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  • Rich D'Amaru

Colours in a world of shadows

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

by Thiago Cardoso

Raoni Metuktire: Leader of the Kayopo people and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, recently convened the Meeting of the Mebengokrê Peoples in Brazil. Photograph: Lilo Clareto/ISA

"A great meeting on the banks of the Xingu River", this is how we can summarize the four days in January, where more than 450 persons from different indigenous peoples from all over Brazil participated in the Meeting of the Mebengokrê Peoples in the Amazon. Convened by the tireless Kayapó leader Raoni Metuktire, and organized by the youth of the Kayapó, the leaders gathered to discuss the role of the “people of forest” in the current context of strong pressure on indigenous peoples, their territories, and ecosystems in Brazil.

At the end, the leaders published the Piaraçu Manifesto[1]. The manifesto, far from a message of hatred and pessimism, reaffirmed the 520 years of resistance of the indigenous peoples, denounced the ethnocidal and ecocidal policy of the current Brazilian government and called on the world and governments to contribute to the demarcation of their territories, protection of their environments and for the maintenance of human and non-human life on earth. A call for action and global solidarity!

At the same time, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) visited various institutions in Europe, on a journey that began in October last year. The aim of the journey was to draw attention to the serious situation of the indigenous peoples in Brazil and to pressure the Brazilian government, mining and agribusiness companies to comply with the international agreements on climate change and human rights to which Brazil is a signatory - such as the Paris Agreement and the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention no 169.

We are facing a re-emergence of the Indigenous Movement that seeks new alliances to give visibility to their struggles in these dark times, in a movement that partly reminds us of the Alliance of Peoples of the Forest that articulated indigenous peoples and local communities in the Amazon in the 1980s and 1990s. These meetings and journeys are added to the international call #ActForAmazon that caught the world's attention during the strong deforestation in 2019.

45 indigenous groups were represented at the Meeting of the Mebengokrê Peoples. Photo: Midia Ninja/Cobertura Colaborativa/ Amazonia Real

In this journal, some texts were written about the “new times” for indigenous peoples after Bolsonaro's election. In a tone of denunciation, the aggressive tone of the new government against indigenous peoples, the incentive to invade indigenous lands and the support for deforestation and mining was highlighted. Now, perhaps, we are in a moment of not limiting ourselves to denunciations. Following the steps and messages of the indigenous leaders, it is time to unite to affirm the role of the indigenous peoples for the maintenance of life on earth and for the importance of guaranteeing territorial rights, the bases for creating collective conditions to face threats and difficulties in the face of openly anti-indigenous governments.

Here are some paths that we can follow to give visibility and ally ourselves with indigenous peoples:

1. Climate change has been affecting the biocultural landscapes of our planet and the amazon will be greatly affected. The prediction is drying of forests with severe climatic effects in other parts of South America. Today we know that the indigenous territories of the Amazon are the most effective for maintaining carbon stocks in forests. Now let us not think that indigenous peoples are indifferent and passive in the face of the climate crisis, quite the contrary, they are active managers of landscapes, water and biodiversity.

This value of indigenous peoples in the face of climate change can be seen in their ecological knowledge about their traditional territories. Indigenous ecological knowledge is mobilized to understand the environmental changes and to search for new paths in the everyday life of a village. At the same time, indigenous leaders are active in national and international climate arenas. Therefore, supporting the demarcation of their lands means being involved in combating climate change.

2. The indigenous peoples of the Amazon teach us to live with biodiversity. Indigenous territories are protected areas that contribute to the maintenance and increase of biodiversity and agrobiodiversity at local and regional scales, through the management of landscape, plants and animals. Beyond production and the market, the territories are places for promotion of human and non-human life, and must be protected. Each indigenous territory is built according to the way of life of each indigenous peoples, and is generally based on kinship relations, on mobility, the construction of cosmographic knowledge and different relations with the environment.

3. Indigenous world views provide us with other values ​​and different ways of thinking and living with other people and with the land. They are other philosophies that do not think of lives as mere commercial objects, but as people. In this way of thinking, relationships with things in the world pass through other values, such as reciprocity and mutuality, where non-human lives matter. It is possible to think of a world where several worlds are included; plants, animals, minerals and a balanced climate. This perspective provokes a change of our perspective, offering a more respectful way of relating to other modes of existence and being more welcoming of life on the planet. It serves to shake our own world and decentralize the Western people.

These three examples that I brought are small in the face of the possibilities of learning and alliance that indigenous peoples offer, as an invitation to enter this circle of struggles and movements for the Amazon and for another possible world. It is a call to colour an increasingly darker world.

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