Indigenous Peoples in Brazil

A visual retrospective of the struggle of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil for their collective rights | 1980-2016


Demarcation indigenous lands of Rio Negro (1985) by Pedro Martinelli/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


In his book "Tristes Tropiques" the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss records that just before leaving for Brazil in 1934 to teach at the University of São Paulo, he met the Brazilian ambassador in France. Lévi-Strauss asked him about the Indians and how he should go about visiting an Indigenous community. The ambassador replied: “My dear sir, the Indians are all gone since many a year. [...] You’ll find many things of interest in Brazil – but as for the Indians, you’d better forget about them, you won’t find a single one.”

Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (2016)Instituto Socioambiental - ISA


There are more than 250 indigenous peoples in Brazil: a population of 896,917 people (IBGE, 2010), speaking 154 different languages.

Series of books Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (1984)Instituto Socioambiental - ISA

Indigenous peoples have entered the agenda of contemporary Brazil almost 30 years ago, when their rights were inscribed in the Brazilian Constitution. In this exhibition, we gathered images of remarkable moments of this history and the challenges that the indigenous peoples still face to have their rights respected.

Ângelo Kretã (1980) by Vincent Carelli/Vídeo nas AldeiasInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Ângelo Kretã died in a car accident, marked by strong suspicions of an ambush. The Kaingang leader was fighting the invasion of logging companies in the Mangueirinha Indigenous lands, State of Paraná

Image-symbol of the campaign for indigenous rights in the Constituent Assembly (1987) by Claudia AndujarInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Image-symbol of the campaign for indigenous rights in the Constituent Assembly.

Álvaro Sampaio Tukano (1987) by Beto Ricardo/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Álvaro Sampaio Tukano, at the 2nd Assembly of the Indigenous Peoples of the Rio Negro in São Gabriel da Cachoeira (State of Amazonas), presents the poster for the Indigenous rights campaign in the Constituent Assembly.

Ailton Krenak protests in the Plenary of the National CongressInstituto Socioambiental - ISA

Ailton Krenak protests in the Plenary of the National Congress against the suppression of the chapter of the indigenous rights in the Constituent Assembly. The gesture had great repercussion and moved the public opinion.

Surveillance (1988) by Beto Ricardo/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


People from various Indigenous groups were on constant alert at the Congress, in Brasília, seeking to secure the inclusion of their rights in the final text of the Constitution.

The Kayapó warning (1989) by Revista VejaInstituto Socioambiental - ISA

Facsimile of a report about the 1st Encounter of the Indigenous Peoples, held in Altamira (PA), whose motto was the polemic building of the Kararaô Hydroelectric Dam, known today as Belo Monte. In this picture, Tuíra Kayapó warns the director of Eletronorte against the enterprise.

Krumare in Tucuruí Hydroelectric Dam (PA) (1989) by Vincent Carelli/Vídeo nas AldeiasInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Krumare and other Kayapó leaders visit the reservoir of the Tucuruí Hydroelectric Dam (PA), at the invitation of Eletronorte.

Milton Nascimento and Benki Ashaninka (1989) by Beto Ricardo/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Milton Nascimento with Benki in the Ashaninka community on the Amônea River, Upper Juruá, Acre, on a trip that resulted in the album Txai, released in support of the Alliance of Forest Peoples. The musician performed in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Branco and New York.

Forest Peoples Alliance (1989)Instituto Socioambiental - ISA

The Alliance of Forest Peoples gathered indigenous peoples, rubber tappers and riverine populations to defend their forests, lakes, rivers and springs, source of the prosperity and culture of these communities.

Invasion of gold prospectors on the Yanomami Indigenous Land (1989) by Charles Vincent/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA

Helicopter pilot from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) transfers a Yanomami victim from the Homoxi maloca to the Surucucus medical post, following the invasion of gold prospectors on the Yanomami Indigenous Land in Roraima. An estimated 10-15% of the Yanomami population in Brazil was killed during the mining invasion between 1985 and 1993.

Sokrit Panará (1985) by Pedro Martinelli/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA

Sokrit of the Panará people, 22 years after the first photo in 1973. Known then as the Krenakarore, their territory was bisected by the BR-163 highway lining Cuiabá (MT) with Santarém (PA). Transferred by Funai to the Xingu Indigenous Park, they returned to partially recover their traditional territory in 1996.

Sobreviventes do massacre de Haximu (1993) by Carlo ZacquiniInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Sixteen Yanomami were killed by illegal garimpeiros in the Haximu massacre in 1993. In the image, survivors carry the ashes of the cremated bodies of their relatives. The massacre was characterized as genocide in 2006, in an unprecedented decision of the Superior Court of Justice (STJ).

