Indigenous History and Rights in Brazil

featuring The University of Auckland & The University of Waikato

From January to February of 2023, we welcomed students from the University of Auckland and the University of Waikato to Brazil in order to give them the opportunity to learn more about the diverse cultures, challenges, and triumphs of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil. 

Over the course of the four weeks that students spent traveling between three different cities in Brazil, they had the chance to attend lectures with local professors, tour key cultural and historical sites throughout the country, visit local Indigenous communities, and meet with organizations working to advance Indigenous rights.  As the majority of these students were Pacific Islander or Maori themselves–and have demonstrated interest in the advancement of Indigenous communities around the world–the program offered them a chance to draw connections between the different contexts they have come to know living and studying in New Zealand and the new reality they experienced in Brazil.  

“For me this has been a healing journey as it has been a humbling experience being able to share space with the indigenous Guarani and Quilombolas communities and to learn about their experiences. To build a spiritual connection with the land, nature and people. I found a sense of belonging in Brazil where being different is embraced, where I can see myself in a lot of the people here and that's something to be proud of. Creativity is a symbol of resistance and that resonates throughout Brazil. Although we are worlds apart, we all share a common struggle, a fight for freedom.”

Margret Aisa Mage

University of Waikato student

São Paulo, Ubatuba, and Brasília (Brazil)

January 20 – February 19, 2023

15 students: 10 from the University of Auckland and 5 from the University of Waikato

Faculty-Led Immersion


This program is the fruit of a long-term partnership between campus b and the University of Auckland, which has been graciously supported by the New Zealand government’s Prime Minister's Scholarships for Latin America (PMSLA). This year’s edition is the fourth iteration of the program, and the second iteration of the on-site version of the program.

Over the course of the past four years, the funds from the PMSLA have grown to allow the program to expand from 10 to 15 students and to encompass students from the University of Waikato as well. We are thrilled to see the program continue to impact the lives of more and more students with each edition.

Partner Organization:
Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)

The Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) is a Brazilian non-governmental organization that works towards promoting social and environmental sustainability in the country. Founded in 1994, ISA aims to support and empower Indigenous peoples, traditional communities, and other vulnerable groups to defend their rights and preserve their cultures and natural resources. The organization focuses on issues such as land rights, biodiversity conservation, climate change, and sustainable development, and operates through research, advocacy, capacity building, and partnership with other organizations and institutions.

“The program has been really well thought out and run by campus b, and we have been super lucky to have our amazing coordinator Talita taking really good care of us. It’s been really special to be able to spend time with Indigenous communities, such as the Boa Vista Indigenous Community in Ubatuba. We were also privileged to visit the Quilombo da Fazenda the following day. These experiences have been really well supported through lectures as well visiting museums, such as the Indigenous Cultures Museum, the Immigration Museum, and the Afro-Brazilian Museum. There’ve been so many experiences–too many to name–that I have really enjoyed and will take away stories to share with my friends and family and the university back home.”

Kurt Macalister

University of Waikato student

The Journey:

Students spent the first three weeks of the program in the state of São Paulo, where they were introduced to the diversity of the Indigenous peoples that exist throughout the southeastern region of the country, particularly Guarani communities.

In order to provide a thorough basis with which to understand the struggle of these peoples, students attended a series of lectures from local professors and practitioners related to Brazilian history and traditional communities.

These moments of theoretical exposure and reflection were complemented with more practical and interactive experiences, such as a visit to the Indigenist Work Center (Centro de Trabalho Indigenista).

In the midst of their stay in the city of São Paulo, the students participated in an excursion to the coastal city of Ubatuba. While there, they visited a couple of different traditional communities, including an Indigenous village and a quilombo (term used throughout Brazil to describe communities and independent settlements formed by formerly enslaved people and their descendants). 

Following their trip to Ubatuba, they finished out their time in São Paulo with a series of visits to Indigenist organizations and communities, before embarking onward to Brasília, where they spent their final week in Brazil. In addition to having time to visit the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples and other government institutions, they were able to work on a practical applied project with the Socio-environmental Institute (Instituto Socioambiental, ISA). 

The Impact:

Bringing together these different program elements into a single experience allowed students to gain a new perspective on issues already familiar to them and to build a new lens through which to view these phenomena.

 For instance, while in São Paulo, students had a visit with members of the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST). This visit shed new light on the importance of access to land–a key claim of the Indigenous movements in both Brazil and New Zealand–for another group of individuals. 

In addition, they were able to build cross-cultural connections with Indigenous people in Brazil, as they saw how their common struggles transcend borders. In a visit to the University of São Paulo, they had the chance to meet with two students and a professor from the Indigenous Network (Rede Indígena). Beyond recognizing commonalities between themselves and these individuals–who were from three different ethnicities–the students were able to form a close personal bond with the students, having had a joint dinner together following the visit. 

Finally, their time in Brasília showed students not only the immense diversity of Indigenous peoples throughout Brazil, but also the political power that this constituent has come to gain in the country. During their time at ISA, they heard from the founder of the organization, who presented a wealth of knowledge concerning Indigenous peoples of the northern region of Brazil, quite different from the Guarani focus they saw in São Paulo. Perhaps most striking, however, was their visit with the newly founded Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, where they met with Eloy Terena, Executive Secretary of the Ministry and a member of the Ipegue Indigenous Community of Mato Grosso do Sul. Terena presented to them on the current state of Indigenous rights in the country. Although they saw how much work lies ahead for the ministry, they were deeply inspired to see Indigenous people occupying high-level political positions and leading this type of work. 

"This program has been absolutely incredible. We’ve had such amazing encounters and visits with local Indigenous communities, Quilombola communities, and other traditional communities in Brazil that have really opened my eyes and challenged my thinking and allowed me to check my own privilege. Campus b has been incredible at making sure we’re comfortable and provided for, but creating experiences that push us out of our comfort zone at the same time and challenge us and have really helped me grow as a person. I am excited to bring this knowledge that I’ve gained and this experience that I’ve had back home to Aotearoa New Zealand to bring into my studies, to help support out Indigenous communities back home, and just help me be a better person, a better ally to Indigenous and traditional communities and educate my peers and my family and my communities on. I’m really grateful for campus b and this incredible program. We would not have been able to do it without campus b and I’ve grown so much as a person and I’m really grateful for that.”

Aishlin Murphy

University of Auckland student

Did you enjoy reading about this incredible international education journey? Check out more testimonials and insights from students who participated in this experience on the 360international blog by clicking here!

Our passion in the academic field has given us the privilege of actively collaborating with more than 80 universities, offering professional and extracurricular experience journeys directly impacting more than 4000 students.

Written by:

Jaret Waters

Campus b Team

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