• Indigenous peoples in Brazil

    Indigenous peoples in Brazil

    There are 896.917 indigenous persons in Brazil, distributed among 305 ethnic groups.The main challenge for indigenous people is the threat that new indigenous territories will no longer be established. Permissiveness prevails with hydroelectric and mining companies that directly or indirectly affect indigenous territory.
  • Land rights

    13.8% of the lands in the country have been reserved for indigenous peoples. The majority of these territories are concentrated in the Amazon.
  • Climate

    Permissiveness prevails with hydroelectric and mining companies that directly or indirectly affect indigenous territories. There is also an attempt to gradually deactivate the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) by cutting its financing and its strategic personnel.
  • Governance

    In addition to suffering the slow pace of fulfilment of their rights, now the indigenous peoples are the target of systematic, violent attacks by the Democratic Association of Ruralists (UDR) and by transnational companies that have been granted mining or timber concessions.


Indigenous Peoples' rights in Brazil

According to the 2010 census of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, there are 896,917 Indigenous persons in Brazil. The country voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), and the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2016) and has signed ILO Convention 169.

The Constitution of 1988 recognizes the Indigenous peoples as the first and natural owners of the land and guarantees them their right to land. Exploration and extraction of mineral wealth on Indigenous lands must be carried out solely with authorization from the National Congress after listening to the communities involved, who must be guaranteed participation in the benefits of the mining activities. Eviction of Indigenous peoples from their lands is prohibited.

Indigenous peoples in Brazil

There are 896,917 Indigenous persons in Brazil, distributed among 305 ethnic groups. The principal indigenous ethnic group is the Tikúna, who comprise 6.8% of the total indigenous population.

There are around 274 languages. Among Indigenous persons over the age of five, only 37.4% speak an Indigenous language, while 76.9% speak Portuguese. It is estimated that there are 115 peoples living in isolation,1 of which 28 are confirmed and the rest are in the process of being identified.

502,783 individuals out of the Indigenous population in Brazil live in rural zones and 315,180 in urban zones. A total of 505 Indigenous Lands have been identified, covering 12.5% of Brazilian territory (106.7 million hectares). The majority of these territories are concentrated in the Amazon.

Brazil is the country in South America with the largest known concentration of Indigenous Peoples in isolation in the states of Amap., Acre, Amazonas, Amapá, Acre, Amazonas, Goiás, Maranhao, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima, and Tocantins. Currently, there are 107 records of the presence of Indigenous Peoples in isolation in the Amazon region.

Election of Jair Bolsonaro as President

Following the Presidential elections in Brazil in October 2018 Jair Bolsonaro, former captain of the Brazilian army and candidate of the evangelist party, assumed the Presidency on January 1, 2019. Claiming to represent rural Brazilians and promoting the priorities of his evangelist party the government of Jair Bolsonaro’s policies and agenda directly threaten the constitutional rights and freedoms of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples. The Frente Parlamentar da Agropecuária, Brazil’s largest parliamentary group, represents the vested interests of companies and major landowners in the country. The group represents businesses that move over 118 million US $ in agricultural and livestock products and who support Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda to open up lands and resources, previously safeguarded to exploitation.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda directly threatens Indigenous Peoples, particularly its recent unconstitutional revocation of the legal processes of demarcation related to Indigenous lands. These processes helped recognize and protect Indigenous land holdings. This revocation means that at any time, official reports, declaratory ordinances and Indigenous land permissions which have been issued can be reviewed and revoked. Further, supporting the interests of the Frente Parlamentar da agropecuaria, the economic exploitation of the traditional lands of the Indigenous and quilombola peoples, is given free rein. Bolsonaro’s support and actions are being used to justify brutal attacks against these peoples further accusing them of being the great obstacles for the development of the country.

In addition to questioning the acquired and recognized rights related to these processes of demarcation, the Fundação nacional do índio (FUNAI – National Foundation for Indians), the federal body directly linked to the demarcation of Indigenous lands is being functionally deactivated. The budget approved in 2018 is insufficient to ensure the minimum conditions that give continuity to its tasks. Further, to curtail efforts to protect Indigenous lands, on the first day of his mandate, (January 1, 2019) the government of Jair Bolsonaro approved a decree that assigns the responsibility of certifying the protection of Indigenous territories to the Ministry of Agriculture, which is well known to defend the interests of business’ that want access to previously restricted and protected Indigenous lands.

Indigenous Peoples fighting for their rights on the streets of Brasilia


In August, ahead of the Federal Supreme Court’s decision regarding the Ibirama - La Klãnõ indigenous land, Brazil witnessed the largest indigenous protest in its history. The experts believe that the Supreme Court’s decision will set an important precedent for territorial rights in the country. While agribusiness and mining companies expect that the court will establish October 5, 1988 as the cut-off date for Indigenous territorial claims, Indigenous Peoples are fighting for the full recognition and protection of their territorial rights.

Photos: Isabelle Araújo y Alass Derivas

Continue Reading

Threats to indigenous peoples living in isolation in Brazil


The Brazilian Amazon has the largest number of peoples living in isolation and initial contact in the world. Their livelihoods and territories are under pressure, threatened by forest depredation, mining, agribusiness, infrastructure projects and extremist missionaries. The situation has deteriorated under the government of Jair Bolsonaro and with the arrival of the pandemic. The mobilization of Indigenous and civil society organizations is essential to resist setbacks in the protection of these peoples.

Continue Reading

Failure to comply with autonomous consultation protocols during Covid-19 in Brazil

Indígena Xakriabá de São João das Missões (Minas Gerais). Foto: Edgar Kanaykõ

Indigenous and traditional communities have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus. The pandemic is compounded by ecocide, fires, hydroelectric power and mining. Beyond the Brazilian government’s negligence, the State has failed to adopt special measures for the communities, nor has it suspended the consultation processes, as established by the IACHR. The Indigenous Peoples are trying to resist subjugation with their own protocols, their fight within the justice sector and their refusal to adhere to virtual consultations.

Continue Reading

Mercosur - European Union Trade Agreement: Risks and Challenges for Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

Indigenous Peoples protesting in front of Brazilian high court

In this report, we will see that the situation of the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities is at extreme risk of setback, especially as a result of a coalition of forces under the coordination of sectors interested in expanding the agricultural frontier over Indigenous Lands. The advantages that the Parties may eventually gain through the Agreement between Mercosur and the European Union will, conversely, be a disaster for the Indigenous Peoples and communities of Brazil.

Continue Reading

The Indigenous World 2021: Brazil

Brazil's Indigenous population stands at 896,900 individuals, 36.2% of whom live in urban areas. A total of 505 Indigenous Lands have been identified, covering 12.5% of Brazilian territory (106.7 million hectares). There are 305 different peoples, most of whom live in the Amazon region and speak 274 languages.

It is estimated that there are 115 peoples living in isolation,[1] of which 28 are confirmed and the rest are in the process of being identified.

Continue Reading

Indigenous World 2020: Brazil

Brazil’s Indigenous population numbers 896,900 people, 36.2% of whom live in urban areas and 63.8% in rural. Five hundred and five (505) Indigenous Lands (TIs) have been identified. These lands represent 12.5% (106.7 million hectares) of Brazil’s territory and are inhabited by 517,400 Indigenous people (57.7% of the total).

Continue Reading

  • 1
  • 2



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Contact IWGIA

Prinsessegade 29 B, 3rd floor
DK 1422 Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 53 73 28 30
E-mail: iwgia@iwgia.org
CVR: 81294410

Report possible misconduct, fraud, or corruption

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you do not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand