Voices from the forest echo without intermediaries at ATL 2023

11 maio 2023

Project strengthens activism networks by expanding the participation of young communicators in the largest indigenous mobilisation in Brazil
By Fábio de Castro, special for WWF-Brazil 

At Free Land Camp (ATL, in Portuguese) 2023, which brought together about 6,000 indigenous individuals belonging to more than 200 different peoples in Brasília, between April 24 and 28, discussions and demonstrations related to the rights of native peoples - such as land demarcation, conservation of territories already demarcated, respect for culture and diversity, health care and the need for more access to education -, had repercussions not only in traditional media vehicles, but also in digital environments, such as websites and profiles on social networks, all commanded by the indigenous people themselves. Voices from the forest echoed without the interference of intermediaries. 

Young people linked mainly to indigenous communication groups, but also to traditional communities in the Amazon, created their own narratives about the event, exchanging experiences and strengthening their activism networks. André Marciel, 21 years old, member of the Varadouro collective, which operates in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve (Resex), in the municipality of Brasiléia, in Acre state, was one of four young people who joined the mobilisation in the federal capital with the support of the project Protection of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of Brazil, financed by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, through the WWF network. 

"I am sure that my first participation in the ATL will bring new results. The experience was very enriching, due to the integration with new cultures and different ways of seeing life, and also due to the countless contacts I've made, which will certainly yield new partnerships", he says. Andre. 

Born in Chico Mendes Resex, he explained that Varadouro collective seeks to engage local young people so that they increase their knowledge of the political, legal and regulatory issues surrounding the reserve. "The collective goes beyond the area of communication, it is a formal organisation of young people and our goal is to promote sustainable development in our region and achieve spaces for effective political participation in activities of interest to the community", he says. 

André took part in several activities at ATL. "I did the coverage as a communicator, producing videos for the Varadouro collective. Several of my photos were published on the collective's Instagram and that of the Chico Mendes Committee", he says. In one of the activities, at the invitation of Angela Mendes, daughter of Chico Mendes - the legendary rubber tapper leader -, he covered the launch of the book "Lucélia Santos - Courage to Fight", by journalist Eduardo Meirelles. At the event, he personally met the actress and activist Lucélia Santos, who was a personal friend of Chico Mendes and played a relevant role in the creation of the reserve. "I also followed the moment when a large group of indigenous people went to the Chamber of Deputies to demonstrate," he says. 

Although the extractive communities have partnerships and connections with the other peoples of the forest, André says that he had never taken part in a meeting with the indigenous peoples. "I felt a lot of empathy and identification. It was important to get to know their different realities and see how the struggle of the indigenous movement is fair and is very much in line with what we seek: legal security over the territory and sustainable development", he says. 

Connection and resistance 

In addition to boosting collectives at an early stage of structuring, such as Varadouro, the project led by WWF-Brazil also brought to Brasília activists from more established organisations, such as Beka Saw Munduruku, 20, a member of the audiovisual collective Daje Kapap Eypi, which documents the struggle of the Munduruku people for the demarcation of their territory in the Middle Tapajós River. 

"I've participated in many camps and demonstrations, but this was my first time at the ATL. What we saw was something very strong, with several indigenous peoples taking part in a very broad connection, fighting for their rights. It was very important to know the struggle of other peoples and being able to share their causes with the eyes of those who suffer the same threats: deforestation, land grabbing, gold mining", says Beka. 

At the ATL, the activist also took part in the debate “Indigenous Amazon: Impacts of gold mining and economic alternatives”, held by Coiab (Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon), with the support of WWF-Brazil and The Nature Conservancy. During the event, she reported on the serious impacts of gold mining in Munduruku territory, one of the most affected in Brazil by this illegal activity. 

Beka says that the collective is now producing a documentary about the entire demarcation process of the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, which has not yet been ratified, but had its territory self-demarcated by the indigenous people themselves in 2015. 

"We went to ATL to work on the coverage of the event and also to capture images related to the demarcation of territories, including speeches by authorities such as the president of Funai (Indigenous Peoples National Foundation), Joênia Wapichana, and indigenous congresswoman Célia Xakriabá. These images will be important for the documentary, as we want to tell the whole story, from the beginning of our fight until the moment we get approval", states the activist. 

