Journalism from the center of the world

The end is in sight – or so we hope – of the worst government in the history of Brazil’.

That is especially true for indigenous people. We have never been treated as a priority by any Brazilian government, but Bolsonaro and his openly anti-indigenous, anti-environmental and anti-democratic leadership have taken violence, oppression and threats to another level. We witness, day after day, the accelerating destruction of biomes; alarming levels of deforestation, fires and droughts; and the advance of illegal mining and extractivism.  The government has enabled this by dismantling and rigging protection agencies, like Ibama and Funai, and by promoting a feeling of impunity with legislative proposals that would pardon criminals, legalize land grabbing, and encourage anyone who leaves a trail of environmental destruction.

We indigenous people are more than witnesses to this terror. We are victims of persecution and intolerance from those who do not understand our existence because it is not convenient for them who deny our relevance in environmental protection and the well-living of this country. In 2021, we were, once again, the main victims of land conflicts. Among the 35 killings related to such conflicts, the largest group were indigenous people (10), landless workers (9) and quilombolas (3), according to the Pastoral Land Commission. Despite this violence, we will never give in. We have the courage to fight, expose and denounce the threats against us. It is a fight we have been waging for centuries. Our only option is to resist. 

For a long time, we refused to be involved in institutions or to occupy the spaces typical of “white” politics. We opted to fight in our own way and chose those who might represent us and fight for our needs. But these times are over. Now we want to occupy everywhere, to be in the legislative chambers, in the assemblies and to lead organs like Funai. We want to indigenize national politics. Brazil is an indigenous land and we do not want to be represented by anyone else anymore; we want to represent ourselves. It is time to break the silence and to demonstrate courage so that everyone – indigenous, quilombola, LGBTQIA+, and every other Brazilian citizen – can count on having their community represented, with power and autonomy that allows decision to be taken that are based on real needs.

Our Mother Earth is bleeding before our eyes. With each extinct species, each oil spill, each forest fire, we cry with her. We keep hoping for a cure and we continue to dream that we will see her recuperate.  News reports claim indigenous people have a major responsibility for dealing with the climate crisis because studies prove our territories are the best preserved areas of nature. However, it is unfair to expect us to bear such a burden while the state denies our very existence, threatens our territories and persecutes us.

No one understands more than us what needs to be done for environmental conservation and climate justice. But this also requires the awareness of the Brazilian people and their way of life. The fight out of this crisis must involve everyone. So, enough of having people who are not committed to the indigenous and environmental causes taking decisions on our behalf.

That is why in these elections we are putting a new strategy into practice: to elect a Cocar (Headdress) Caucus,. This will be made up mostly by indigenous women, who are already so calloused by the fight for their rights that they are ready to enter congress and represent the more than 300 peoples that live in Brazil and anyone else relegated to the margins of democracy. I will stand as a Federal Deputy for São Paulo State. As is the case for my brother and sister candidates, I propose to fulfill a role that history has given us – not as an individual pursuing a personal project, but as an agent of change committed to a collective goal to increase the number of indigenous representatives in the National Congress, and to apply our voices, demands and contributions to the building of a future that is more pluralistic, democratic, richer and integrated.

In Congress there is danger that lawmakers will approve bills that decriminalise land theft, end environmental licensing and allow mining in Indigenous Lands. The criminals behind these moves were encouraged by the speeches of the president and his allies which have given a green light for attacks on our bodies and territories that are as violent as under colonization.

From these elections, it will be us, indigenous peoples who will decide for ourselves about the conservation of our culture, ways of life and the protection of the environment. We will provide our own perspective on these topics and show every Brazilian how fundamental the conservation of nature is to us. The destruction of the Amazon has been advancing year after year, especially since the current president took office. In August 2022 alone, the deforestation alerts registered over 1,600 square kilometers of destruction, the equivalent of 253,000 football fields. Compared to the same period in 2021, the deforestation in the Amazon practically doubled. Even now, the fires continue the same depressing trend. There were more blazes in the first week of September than in the whole of the same month last year.

I have learned from my ancestors that collective power is the strongest form of power. Mother Earth has taught us this, with ants, bees and other animal collectives that survive through mutual support. We need each other to face the huge challenges before us: to heal Mother Earth and to reforest the minds of her children. Indigenizing politics and reforesting minds, we will work together to secure more jobs, a higher quality of life, better food sovereignty and strong nature preservation for the benefit of every Brazilian citizen.


Translation: Thiago Leal

Sonia Guajajara. Photo: Leo Otero/Press image

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