The Guarani-Kaiowá Indigenous people of Mato Grasso Do Sul in Brazil have for the past decades been battling against wealthy landowners for the rights to their ancestral lands. Indigenous land occupations now dot the rural state. They start out small, often times out of resistance to a killing by what are known as “pistoleiros,” essentially private security hired by the ranchers to defend their pastures. They live rough, always on alert.
Brazil, is slated to become the 4th largest economy in the world by 2030. As the largest exporter of soy and second largest exporter of cattle in the world, its rich land is at the forefront of major disputes and increasing violence between landowners and indigenous peoples.
At the turn of the century the Brazilian government corralled many of the indigenous tribes, which were spread out over the region into smaller more concentrated reservations. The government did so in an effort to give precious farmland to settlers and stimulate the growth of agriculture in the country. Yet in 1988 in an effort to right the wrongs of the past, the government passed a law, pledging to draw out original indigenous territory to give back to the tribes within a period of 5 years, without any mention of compensation to ranch owners. 23 years on and the government are still amiss in marking and designating territory. Essentially the Natives and the settlers were left to dispute the land on their own, which has resulted in violent and oftentimes deadly clashes between the two who both claim the land as their own.
Indigenous land covers 13% of the Brazil, much of it within territories rich in metals, such as in the Amazon. The government is already working on a draft law to open the region to mining companies, which would severely compromise indigenous lands and especially un-contacted tribes.