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Story Publication logo October 25, 2022

How Indigenous Communities Advanced to the Legislature With Votes From the Southeast and the Weight of the Environmental Agenda (Portuguese)

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In an independent investigation, four journalists cover indigenous women candidates in the Amazon...

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This story excerpt was translated from Portuguese. To read the original story in full, visit Um só Planeta. You may also view the original story on the Rainforest Journalism Fund website here. Our website is available in English, Spanish, bahasa Indonesia, French, and Portuguese.


Of the 164 self-declared Indigenous candidates this year, nine were successful. Those elected reflect the country's political polarization.

Born in the Araribóia Indigenous Land (TI) in the Amazon portion of the state of Maranhão, Sônia Guajajara made history by becoming one of nine Indigenous people elected in 2022. With her campaign in defense of Indigenous peoples and the environment, she garnered more than 156,000 votes in São Paulo. It is the first time that Congress will have more than one seat occupied by members of Indigenous communities.

"We Indigenous people are only 5% of the world's population, but we protect 82% of the world's living biodiversity. If our way of life is not protected, life on the planet is threatened," she shouted, amidst applauses and the sound of the maraca, before the majority non-Indigenous audience at USP's Law School, on September 1, during an event of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT).

Faced with the current government's agenda, Indigenous organizations have decided to boost their candidacies in 2022 and increase their representation in Congress after years of avoiding entering institutional politics. It is in the Federal Legislature that projects that threaten Indigenous rights are being processed, such as PL 191/2020, an initiative of the federal government itself, which aims to regulate mining on indigenous lands.

Not only has the current government encouraged economic exploitation on indigenous lands and weakened public agencies for socio-environmental protection, but it has not demarcated any territory for native peoples. Of the 728 Indigenous Lands in the country, 310 are awaiting recognition by the State, according to data from the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi). The demarcated territories suffer from the invasion of land grabbers, loggers, and miners.


Elected federal deputy Sônia Guajajara in her electoral committee in Vila Madalena, São Paulo. Image by Gabriela Portilho/Um só Planeta. Brazil, 2022.

The Yanomami indigenous leader Dario Kopenawa receives a standing ovation after his speech at the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, held at the Law School of USP. Image by Gabriela Portilho/Um só Planeta. Brazil, 2022.

Um só Planeta

Um só Planeta

Joenia Wapichana: "I am the first, but I don't want to be the only one." Image by Divulgação/Um só Planeta. Brazil, 2022.

Um só Planeta

Federal deputy-elect Sônia Guajajara poses with supporters after her speech at the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, held at the Law School of USP. Image by Gabriela Portilho/Um só Planeta. Brazil, 2022.

Federal deputy-elect Sônia Guajajara poses next to the Yanomami indigenous leader Dário Kopenawa during the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, held at the Law School of USP. Image by Gabriela Portilho/Um só Planeta. Brazil, 2022.

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