Shamans of the Kamaiurá people (2005) by Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas ImagensInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Shamans of the Kamaiurá people, Xingu Indigenous Park, Mato Grosso. Standing: Pataku, Pirakumã, Kanari, Koka and Kanalawa. Sitting: Tsikamã, Takumã and Makari. Leaders Takumã and Pirakumã died in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

The agouti’s peanut (2007) by Vincent Carelli/Video nas AldeiasInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Paturi, filmmaker from the Panará people, filming chief Akẽ for the video ‘The agouti’s peanut,’ in the Panará Indigenous Land, State of Pará.

Traditional fishing dam by the Enawenê-Nawê people (2009) by Vincent Carelli/Vídeo nas AldeiasInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Traditional fishing dam by the Enawenê-nawê people, built for the Yãkwa, the most extensive Indigenous ritual cycle in the Amazon, registered as a national heritage by the Ministry of Culture. Over the last few years, due to the construction of nine small hydroelectric dams on the Juruena River, Mato Grosso, the fish is disappearing, crippling the ritual.

Homologation of the Raposa-Serra do Sol Indigenous Land (RR) (2010) by Mário Vilela/FunaiInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


President Lula takes part in the commemorations for the homologation of the Raposa-Serra do Sol Indigenous Land (RR), a campaign led by the Indigenous Council of Roraima that lasted 30 years.

National Indigenous Mobilization 2013 (2013) by Mídia NinjaInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Indigenous leaderships during the occupation of the Esplanade of the Ministries, in Brasília (DF), in the National Indigenous Mobilization. The acts, in the year that the Constitution of 1988 completed 25 years, occurred in several Brazilian and foreign capitals against PEC 215/00 and other proposals that threaten indigenous rights.

Sônia Guajajara and others indigenous leaders (2013) by JBatista/Agência CâmaraInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Sônia Guajajara, coordinator of APIB (Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) and other leaders take part in a hearing of the Constitution and Justice Commission of the Chamber of Deputies in Brasília.

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami and King Harald V, Norway (2013) by Marcos Wesley/ISAInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Davi Kopenawa Yanomami welcomes King Harald V of Norway to his community of Watoriki (or Demini), State of Amazonas. The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Brasília has supported the Yanomami Hutukara Association, headed by Davi, since its foundation in 2004.

The Guajá (2013) by Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas ImagesInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Txiparamanxa’á, accompanied by his son Kiripí, with a howler monkey hunted in the forest of the Caru Indigenous Land, northwest Maranhão State. The Guajá, one of the last hunter-gatherer peoples in the country, consist of 420 people and three still ‘isolated’ groups. Under pressure from loggers, farmers and drug traffickers, their territory is among the most deforested in the Brazilian Amazon.

Piracumã Yawalapiti na Mobilização Nacional Indígena (2013) by André D'EliaInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


After being subject to pepper spray and blows from batons during the National Indigenous Mobilisations close to the National Congress in Brasília, Piracumã Yawalapiti asks the police to calm down.

National Indigenous Mobilization 2015 (2015) by Valter Campanato/Agência BrasilInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Indigenous leaders participating in the 11th Free Land Camp (ATL) in front of the Supreme Court against decisions of the Judiciary that attack the indigenous right to land.

#OcupaFunai (2016) by Mídia NinjaInstituto Socioambiental - ISA


Tuíra Kayapó paints Sônia Guajajara's face during #OcupaFunai, in Brasilia. Indigenous people occupied the headquarters of Funai in several cities of the country against the dismantling of indigenist policies.

Nova edição da série Povos Indígenas no Brasil (2017)Instituto Socioambiental - ISA

This story doesn't end here. The menaces against indigenous rights persist, but the indigenous peoples's struggle to defend them is unwearying. Check out in the new issue of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil the latest chapters of this struggle.

Credits: Story

This is a digital and updated version of the exhibition Indigenous Peoples in Brazil 1980/2013 – A visual retrospective of the struggle of indigenous peoples in Brazil for their collective rights , organized by ISA and the Indigenous Peoples Program of Embassy of Norway. The exhibition ran between 2013 and 2015, passing through São Paulo (SP), Brasilia (DF), Manaus (AM) and Belém (PA).

Curator digital version: Beto Ricardo/ISA

Coordination on behalf of the Indigenous Peoples Programme of the Royal Norwegian Embassy: Kristian Bengtson

Image research and production: Claudio Tavares, Gabriella Contoli and Tatiane Klein

Texts: Beto Ricardo, Tatiane Klein and Gabriella Contoli

Translation: David Rodgers and Gabriella Contoli

Image processing: Ricardo Tilkian/ Pontoemeio

Acknowledgments: • André D’Elia • Beto Ricardo/ISA • Carlo Zacquini • Charles Vincent / ISA • Claudia Andujar • Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ Abr • Isaac Amorim/ Agência MJ • JBatista/ Agência Câmara • Marcos Wesley/ ISA • Maria Inês Zanchetta/ ISA• Mário Vilela/ FUNAI • Mídia Ninja • Sebastião Salgado/ Amazonas images • Vincent Carelli/ Vídeo nas Aldeias

For more on the Indigenous Peoples of Brasil, access our websites:

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.