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Abstract

This article addresses the struggle of the Xukuru do Ororubá indigenous people in rural Pernambuco, Brazil as they organize to stop historical violence against them and work to regain their constitutional right to their ancestral lands. Since Portuguese colonization and throughout Brazil’s nation-building, the Xukuru have been particularly at-risk for human rights abuses. With the creation of the United Nations in 1945 and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) in 1948, member states have often provided rhetorical validity to human rights documents and conventions – 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 peoples whose rural locations leave them vulnerable to persecution. This article: 1) situates the Xukuru Nation’s rural location and 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.

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