• 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.


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.

The Indigenous World 2024: Brazil

According to data from the 2022 demographic census, Brazil is home to 266 Indigenous Peoples with a population of 1,693,535 people, or approximately 0.83% of the total Brazilian population. These peoples communicate in 275 different languages. The northern region of Brazil holds almost 45% of the Indigenous population and Amazonas state represents the epicentre, with 490,000 Indigenous individuals.

The rights of Indigenous Peoples are set out in a specific chapter of the 1988 Charter (Title VIII, ”Social Order”, Chapter VIII, “On the Indians"”, in addition to other provisions scattered throughout the constitutional text and an article in the transitional provisions.

Continue Reading

Unadapted living: Karara contact and death on the Jatapu River


Esese was a baby in arms when her family was captured in their village in the 1960s. Today she is the last survivor of the Karara group first contacted on the Carará River. Marking her life and that of her relatives was rubber tapping, illegal hunting, ore mining and surveys for hydroelectric power plants on the Jatapu River. Adding to land usurpation, malaria epidemics brought in by non-indigenous workers decimated her family. Uprooted from her home on the Carará River, Esese lived in several villages, indigenous lands and towns without ever adapting to living anywhere.

Continue Reading

Self-determination, territorial autonomy and access to justice: Insights into the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil from the Indigenous Navigator

The purpose of this report is to produce data and insights about the way in which Brazil is applying the international rules included in the International Labour Organization Indigenous and Tribal PeoplesConvention, 1989 (No. 169); United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007, as well as other relevant human rights documents. Its main source is the qualitative and quantitative data availableon the Indigenous Navigator (IN).The Indigenous Navigator was created to help different interest groups as well as Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities monitor the realization of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in different all countries.

Continue Reading

White-collar miners: who is devastating the Amazon?


While miners are blamed for the destruction of the forests, this gold fever would not exist without the lavish consumption of sheikhs, influencers, rappers, footballers, brokers, Hollywood actors and famous singers. Following the rise in the price of gold during Covid-19, Central Banks and speculators have further boosted this demand. In Brazil and Venezuela, the land area affected by mining is increasing rapidly and the presence of gold miners threatens the indigenous communities living near the deposits.

Continue Reading

Decolonizing genocide in Brazil: challenges to defending Indigenous collective life


The plan to exterminate the country’s Indigenous Peoples has been reconfigured time and again to adapt it to the country’s different cultural and political contexts. More recently, the anti-Indigenous policies of Jair Bolsonaro and the Covid-19 pandemic have shone a renewed light on the need to decolonize the crime of genocide. The legal classification of this crime represents a challenge in terms of proving a subjective element of malice, i.e., that there was an intention to destroy, in whole or in part, the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Continue Reading

Fifty years of exile and injustice for the Ãwa people


The colonial persecution of the survivors of the Avá-Canoeiro peoples, better known as Âwa, goes on. A new judicial decision has reduced their territory mostly to flooded areas with no access to the Javaés River. Conflicts have increased since Incra created a settlement in the 1990s.

Continue Reading



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

For media inquiries click here

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

 instagram social icon facebook_social_icon.png   youtuble_logo_icon.png  linkedin_social_icon.png twitter-x-icon.png 

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

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

I understand