By Andrew Willis, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A Brazilian federal court ruled Tuesday (October 30th) that a group of 170 Guarani-Kaiowá ethnic Indians can remain on a one-hectare plot of land in Mato Grosso do Sul state for the time being. The dispute hit the headlines last week after the group of Indians said they would rather die than be evicted.

Guarani-Kaiowá, Brazil News
Many Guarani-Kaiowá have seen their land taken for ranching or sugar cane production, photo by Watson/Survival International.

Judge Cecília Mello of the Regional Federal Tribunal of the 3rd Region said the Indians should be allowed to stay on the land until a final decision on the area’s rightful owner is made. In a document, the judge said the group “can not be evicted from the land that they occupy because those lands are the subject of an administrative process of demarcation.”

Last week the group of Guarani-Kaiowá Indians told the government in a letter that they would rather die than leave their ancestral lands. This followed a decision by a lower Brazilian court, ordering the group to leave the area currently occupied by a ranch.

The letter said the lower court’s decision was “part of the historic extermination of the indigenous peoples of Brazil”.

Roughly 46,000 members of the Guarani-Kaiowá group live in a 30,000-hectare area in the southern part of Mato Grosso do Sul, making it Brazil’s largest population of indigenous Indians. The western state borders Paraguay and Bolivia and has a vegetation of savannah and forest, crisscrossed by a series of rivers.

Living conditions of the Guarani-Kaiowá and other ethnic groups vary considerably, those that occupy lands ‘demarked’ as indigenous enjoy some freedom to pursue their traditional ways of life. Others live under more precarious conditions, frequently in crowded camps on roadsides without access to basic facilities while they wait for their lands to receive a classification, say NGOs.

Protesters for protection of ethnic Indians Guarani-Kaiowá erect crosses symbolizing the potential dead, Brazil News
Protesters for protection of ethnic Indians Guarani-Kaiowá erect crosses symbolizing the potential dead in front of the National Congress, photo by Wilson Dias/ABr.

Under these circumstances, some simply opt to return to areas they deem to be their native homelands. The National Foundation of Indians, or Funai, is the body carrying out the mapping of indigenous lands in Brazil.

“Funai is meant to be carrying out this mapping project so that all the Guarani can live on their ancestral land. That is what the [Brazilian] constitution says, and international law. But it’s taking so long, it has come to a standstill,” Sarah Shenker of Survival International, a London-headquarter NGO working for indigenous rights, said in a telephone interview.

“Legally, according to the papers and the titles, the rancher in this case does have title to the land. But it is also the Guarani’s ancestral land, and that’s a really dangerous duplicity, the cause of which is Funai’s delay,” Shenker said.

Indigenous peoples in Brazil comprise a large number of distinct ethnic groups who inhabited the country prior to the European invasion around 1500. The Guarani are made up of an estimated 255,000, with significant populations in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia.


  1. Why have we not learned from all the devastation in America and to the true Americans(the Indian People) and it’s lands. We do not own the land, these people were here before us and we have no right to buy it or take it away because of what we deem progress. Progress is what has killed all people of the world and soon we will kill Mother Earth and have no where to live and prosper. Don’t do this awful thing, it is wrong. When does it end? when will we stand up as a people and do what is right??????????????????????????


  2. Stefone, sadly the former Spanish and Portuguese European colonial powers engaged in mass genocide of the indigenous populations of South America as soon as they reached Latin Americans shores in 1492 and then went on to plunder its gold and natural resources. The original founding fathers of the USA did much of the same thing to the Indians in North America.

    Countries such as Brazil are borne out of this aggressive colonisation process and the mindset has not changed in five hundred and twenty years. You just have to look at how Brazil still treats its indigenous and black populations to this very day to see that nothing has and ever will change, no matter what the Government tells you about how its contemporary Brazilian social welfare programs have brought tens of millions of people out of dire poverty. It’s all about money and “progress” these days no matter where you are in the world.

    Indigenous populations such as The Guarani-Kaiowa in the long run stand little chance against the Brazilian super agri-business and a corrupt administration. My thoughts go out to them. Hopefully the international community can lobby enough power to protect them for as long as possible.

    Right now however is not the best time for human rights issues as the economic welfare of Brazil during a very precarious world economic period will also marginalise these people even more.

    In the long run there will be some sort of natural re-adjustment to the world’s current problems. Fortunately, I will be long gone by that stage. We live in hope!


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