Colonial Subjugation and Human Rights Abuses: Twenty-First Century Violations Against Brazil’s Rural Indigenous Xukuru Nation

Marcia Mikulak


This article addresses the struggle of rural Xukuru indigenous peoples in Pesqueira, Pernambuco, Brazil as they organize to stop historical violence against them and work to regain their constitutional right to their ancestral lands. The article illustrates what a single researcher working along-side rural people's and NGOs can do to make change in an oppressive state. With the birth of the United Nations (UN) in 1945 and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, member states have often provided rhetorical validity to human rights documents and conventions; a rhetoric that is often ignored upon return to their sovereign territories. It is well understood that international human rights documents are based on constructed realities that historically validated Western European notions about the rights of individuals (Said 1994, 1979; Ignatieff, 2001; Niezen, 2003). As a member of the United Nations and a signatory of international human rights documents, Brazil has turned a blind eye to human rights norms as applied to Indigenous[i] peoples. This article 1) presents a brief history of Portuguese colonial contact with Brazil’s Indigenous peoples; 2) briefly discusses the Indian movement in Brazil as a background for the contextualization of the Indigenous Xukurus’ fight for the return of their ancestral lands in the Serra do Ororubá, in the state of Pernambuco in the late 20th and early 21st centuries; and 3) articulates the human rights abuses perpetrated against them by the Brazilian nation-state.

[i] “Indigenous” is capitalized throughout this chapter in order to demark respect to and for the ethnic identity of Brazil’s first peoples.

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