The legislature and the anti-indigenous offensive in Brazil

An analysis of the proposals in the Brazilian Congress concerning Indigenous lands (1989-2021)



Brazil, indigenous people, indigenous lands, Brazil's legislative branch, colonialism


The Constitution of 1988, conceived after 21 years of civil–military dictatorship in Brazil, represented advancement towards the acknowledgement of indigenous rights by the State. However, since then, several political and economic sectors have articulated against these rights, especially those of a territorial nature. Based on a survey of bills at the Brazilian Congress, I seek to emphasize the active role of the legislative branch in this process. Although not exhaustive, the research found the creation of 81 proposals between 1989 and 2021, being bills that intend to change the regulations on Brazilian indigenous lands. Critical analysis of this set of projects highlighted two main aims: the first, which is economic, is the opening of indigenous lands to private capital, especially agribusiness and the mining sector. The second, which is political, is the expansion of the State’s control over indigenous territories. I conclude by demonstrating how the accumulation of bills and argumentative strategies strengthened this anti-indigenous offensive in recent years. In this  regard, the current Bolsonaro administration represents a dramatic moment, because in addition to the commitment of the Executive Power to advance this anti-indigenous agenda, the Federal Congress is the most conservative since the last civil–military dictatorship.