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Its our land, too: Brazils Indigenous peoples make their voices heard | Indigenous peoples

Its our land, too: Brazils Indigenous peoples make their voices heard | Indigenous peoples

Hitup and Wekan Patax carry a stone that represents a gold nugget during an act in Braslia. The nugget is painted in red with the saying Fora Bozo which means Out Bolsonaro.

A multitude of sounds and tones echoing local chants; vibrant face paints with colours and tracery from the red of the urucum shrub and the black of genipap tree fruit; the strong and coordinated movements of magical dances: the annual Free Land Camp brought Indigenous peoples from across Brazil to its capital earlier this month.

Hitup and Wekan Patax carry a stone that represents a gold nugget during an act in Braslia. The nugget is painted in red with the saying Fora Bozo which means Out Bolsonaro.

Under the title Retaking Brazil: demarcate the territories and indigenise the politics, the 18th Free Land Camp (Acampamento Terra Livre, also known as ATL in Portuguese) saw 8,000 Indigenous people in Braslia give voice to the ongoing fight to save their culture and way of life.

Jonia Wapichana, the countrys first Indigenous congresswoman, said: The ATL is an opportunity to unite Indigenous and Brazilian leaders from across the country to stand up for their constitutional rights. They protested against what activists have called a death combo of environment-related bills being considered by congress. These include the PL 191 bill, which aims to open Indigenous lands to mining and other commercial exploitation, and PL 490, which would change the rules on demarcation of Indigenous territory.

Prominent female indigenous leaders Maial Payakan, Snia Guajajara, Clia Xakriab, Braulina Baniwa and others join a march in Braslia during the Free Land Camp to protest against Bolsonaros anti-Indigenous agenda.

  • Prominent female indigenous leaders Maial Payakan, Snia Guajajara, Clia Xakriab, Braulina Baniwa and others join a march in Braslia during the Free Land Camp to protest against Bolsonaros anti-Indigenous agenda

The Guardian ATL 2022-08 Jonia Wapichana, Brazils first indigenous lawyer and the first indigenous woman elected to the national Congress, is pictured at the Free Land Camp in Braslia, Brazil.
Puyr Temb, leader of the Temb people and co-founder of ANMIGA (The National Articulation of Indigenous Women Ancestrality Warriors), is pictured at the Free Land Camp in Braslia, Brazil.

  • Jonia Wapichana, left, Brazils first Indigenous congresswoman, and Puyr Temb, right, of the Temb people called for unified action

The 10-day camp, the largest gathering of Indigenous people in the world, according to The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), included a multitude of Indigenous ethnicities Pataxs, Kayap, Munduruku, Yanomami, Xikrin and another 195 peoples from across Brazil. This year, with a general election due in October, the Free Land Camp was a concerted effort to fight back against the anti-Indigenous policies of President Jair Bolsonaros administration.

Indigenous people have constantly been the subject of discussions and deliberations without proper participation, said Wapichana. At this specific moment, this gathering is even more important considering that we have a government that is anti-Indigenous, fascist, anti-environmentalist and anti-human rights. I see myself as a spokesperson who will take the Indigenous voice further, to fight for the defence of our rights so that we prevent further violations. It is also incredibly important to raise more sympathy and empathy among politicians in congress, who represent Brazilian society.

Angoh Patax sits covered in a mixture of mud and clay to protest her relatives murder in Braslia 25 years ago for protecting his peoples territory

  • Today we are here resisting in order to exist, said Angoh Patax, whose relative was murdered in Braslia 25 years ago for protecting his peoples territory

Indigenous people march in a procession called Ouro de Sangue (Gold of Blood) to protest against Bolsonaros policies.
An installation made of clay, representing toxic mud from mining, and red ink, representing spilled Indigenous blood, stands outside the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Braslia

  • Indigenous people march in a procession called Ouro de Sangue (Gold of Blood) to protest against Bolsonaros policies. An installation made of clay, representing toxic mud from mining, and red ink, representing spilled Indigenous blood, outside the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Braslia

In April 1997, Braslia was the site of the brutal murder of Galdino Patax, an Indigenous leader of the Patax-H-H-He people who was burned to death after demanding the demarcation of his peoples territory. Twenty-five years later, ngoho Patax, a relative and leader of the Patax H-H-He people at Katurama village, attended the Free Land Camp to highlight continuing rights violations perpetrated by the government and mining companies against her people and territory.

Today we are here resisting in order to exist, she said. We are here demanding justice for my relatives death. But we are also here showing our resistance to extractivism, we are here demanding our land rights on ancestral lands, we are here fighting for our lives and the right of us, women, to have our place and space recognised.

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Alice Patax, an indigenous communicator and environmental activist
An indigenous man marches with his daughter on his shoulders.

  • Alice Patax, an environmental activist, and an Indigenous man marches with his daughter at the Free Land Camp

Puyr Temb, of the Temb people in Par state, reminded the gathering of the importance of unity. After two years without an in-person Free Land Camp due to the pandemic, we come to this 18th edition filled with strength, bravery and resistance to not just fight and defend our rights, but also to celebrate and reconnect.

For the sake of future generations and our wellbeing we are inspired every day to keep fighting. The expectation we have is that [we can] bring some change. More and more I believe that the Indigenous people are aware that this change is possible if we are unified.

Wapichana added: As an Indigenous woman in congress, it is fundamental to me that I represent the voices of other female warriors, considering the collective Indigenous rights and interests while focusing on specific agendas for women. Showing that we are capable, that we are full capable of performing our professions and occupying positions of power is extremely important to me.

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