Women and youth stand out at Free Land Camp

13 abril 2022

The 18th edition of the largest indigenous mobilization in Brazil, which brought together 7,000 representatives from 200 peoples in Brasília, ends this Thursday (04/14) and becomes a milestone in history

By Ayla Tapajós, from WWF-Brazil
The 18th edition of the Free Land Camp (ATL, in Portuguese), the largest indigenous mobilization in Brazil, comes to an end this Thursday (14/04) making history. It became a landmark not only for having broken the attendance record, with the presence of 7,000 representatives of 200 peoples who marched in Brasilia against the anti-indigenous and anti-environmental agenda but also for having ensured that different aspects of the indigenous movement were heard. Female protagonism, which has been gaining more and more strength and visibility throughout the country, and the potential of youth were highlighted.

One of the highlights of the ATL was precisely the "panache bench", the launch of pre-candidacies by a group of indigenous women who intend to run in this year's elections for positions in the state and federal legislatures, with the objective of facing the bench ruralist and combat socio-environmental setbacks. Currently, there is only one indigenous deputy in the National Congress: Joênia Wapichana. She was the first woman representative of indigenous peoples to be elected to the Federal Chamber, in 2018.

Joênia even made one of the most forceful speeches of the ATL against the "Anything Goes in Indigenous Lands Project" (PL 191/2020), a bill that is being processed in the Legislature and which is part of the “destruction package”. “I bring with me today people who have played a fundamental role in defending the rights of indigenous peoples in the National Congress. We are few, but we are strong because we unite around a cause that is above the parties and that we have taken, not only to Brazil but to the world. This is the Bill (191/2020) of devastation, of destruction, which brings together everything that is bad and comes precisely to slaughter indigenous peoples”, said the federal representative.

“Our struggle inspires other women, other youths”, defended Braulina Baniwa, executive director of Anmiga (National Articulation of Women Warriors of Ancestrality). And she was not the only one. At a meeting with a female audience from different parts of the country, whose theme was “Retaking Brazil: Diverse Voices of the First Brazilians”, Sônia Guajajara, executive coordinator of Apib (Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil), highlighted the importance of women occupying spaces beyond the villages and that they do have conditions to lead debates and build a Brazil that includes them.

“We are many, we are diverse. And we are here today in the name of those who preceded us and for those who will come”, stressed Sônia. She also stressed that the struggle for the demarcation of territories, for the protection of the forest and waters, for the care of children, for food for the family, in addition to education and health, is also carried out by women. “It is exactly this force that comes from the ground of the earth that we want to present to bring changes in this country”, she added.

Thirty-two women had space to speak at this same table, leaders of the most diverse Brazilian indigenous organizations. One of them was Juliana Tupinambá, director of the women's department of Mupoiba (United Movement of Indigenous Peoples of Bahia), in the Olivença Indigenous Land, in the south of the state. She recalled teachings she received from other women.

“For my grandmother, Nete, who is no longer with us, but who has always encouraged me”, said Juliana. “In the village, our tradition was to learn how to use a ‘borduna’ (indigenous weapon for attack, defense, or hunting) or a spinning top. But my grandmother used to say that the time for the pen would come and that the younger ones had to take ownership of the pens. That is why we are occupying academic spaces and today we are masters and doctors.”

According to Anmiga, there are currently 130 indigenous women organizations in Brazil, 9 women's departments within mixed federations, and 6 in the process of consolidation.

Indigenous youth mobilized

If, on the one hand, indigenous women have been consolidating themselves as leaders, on the other, youth have played an essential role in what native peoples call the “social network village”. In other words, they are increasingly mastering communication techniques and tools so that their narratives and demands reach society without the need for intermediaries in this dialogue.

Photographer Levi Tapuia, from the self-demarcated territory Vilarejo dos Cocos, in the extreme south of Bahia, is one of those young people. “Today, we are demarcating social networks because it is a more effective means of uniting several peoples in the same place”, he believes.

This social media occupation movement went viral among indigenous youth because, regardless of the geographical distance between territories, young people are able to dialogue and unify the struggle through communication, using this space to give visibility to the main threats to their territories and break stereotypes.

“We can reach a very large number of people. We use social networks to denounce invasions in our territory, for example”, highlighted Ana Raquel Kumarura, from Suruacá Village, Kumaruara Territory, in the lower Tapajós, Pará.

Like women, being in universities has been one of the youth's coping strategies. “Our parents and grandparents fought so that we could study”, recalled Vera Tukano, communicator at the National Meeting of Indigenous Students and a member of the Academic Collective of Indigenous Students at Unicamp (State University of Campinas). “And we continue in this fight. While our rights are recognized on paper, they are not yet recognized in the classroom.”

Among the dialogues promoted during the ATL, there was also an opening for LGBTQIA+ youth to address their relevance in the mobilization of indigenous peoples. For the first time in 18 years of the event, they were able to share their anxieties and challenges inside and outside the indigenous movement. During the act, a manifesto was read about the role of capitalism in the commodification of bodies and the increase in violence that affects these young people, then the document was delivered to the executive coordination of Apib.