Last week, hundreds of Indigenous women took to the streets to protest against the policies of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. According to BBC, indigenous women occupied the building of Brazil’s health ministry in the capital of Brasília and demanded better healthcare for the Indigenous people of the country and called for an end to the destruction of the Amazon.
It has been reported that about 300 Indigenous women condemned the proposed changes to women’s healthcare and deforestation in Brazil in a peaceful demonstration that lasted over 10 hours.
The Indigenous women of the country were protesting, according to a tweet by AJ+, “rollbacks on Indigenous rights and efforts to open up Indigenous lands to minding and agriculture.” AJ+ shared powerful images of Indigenous women coming together to fight for their rights and to “cry out for help.”
Under the far-right president Bolsonaro, Brazil has backtracked on rights and protections for the Indigenous community. For example, Brazil has let “agriculture ministry make decisions about Indigenous land, blocked any new reservations, [and] proposed to close specialized Indigenous health care offices.”
According to The Associated Press, Bolsonaro’s administration—since taking office in January—has continuously “clashed with environmentalists and others over possibly opening up the Amazon rainforest to development and agribusiness.”
The president wants to open their lands to agriculture and mining. The Globe Post also reports that President Bolsonaro has been warned by experts and activists about such policies that will have “devastating environmental impacts, particularly in worsening climate change.”
However, Bolsonaro continues to dismiss the facts and data showing that the effects of his policies will affect Indigenous land. “Bolsonaro has dismissed the data as lies and sacked the head of the government agency tasked with tracking tree clearing,” The Globe Post reports.
Further, Brazil’s government wants to make towns and cities responsible for providing medical services to its Indigenous people—putting the pressure on community leaders and local officials. But community leaders fear that their communities lack the “infrastructure” to do this. According to BBC, the federal government is currently in charge of these responsibilities.
Tamikua Faustino of the Pataxó tribe told the AP that “if we don’t stick together, in the near future we’ll be eliminated.”
This surge in deforestation that occurs on Indigenous reserves would essentially eliminate Indigenous folks from the places they inhabit.
In an AJ+ video shared on Twitter, articulation of the Indigenous people of Brazil Sonia Guajajara said: “We will resist because we’ve been here for five centuries and we have a good experience in resisting.” The Indigenous community is being backed by thousands of community members and supports in fighting back against President Bolsonaro’s government.
When Indigenous folks took the streets of Brazil to protest, they didn’t hold back. Many did so carrying bows, arrows, and spears, and the Indigenous women advanced on Congress in Brasilia carrying a large banner that read: “Resist to exist.” Women leading the frontlines are demanding the protection of their land.
A couple of days after the initial demonstration took place, about 1,500 indigenous women from 110 ethnic groups were expected to join a protest to defend their rights that are under threat under the Bolsonaro administration.
According to BBC, the president has “promised to integrate Indigenous people into the rest of the population and repeatedly questioned the existence of their protected reserves, which are rights guaranteed in the country’s constitution.” The president who favors development over conservation of Indigenous land and reservations has also said that the Indigenous territories are “too big in relation to the number of people who live there,” therefore making it okay to open land that does not belong to him, to agriculture, minding, and essentially destruction.
Earlier this month, The Globe Post published an opinion piece highlighting the ways in which Bolsonaro and his presidency were destroying the Brazilian Amazon.
According to data, deforestation in the Amazon region has skyrocketed and there’s no turning back. In June 2019, deforestation showed to be 88 percent higher than the levels of deforestation seen in June 2018. And in the first half of July 2019, it was 68 percent higher than the entire month of the previous year.
It’s important to note that more than 800,000 Indigenous people live in 450 Indigenous territories across Brazil and most are located in the Amazon region and some communities live totally isolated.
But the Indigenous women of Brazil are not backing down. In a video posted by AJ+ on Twitter, one of the women can be seen saying that they’re going to defend nature and defend the forest. “We are defending our children’s lives, but also the lives of the people on the other side of the world,” she adds. “Because the air we breathe is the air you breathe.”