Lula, we Yanomami women want to send our word to you. You are a long way from the Yanomami Indigenous Territory, but we know you will receive our words and that you want to listen to us. We want you to know that we are scared, and very concerned. Today the forest is sick. When our forest is sick, we all get sick.
The forest is full of holes. There are so many illegal miners in our territory. In the past there was clean water, but today it is very dirty, the rivers are yellow and it has been like this for a long time. We are really afraid of what could happen, because our land is in bad condition. Our plants are not growing well. Our children are already suffering the impact of what is happening.
Lula, the eyes of the fish are changing. They look loose, and the fish themselves are different, they look thin and sick. We are afraid to eat sick fish. We are afraid that our children will have health conditions or impairments.
The traces left by the illegal miners make malaria spread. Before, when there weren’t so many of them, there wasn’t so much illness. In some regions of the Yanomami territory, our children are dying from malaria, malnutrition, pneumonia and even worm infestation.
When illegal mining is nearby, we women get really worried and scared. The miners threaten us and we don’t want to live this way, we want to live in peace. They harass the girls and others want to pay for marital services. That’s how they want it, but we women don’t want our daughters and granddaughters to be handed over and abused by these people. The prospectors entice the young men and their wives. These young people are attracted by this, and become dependent on the small amount of processed foods they receive as payment.
Yanomami healthcare is not good. The presence of mining causes conflicts that make the health teams withdraw from the area. Many health centers in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory are now closed. There are thousands of Yanomami who don’t have any healthcare. In the health centers which are still open, there are no medicines, or they don’t have a boat, or an engine. The health teams can’t provide basic care and many communities don’t get visited by them.
We are living in real healthcare chaos. When we go to the health center, the staff tell us: “there’s no medicine, there’s nothing we can do, we’ve requested it, but it hasn’t come”. There are so many cases of malaria, they have exploded across the territory, it’s really serious and there are no drugs to treat it. Bolsonaro’s government finished off Brazil’s chloroquine stock and now we’re suffering from this mismanagement. We don’t want to cry because people are dying, we don’t want to cry until dawn. There are already too many ashes of the dead.
Many of the schools we had on our land have closed and aren’t functioning. Children and young people aren’t studying. We’re thinking of our children who need to learn to read and write. If there are no schools, we aren’t happy, we can’t monitor or protect our rights.
The Indigenous Health Center doesn’t work at all, the children leave for the Children’s Hospital and when they go back to the Indigenous Health Center they get sick again. They come back with other illnesses, they even get malaria there. When we are sick we are transferred to the city for care and we stay there for months, in very poor conditions. They take a long time to discharge us, they don’t help us return to the community and we end up getting sick again. The Indigenous Health Center is really dirty, there’s running open sewage. That’s why we Yanomami don’t get better and keep getting sick.
Lula, we are glad to know you are going to be our president, that you are going to listen to us, and we’re relying on being able to participate in your government. Now you’ve been elected again, we Yanomami women will tell you what we want.
We want to live in a forest that’s alive and beautiful. We Yanomami want to live in a healthy land again, which is the true Yanomami forest-land. We want our children to continue to be born healthy and strong. We need your help to heal the forest and also the animals that live there. We want to continue living in our land, eating healthy food and drinking clean water.
Remove those who are invading Yanomami land. Carry out operations to remove the miners and their machines. The few operations there have been only remove the people and leave the machines in the forest, which makes it easier for the invaders to go back and reactivate these exploitation sites. You have to close off their way into our territory. You have to monitor the paths, and block the rivers and the airstrips they use to reach our land. You have to enforce the law. Our land is demarcated and mining in Indigenous Territories is illegal.
Put people in the Special Office of Indigenous Health and the Yanomami Special Indigenous Health District who are committed to our people, who understand our problems and who are health professionals, who know how to take good care of the health of the Yanomami, who will visit communities which don’t have health centers. We don’t have medicines. These need to be delivered urgently. We need a new Indigenous Health Center which is able to serve us with dignity. The people who are running our health service today are political appointments, they don’t understand indigenous health, they don’t care about us and that’s why we are suffering. The Yanomami Special Indigenous Health District coordinator needs to be technically qualified and aware of the Yanomami reality.
We want our young people to be able to study in our land and in our language. Therefore, we want an indigenous school in our territory, and quality training for indigenous teachers and indigenous health agents.
We want to live according to our own plans. We want to be involved in the care of our territory. Our plans don’t cause destruction, and they respect our knowledge of the forest. We have created a Territorial and Environmental Management Plan, and we want you to support its implementation. We have our rules and our consultation protocols, and we want you to respect these and make sure they are respected.
We’re really happy you were elected.
We Yanomami women trust you will work so our children live healthily in our forest-land.
Translated by James Young