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Indigenous peoples in light of the new political context
The 1st Concertation Meeting in 2023 focused on identifying the priority agenda for an indigenist policy in light of the new political context, as well as the ways in which different sectors of society collaborate to implement this agenda. Held online, the event was attended by more than 150 participants.

Mediated by Fernanda Rennó, the network’s executive secretary, the Meeting hosted as panelists Ceiça Pitaguary, secretary of indigenous environmental and land management at the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples (MPI), Genilson Guajajara, indigenous photographer whose work inspires the visual identity of the Concertation’s digital channels, and Puyr Tembé, Secretary of Indigenous Peoples of the State of Pará.

Also present were Tasso Azevedo, general coordinator of MapBiomas initiative and creator of the “Conexão Povos da Floresta” (‘Forest People Connection’ in English) project, and economist Francisco Gaetani, currently head of the Special Secretariat for the Transformation of the State, linked to the Ministry of Management and Innovation in Public Services.

“This cannot be a transitional ministry”

(Ceiça Pitaguary)

When speaking of MPI’s priorities, Ceiça noted that the context in which the Ministry was created indicated the need not only to build and manage the new administrative structure, but also to recover the indigenous bodies and policies that were      disassembled in the last six years. For her, the Ministry is daring, an innovation, and also an opportunity for representatives of indigenous peoples to show that they are capable of managing, coordinating and being at the forefront of these policies.

 

According to Pitaguary, the main challenges of this initial step in the administration are the homologation of Indigenous Lands (IL) already identified, whose processes have been postponed, the demarcation of ILs in the identification stage, and the reorganization of the Funai staff.

 

Another essential front is the MPI’s articulation with other government ministries and bodies, seeking to integrate actions aimed at meeting demands and attending to rights, such as health, education and access to public and private funds, such as the Amazon Fund, philanthropic organizations, BNDES, and others.

 

While emphasizing that Indigenous Lands management requires ongoing dialogue with the communities, in order to respect the management methods of different peoples and facilitate their access to public services, Ceiça highlighted that the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples “it has to work out so that this not be a transitional ministry, of one administration only”.

 

She also stated that the Brazilian civil society’s support to indigenous causes at this time of abandonment from the government continues to be essential for the years to come (in the sense of demanding from the government, demarcating space, standing together and helping to maintain indigenous lands for the exclusive use of communities).

“Our territory is our sacred space”

(Genilson Guajajara)

Genilson Guajajara spoke about his journey as an indigenous photographer. Born in Piçarra Preta village, Terra Indígena Pindaré (MA), he started taking photos after attending a political training program alongside young people from other ethnic groups, in 2015. At first, he recorded the elders’ speeches on video in order to store them and discuss with other young people new ways of communicating through images.

 

Having attended the meetings and experienced the struggles of his people ever since he was a child, Genilson noted that these events did not have the expected visibility. From that point on, he turned to experiences and spirituality, started covering the daily life of his village and promoting photography workshops, recording rituals and customs, and using images to communicate with the community itself and others outside of it, contributing to their struggles.

 

In his speech, he highlighted the moment in which he photographed a young woman wearing a leaf mask, which represents Guajajara people’s medicine and knowledge of nature. Taken during the self-isolation period caused by the pandemic, the photo recorded how the community appreciates traditional medicine and made it better known outside of it.

 

In his work, the artist seeks to raise people’s awareness of the need to take care of the space in which they live. For him, “the territory is part of our body… (and) photography gives us the possibility to see how the body expresses itself in this sacred space”.

“We want to bring telehealth services, land protection, culture and ancestry, and entrepreneurship, among others, to indigenous peoples”

(Tasso Azevedo)

In line with the challenges posed by Ceiça and Genilson, especially in communicating with indigenous peoples, Tasso Azevedo reported the progress of the “Conexão Povos da Floresta” (‘Forest People Connection’) project, which associates four digital inclusion programs with the delivery of internet access equipment: telehealth, land protection, culture and ancestry, and entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.

 

The project has already set up four connection points in Yanomami communities and aims to reach 800 to 1,000 installations in the nine states of the Legal Amazon this year. Under the leadership of the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), the National Coordination for the Articulation of Black Rural Quilombola Communities (CONAQ) and the National Council of Rubber Tappers (CNS), a governance body was created to coordinate efforts: the Forest People Connection Institute.

“The secretariat is not only for indigenous peoples, but for the whole society”

(Puyr Tembé)​

Next, Puyr Tembé, secretary of indigenous peoples of the state of Pará, described the Secretariat’s aims and difficulties in this initial stage. She pondered that the creation of the body has been an indigenous claim since 2007 and that it also represents an achievement for Brazilian society, which supported and walked alongside these people.

 

According to Puyr, the biggest challenge is not to build new indigenous policies in Pará, but to rebuild what was destroyed in the last four years, an effort to be made in collaboration with the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, local governments and civil society: “it is a major challenge, the agendas are all emergency”, he concluded.

 

In addition to the urgent agenda, Puyr highlighted the need to prioritize indigenous school education, issue civil documents to ensure access to public services, promote sustainable agriculture, and the fight against gold mining in Indigenous Lands.

“Brazilian society needs to appropriate and value the work of indigenous peoples”

(Francisco Gaetani)

Francisco Gaetani, who assumed the Extraordinary Secretary for the Transformation of the State this year, reported on the efforts of the federal government to respond to the Yanomami emergency. He stated that, at the moment, the secretariat’s efforts are directed mainly at purchasing and delivering staple food baskets and medicines, making government properties available to these people for facing the crisis, and taking a differentiated role concerning the reorganization of Funai.

 

According to Gaetani, the indigenous agenda is at the top of the government’s priorities and society must change their understanding of the indigenous peoples, under penalty of seeing other tragedies take place.

“Having access to education is keeping our culture, our rights and our territory alive”

(Vanda Ortega Witoto)

The last portion of the event included other important contributions. Health professional Vanda Ortega Witoto spoke of indigenous school education, suggesting a secretariat within the Ministry of Education be created to address this issue. Activist and communicator Samela Sateré-Mawé highlighted the presence of indigenous peoples in various government bodies and the importance of civil society support for defending the rights of indigenous peoples. In turn, Kaianaku Kamaiurá, an indigenous leader, stressed that this time of reconstruction is extremely important, and that one must not lose sight of the legacy of indigenous ancestry.

 

The next Concertation meeting will take place on May 8th, follow these and other network news on the network’s channels.

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29 de May, 2024