On Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will meet with President Trump at the White House. Both administrations are pushing a host of policies that are detrimental to the rights of indigenous people. As two of the first female indigenous members of Congress in the United States and Brazil, respectively, we are concerned about these policies and the mounting threats facing our communities. We must stand up against toxic rhetoric and brutal attacks on the rights of indigenous peoples.
Indigenous communities from Standing Rock to the Amazon are leading the way on protecting our Earth. Recent research has found that indigenous peoples in control of their lands are the most effective stewards of climate-regulating tropical forests. In the United States, Standing Rock was a culmination of indigenous people organizing to protect their resources. More recently, indigenous groups in New Mexico helped prevent the lease sale of Chaco Canyon for oil and gas development, defending sacred lands and heritage from harmful extraction.
Yet indigenous environmental defenders face tremendous risks, encountering pushback and even criminalization for simply protecting critical family resources. We saw it in Standing Rock, when police had confrontations with peaceful protesters. We see it now in Brazil, which is the deadliest country for environmental defenders in the world, with intimidation and lethal violence falling heavily on indigenous peoples and land rights activists. [Continue reading…]