What Would Bolsanaro’s Election Mean For the Indigenous Amazon Tribes?

In Brazil’s recent presidential election, far-right candidate of the Social Liberal Party Jair Bolsonaro has been elected to become Brazil’s next president. He has served as a Congressman in the lower house of Brazil’s Congress, and is known for his misogyny, racism, and homophobia. But what makes Bolsanaro’s position on the environment harrow back to the age of colonial exploitation of indigenous lands is when he favored the abolition of indigenous titles to land, thus leading to the extraction of wealth from underneath them to boost the Brazilian economy.

Considering how the indigenous nations that live in the Amazon basin have been threatened due to the encroachment by logging companies, this shift in Brazilian politics will only look bleak for them. Judging by Bolsonaro’s statement about wealth underneath indigenous lands, he is tone-deaf at best and potentially genocidal at worst. What is especially unsettling and should raise the alarm to the rest of the Americas are the praises that Bolsonaro has given to not just Donald Trump, but to dictators throughout South America. One of them was Alberto Fujimori, who was the former president of Peru notorious for the massacres committed by his own forces against leftist militants and for the sterilization of 200,000 indigenous women.

The Munduruku nation have been engaging in self-defense against and arguments with loggers who continuously hose their land along the river and poisoning the water. The indigenous community such as the Guarani nation have been concerned, especially since they have already endured violence as a result of their land and fear that Bolsonaro would encourage the continuance of violence. In the case of the Guajajara people, their community leader was killed for advocating protection of his nation’s lands.

Bolsonaro especially shows his tone-deafness by explaining that indigenous people do not live in zoos and should therefore integrate with the rest of Brazilian society, which completely ignores how integral indigenous people are to their land. Specifically, their languages reflect their means of surviving in their landscapes, which is what linguist K. David Harrison discovered among the Tuvan nation, who are indigenous to Siberia. They have a word dönggür, which specifically means “a male reindeer in its first mating season fit for riding but not for mating.” What this shows is that indigenous people have developed an intricate relationship with their landscape that shows in their language.

What makes the protected status of the Amazon rainforests crucial to the environment is because it takes in a lot of the Earth’s carbon dioxide. So the Munduruku and all the other Amazonian nations would definitely provide an in-sight into the environment. It would be best for Brazilians to understand that the Amazon basin is more than just a pretty place on a globe, rather it is a spot that is integral to the survival of the human race. But considering how there is violence committed against the indigenous population as a direct result of deforestation, then Bolsonaro would only make the conflict even more bitter.


Senado Federal. “Plenário do Congresso.” Flickr. November 6, 2018. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Changes include adapting image of Jair Bolsonaro into a personally designed background through scaling and filling less.

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