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  • Human Rights Research Center

A Historic Victory for Indigenous Peoples Solidifies Land Rights in Brazil

September 27, 2023

Indigenous people celebrate a Supreme Court ruling to enshrine Indigenous land rights in Brasilia, Brazil on September 21, 2023. [Image credit: AP Photo/Gustavo Moreno]

Cited article by Associated Press

HRRC celebrates this pivotal moment for Indigenous people in Brazil as they strive to protect their ancestral lands and territories. While this narrow victory brings relief to Brazil's Indigenous communities, the future of legislating protection for their territories remains uncertain.

News Brief

On September 21, 2023, Brazil's Supreme Court delivered a significant victory for Indigenous peoples by rejecting the "cutoff date" legal argument, which held that Indigenous communities could not claim title to their ancestral lands if they were not physically present on them on October 5, 1988, the day Brazil's current Constitution was adopted. The case originated from a dispute in Santa Catarina state, where the Xokleng Indigenous people were in conflict with the state over land claims based on the cutoff date argument. The Supreme Court's ruling, which followed years of legal proceedings, could set a precedent for similar cases across Brazil. Indigenous communities from various regions of Brazil had long been advocating for their rights, with many traveling to Brasilia to seek recognition and protection of their ancestral lands.

The rejection of the arbitrary cutoff date is a significant relief for Indigenous peoples, as it would have made it impossible for those who were forcibly removed from their lands before 1988 to claim their territories, especially if they couldn't demonstrate an ongoing dispute over their claims at that time. However, there is ongoing concern about an initiative introduced by the rural caucus in Congress, closely connected to agribusiness, which aims to enshrine the cutoff date thesis in legislation. The fate of this proposal remains uncertain.


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