Indigenous Policy Review in Brazil: Ideologies, Rights, and Perspectives

This is an analysis of the evolution of political actions and legal instruments imposed on indigenous peoples in Brazil since pre-colonization in the fifteenth century. Among the political ideologies that stand out are integrationism and protectionism. Integrationist ideology is seen as a beacon that lights the way and acts in the minds of Indians to constitute an ethnic nation state. However, a permanent recognition of indigenous rights is legitimated in the Federal Constitution of Brazil and in Resolution 169 of the International Labour Organization (recognized by Brazil). Both documents address the outdated Indian Statute. Discussions of the new Statute of Indigenous Peoples in National Congress began in 1991 and still show no prospect of completion. The judgment of the approval of the Raposa-Serra do Sol Indigenous Land brought conditions that, if misunderstood, threaten to set back indigenous rights, particularly in terms of their role and autonomy. This episode demonstrated that the same interests and characters that expanded the colonial frontier over the past five centuries have not relented. Nevertheless, people that were once fooled by legal maneuvers use the same tool that created this society, even in the Brazilian Supreme Court, which is dressed up to satisfy Western egalitarian expectations, but which has not lost its ethnic character. Social networking and bilingual education in the communities have strengthened indigenous societies and are making possible the organization of international legal instruments and movements that are claiming greater autonomy.