Analysis. The organization of indigenous daily life requires a constant search for balance between nature and people, between the forest and the people who inhabit it. It is this constant search that indigenous peoples understand as politics.

‘Reforesting minds,’ the Terra Livre Encampment planted in the Brazilian capital

Acampamento Terra Livre (the Terra Livre Encampment) took place in Brasilia last week. This is the 19th edition of the event, the first since the fall of Bolsonaro’s genocidal government, which has not only decimated indigenous lives through its plan to refrain from intervening to halt the devastating effects of the pandemic, but has also favored illegal extractive activities and impunity for crimes against indigenous representatives and activists in the indigenous territories of the Amazon. However, the indigenous peoples have once again demonstrated their resilience.

The Encampment, organized for the first time in 2004 during the so-called “Indigenous April,” the month during which Dia dos Povos Indígenas (Indigenous Peoples’ Day) is celebrated on April 19, represents the largest mobilization of the indigenous movement, which traditionally comes to occupy Brasília to demand the rights that the Constitution has guaranteed them since 1988. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the indigenous movement was the first major movement to set up an entire virtual program, which also continued in 2021. It’s an event that brings together specialists, researchers and professionals from a wide variety of fields, and which, most importantly, involves a large-scale mobilization in the aldeias (villages) of indigenous lands, where local representatives, with the help of elders and ancestors, look for solutions to counter the advancement of the deadly project of the white development model. Their slogan is “Our struggle is still for life!”

The theme of the 2022 edition, “Taking back Brazil: delimiting territories and ‘aldeating’ politics (aldear a política)” (the verb aldear comes from aldeia, meaning village, small center, but also referring to an idea of collectivity), almost presaged what would become reality one year later with the establishment of the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples, headed by indigenous activist Sônia Guajajara, who joined the Encampment on Wednesday and took part in the opening ritual, the “contract of coexistence” in which ancestral chants reinforce the collective struggle. The event’s stated goals are to promote bem viver (the quality of one’s life), reflorestar mentes (literally “reforesting minds”), and, once again, aldear a política, which is an invitation to rethink politics starting from small, interconnected centers, the search for a common and democratic way of deciding and leading the future.

Like any indigenous form of life, indigenous political and social action finds its foundation in ancestral wisdom, the care for people, for parentes, which extends far beyond the Western concept of family to include every form of life in the territory. According to Ailton Krenak, the organization of indigenous daily life requires a constant search for balance between nature and people, between the forest and the people who inhabit it. It is this constant search that indigenous peoples understand as “politics.”

The 2023 edition of the Encampment began with Monday’s large demonstration to “fight anti-indigenous bills” in front of the National Congress. It was a historic moment for Brazil’s indigenous peoples, who were welcomed for the first time without aggression and entered through the front door to start a solemn session of the Acampamento Terra Livre.

The plenary was attended by Joenia Wapichana, president of FUNAI, Cacique Raoni, Célia Xakriabá, federal deputy, Dinamam Tuxá, coordinator of Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), Marciely Tupari, Braulina Baniwa, Eloy Terena and Sônia Guajajara, the Minister of Indigenous Peoples. According to the ways of the indigenous community, the solemn session was “given back” to the community during a public event held at the Encampment.

Terra Livre is organized by APIB, created during the 2005 edition as the national-level organizational structure for the indigenous movement in Brazil. It is an organization created from the bottom up, with widespread local branches, which gives visibility to indigenous struggles, for example for land demarcation, made even more urgent after the Marco Temporal ruling, to which one of the plenary sessions was dedicated. This urgent matter is not only local, but global in scope. There is evidence that demarcated lands coming back into indigenous “ownership” (which itself is a concept foreign to the cosmic vision of any indigenous people) contributes to the well-being of the community and that of the entire planet.

According to studies conducted by the Instituto Socio Ambiental (ISA), the preservation of forests on indigenous lands not only stores large amounts of carbon, but also cools the surface and has an effect on global circulation, both atmospheric and oceanic, contributing to lowering the planet’s temperature.

Climate change is felt most keenly by the indigenous peoples, who see nature as the source not only of all our sustenance but also of all explanations of the phenomena that affect our lives. Indigenous education teaches one to read the world from an early age, which is why there is an urgent need to emphasize the centrality of indigenous peoples and their territories in addressing the global climate crisis.

The indigenous way of doing politics is concerned with topical issues, as shown by plenary topics ranging from “Parentissimo and Parentissima: indigenous authorities in movement and governance” to “Indigenous women’s plenary,” “LGBT+ relatives: decolonizing (r)existences” or “The importance of indigenous communication and technology in decolonization, denunciation and struggle.” The event shows a level of gender representation, and topicality of issues, that is foreign to Italy’s delayed development in terms of socio-political participation.

Also impressive is the pragmatic spirit in evidence in the many publications that came out of the event and the ability to master digital communication. Most of the sessions from past editions can be viewed online at the APIB website, where numerous documents are available for download. The 2023 edition is taking place in the spirit of joy and hope after the end of Bolsonaro’s genocidal government. This week of meetings brings together 305 indigenous peoples who are occupying the central plateau of Brasilia with the original forms of life of these lands we now know as Brazil, in the same territory that was vandalized in January by the grotesque crowds of Bolsonaro supporters whom he himself had egged on.

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