Brazil - September 2023
Supreme Court ruling protects Indigenous rights
The Supreme Court sided with the Xokleng people in a case considered a landmark for Indigenous peoples’ rights. The case stemmed from Santa Catarina state’s challenge to the land claims of the Xokleng people which, it argued, were not valid on the basis of the “marco temporal” doctrine. Such a thesis, supported by the agribusiness sector and the rural caucus in Congress, considered that Indigenous peoples could not make a land claim if they did not physically occupy it in 1988, when Brazil’s constitution was adopted. Those opposing the cutoff date considered it arbitrary and neglectful of the fact that many Indigenous communities had been expelled from their territories before that date, particularly during the military dictatorship. The Court’s ruling reversed a prior decision by a lower court to strip the land in dispute of its title as an Indigenous territory. The decision will set a precedent for other cases involving land claims of Indigenous peoples, particularly those involving arguments surrounding the “marco temporal” thesis.