Ten years ago, the Macuxi people won a legal battle to expel rice planters from their homeland in northern Brazil. Now, their control over ancestral lands is under attack, this time from Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro.

The 1.7 million hectares of grassland lies along the border with Venezuela and Guyana. The area is called Raposa Serra do Sol. It is home to 25,000 native people, many of whom raise cattle.

But the land is considered highly desirable by farmers and miners. They believe it is rich in minerals such as gold, diamonds and copper.

Chief Aldenir Lima is the leader of the 70 Macuxi communities in Raposa Serra do Sol. He told the Reuters news agency, “In the fight for our land rights, 21 of us died. Since then, we recovered what we had lost and today, the farmers’ rice plantations have been replaced by our cattle...”

But that could change if Bolsonaro follows through on his promise to reexamine the area’s borders. He wants to overturn a ban on industrial farming and mining on indigenous lands.

Bolsonaro’s first move after becoming president in January was to put indigenous land decisions under Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture. That government office is under the control of farm industry representatives who want to open up new areas to extensive farming.

The Macuxi fear the return of illegal gold miners and hunters on their lands. Community leader Tereza Pereira de Souza told Reuters, “I want to ask the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, to respect indigenous people and our constitutional rights.”

Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people make up less than 1 percent of the population. They live on areas of land that make up 13 percent of Brazil. Any attempt to change the reservation’s legal standing would likely face opposition from the Supreme Court. Brazil’s 1988 Constitution protects indigenous land rights.

Some experts warn that removing that protection would destroy the traditions and languages of the Macuxi and four other tribes in the area.

Exercise 1


Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.

expel (v.) /ɪkˈspɛl/ -  to officially force (someone) to leave a place or organization

  • The club may expel members who do not follow the rules.

ancestral (adj.) /ænˈsɛstrəl/ - Of, belonging to, or inherited from an ancestor or ancestors (a person who was in someone's family in past times)

  • We returned to our ancestral home [=the home of our ancestors] after many years.

cattle (n.) /ˈkætl̟/  - cows, bulls, etc. that are kept on a farm or ranch for meat or milk

  • His family used to raise cattle.

indigenous (adj.) /ɪnˈdɪʤənəs/  - produced, living, or existing naturally in a particular region or environment

  • There are several indigenous groups that still live in the area.


Exercise 2


Answer these questions about the article.

1. How many native people live in Raposa Serra do Sol?

2. Why do miners consider this area desirable?

3. When did Bolsonaro become a president?

4. Are indigenous rights protected?


Exercise 3

Make a sentence.

Make sentences using these words.

expel, ancestral, cattle, indigenous


Exercise 4


Have a discussion on following questions.

1. Should miners and farmers be allowed to exploit the native land?

2. How can indigenous people be protected?

3. Why is it important to protect native areas and people?

4. Are there any protected areas or people in your country?



This lesson is based on a news article originally published by VOA.