Thousands of indigenous people from across Brazil are gathering in the capital of Brasilia this week for the biggest indigenous protest in the country, the Free Land Camp. Minister of Justice Sergio Moro approved the deployment of special-forces police for this week's event
More than 4,000 indigenous people from hundreds of tribes across the country are expected to camp out in front of government buildings for three days of native celebrations and protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
We have no way to fish, to get food, to bathe," said Angoho Ha-ha-hae, the wife of the leader of the Pataxo tribe, whose water source was destroyed when a dam burst earlier this year. "We depend on the government, and where is it? We need help."
"Since the government of Bolsonaro took office, several measures have been implemented that directly affect the rights of indigenous people," says Luiz Eloy Terena, Articulation of the Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB) 's legal counselor.Terena told Al Jazeera some of these measures include the transfer of land demarcation and environmental licensing to the Ministry of Agriculture, and the extinction of the government offices responsible for the education and health of indigenous people. "The president's statements defending mineral exploration in our lands and this idea that native people should be integrated and assimilated," he said. "This year's Free Land Camp is happening because of all of those things".
APIB has documented a "series of attacks and invasions" of indigenous lands, as well as "persecution, racism and intolerance" shown toward native people since Bolsonaro took office at the beginning of the year. Several other indigenous organisations have also denounced land conflicts and a substantial increase in violence since January. Many believe the government's relaxed stance on environmental issues is giving farmers and companies the green light to disrespect existing limitations, especially in the Amazon.
Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous congresswoman in Brazil, said during her short time in office that "the government is not open" to the indigenous struggle.
"The government is completely anti-indigenous," she told Al Jazeera. "Jair Bolsonaro is only open to those who defend mining and land grabbing, which is his intention."
APIB accused Bolsonaro's government of wanting to "exterminate the indigenous peoples of Brazil" and not being available to "hear" and "help" them.
"Our camp has been happening peacefully for the past 15 years to give visibility to our daily struggles. We are not violent, violence is attacking our sacred right to free protesting with armed forces," the group said in a statement. This week's events will include a vigil in front of the Supreme Federal Court to demand more land demarcation. On Friday, the indigenous communities are expected to march towards the National Congress.