By Maggie Wang
This article was originally published here on Human Rights Pulse on April 21, 2021.
“If I become President, there will not be another centimeter of indigenous land [demarcated].”
This statement and statements like it—including several where “centimeter” was replaced by “millimeter”—cropped up frequently in the campaign rhetoric of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s far-right populism and militaristic disregard for minority groups—including Indigenous nations, Black Brazilians, and LGBTQ+ people, among others—have made him immensely popular. It has also made him one of the greatest dangers to environmental conservation and the advancement of Indigenous rights. His presidency has seen large-scale destruction of Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest and encroachment on Indigenous lands by mining and logging companies. Yet, the centrality of Indigenous groups to Bolsonaro’s anti-environment campaign makes them key stakeholders in any effort to protect the Amazon. Since Indigenous rights and conservation are so closely interlinked, it is crucial that conservationists recognize the invaluable knowledge of Indigenous leaders.