Indigenous Groups in Brazil Hold Conference to Resist Bolsonaro's Plans

Published December 22, 2019

Indigenous Groups in Brazil Hold Conference to Resist Bolsonaro's Plans

120 Yanomami and Yek’wana shamans, warriors, women and youth come together to resist 20,000 wildcat miners and President Bolsonaro’s plans of destruction.

The first Forum of Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leaders was held at the foot of watorikɨ, or “wind mountain.” During that week, at the end of November, the village in the middle of the Amazon forest was the stage for an unprecedented and historic meeting, which brought together 120 people from 26 regions of a territory spanning 9 million hectares, the Yanomami Indigenous Land, located between the states of Roraima and Amazonas.

The first meeting of Yanomami and Ye’kwana leaders occurs at a time when over 20,000 artisanal miners are on Yanomami Indigenous Land, in the largest invasion since the demarcation of the area in 1992. Representatives, shamans, warriors, women and youth decided to meet to strengthen their alliance and resist the ambitions of President Bolsonaro, who has been announcing plans to open up artisanal and commercial mining on indigenous lands. Bolsonaro cites the Yanomami Indigenous Land repeatedly and by name.

The hosts of the Watorikɨ and their guests spent four days in a continuous exchange. They recalled time before colonial incursions, when there was no common enemy and wars and alliances were made between the different indigenous groups, with cycles of mourning, vengeance and peace. They talked about the reality of life today in the communities, the polluted rivers and scarcity of fish due to mining, the lack of game and contamination of fish. They addressed cases of cancer caused by contamination from the mercury used in the extraction of gold, and the women who were raped.

Many people also described the decline in health services, the return of malaria to their communities. They note that, in 2019 alone, at least six deaths along the Uraricoera River can be attributed to the disease. They denounced shortages of medicine, equipment and technical staff at the health clinics on indigenous land.

“No one steals here, we nurture and preserve. We honor our words. We live, sleep, breathe and produce, without veering from this path,” says Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami shaman and elder, one of the hosts of the gathering. The new generation of adults and see themselves at a crossroads between traditional culture and the freedom of the forest and “the world of the city,” where money talks and “everyone is a slave” to it.

The main topic of the conference came back to: How to face the great threat that destroys communities from the inside? How to resist the invasion of thousands of miners that are today destroying the forest, contaminating the rivers, spreading diseases and perpetrating all sorts of horrors?