government of Brazil, Government of the Roraima State - Brazil, Ministy of Defense - Brazil, FUNAI (Brazil’s indigenous affairs department)
International and Finance InstitutionsInter- American Commission on Human Rights
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Makuxi Indigenous People - Brazil, Wapichana Indigenous People - Brazil, Tuarepang Indigenous People - Brazil, Ingariko Indigenous People - Brazil, Patamana Indigenous People - Brazil, Roraima Indigenous Council (CIR), Sociedade de Defesa dos Indígenas Unidos de Roraima (SODIUR), Rainforest Foundation

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Land demarcation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Application of existing regulations
In 2010 it was reported that invading rice growers had left the indigenous demarcated land in Raposa/Serra do Sol, in Roraima, rice production had gone back.
Proposal and development of alternatives:To accept the recognition of the single continous territory of the indigenous population fo Reposa Serra Do Sol and displace all of the non indigenous population out of that land, as well as their non indigenous practices that affect their lifestyles and the environment.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Even though the territory has been finally recognized, the environmental and social impacts have been too strong and not compensated.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Law 6001

Supreme Court Decision on December 10th, 2008 confirm the decree from 2005

Decree in 2005 recognizing Reposa Serra Do Sol as a single continous territory, implying it is an autonomous indigenous territory

Brazilian 1988 Constitution (art. 231) and previous Constitution:

Gold prospecting by a third party on indigenous lands is forbidden.

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] CIR Denounces Military Maneuvers And Illegal Arrest in the Raposa/Serra do Sol Indigenous Land, Cimi, News Letters n°490, 2001

[2] Formal Request to Initiate Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures To Avoid Immediate and Irreparable Harm To the Indigenous Peoples of Raposa Serra Do Sol, Brazil, And Follow-Up on Brazil’s State Party Report, 22/06/2006

[3] Illegal mining on the Raposa Serra do Sol indigenous land (RR), CETEM

[6] Tuxauas General Assembly, 2002 (in italian)

Amazzonia co yvy ore retama. Giulio Rizzo, 2006

Terra: Reforma agraria e direitos territoriais

Terras Indígenas e Unidades de Conservação - O desafio das sobreposições

La freccia e il fucile L'Amazzonia nelle mire della globalizzazione. Zaccaria Silvia, EMI, 2003

General Assembly of the Tuxaua, organized by the Indigenous Council of Roraima, 2002

Amazonia Um Brasil a parte. Edgard Santos, Taba Cultural, 2003

Uiramutã village resists threats of the Army, Cimi, New letters n°503, 2002

[4] Direitos são garantidos para povos da Terra Indígena Raposa Serra do Sol, Maurício Hashizume, 25/10/2013

[5] Não a PEC 215! Proposed change to Brazil’s constitution would leave indigenous peoples “in the hands of the multinational corporations”, C. Lang, 15/07/2015

Sem fazendeiros, produção de arroz na Raposa/Serra do Sol retrocede a patamar de oito anos atrás, 05/05/2010

Povos indigenas no Brasil

Índios da Raposa Serra do Sol, Survival

Riconoscimento terre indigene – Raposa Serra do Sol, CDCA

Projeto Calha Norte (in Portuguese)

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl and Camila Rolando Mazzuca
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:509



Mobilization in Raposa Serra do Sol in 2013 demanding for the 2009 Court decision to be implemented

ReporterBrasil, Maurício Hashizume