For Beka, it is fundamental that the coverage of the ATL has not been done exclusively by non-indigenous communicators, who, according to her, do not face the reality of the struggle of the original peoples for their territories in their daily lives, and therefore end up not paying attention to essential aspects. 

"Through audiovisual, we can tell the reality of our territories and bring back the stories about the reality of other peoples. It is an exchange of resistance experiences. We use the audiovisual to strengthen the leaders at the base, to denounce, to record our culture and to tell our own stories", highlights Beka. 

Occupying spaces 

According to Raquel Tupinambá, Conservation analyst at WWF-Brazil, in addition to Beka and André, the project also extended a special invitation to take part in specific ATL activities to Shirley Arara, from the Indigenous Land Igarapé Lourdes, and Valderir Tupari, from Terra Rio Branco, both members of the Indigenous Youth Collective of Rondônia. 

André, Shirley and Valderir took part, for instance, in a visit to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate, where they were received by the National Secretary for Traditional Peoples and Communities and Sustainable Rural Development, the environmentalist Edel Moraes, who detailed all the functioning and scope of the Ministry. 

"The main goal of this initiative to bring collectives to the ATL is for indigenous peoples and traditional communities to occupy spaces, be heard and contribute to solutions. The idea is to enable these organisations to build a wide network of activism and to occupy spaces within networks already established in civil society", explains Raquel. 

And the ATL is a privileged space for this construction of networks, she points out, as it is a highly visible event, aimed at discussing territorial protection, the rights of indigenous peoples and the demarcation of indigenous lands, with the active participation of countless forest peoples, presence of authorities and political decisions. So much so that, during the closing of the event, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the approval of six new Indigenous Lands. 

"In addition to acquiring experience in a space for political decision-making, these collectives benefit from taking part in the ATL in the sense of networking. They learned about other models of communication work. And that is why it was important to bring together collectives in different stages of development", adds Raquel. 

The formation of activism networks is one of the pillars of WWF-Brazil's Active Citizenship strategy, which seeks to strengthen activists and socio-environmental movements to increase, in spaces of political advocacy, the representation of populations made vulnerable by climate injustice and environmental racism, who are historically separated from environments of power and from decision-making processes. 

"In order to reverse this logic, it is not enough to bring ready-made answers, thought out and developed from a technical and external perspective of the territories. All citizens must participate in decisions, especially those who are at the field, in the territories. They are the ones who know, from their experiences, culture and traditional knowledge, the needs and priorities of each location. Their voices, therefore, must be central in the construction of solutions for each territory", concludes Raquel. 

The participation of Beka, André, Shirley and Valderir in the ATL was made possible by the project for the Protection of Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of Brazil, financed by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, through the WWF Network. The initiative is carried out by a consortium of partners formed by the Pro-Indigenous Committee of Acre (CPI-Acre), Chico Mendes Committee, Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation), Fiotec, Imaflora, Kanindé, Pacto das Águas, Saúde e Alegria Project (PSA) and WWF-Brazil. 
Around 6 thousand indigenous peoples participated in the Free Land Camp 2023
© Edgar Kanaykõ / WWF-Brasil
André Marciel is a communicator and member of the Varadouro collective, which operates in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve (Resex)
© Nay Jinknss / WWF-Brasil
Beka Saw Munduruku, do coletivo Audiovisual Daje Kapap Eypi, que documenta a luta do povo Munduruku pela demarcação de seu territó
© Nay Jinknss / WWF-Brasil
Environmental activist Edel Moraes, National Secretary of Traditional Peoples and Communities and Sustainable Rural Development, explained the entire operation and scope of action of the Ministry
© Edgar Kanaykõ / WWF-Brasil
"The main goal of this initiative to bring collectives to the ATL is for indigenous peoples and traditional communities to occupy spaces, be heard and contribute to solutions", says Raquel Tupinambá
© Nay Jinknss / WWF-Brasil