“A couple of days ago, I was traditionally dressed and my face was painted according to the custom of my people. I was at the Confins airport in Belo Horizonte, coming back from a ceremony, when I realised that a child was staring at me and he was frightened. Yet, when his mother whispered something at his ear, the look in his eyes completely changed: he was somehow amazed. At a certain point, his mother got distracted and the little boy got closer to me. He told me: ’Mom said you eat people.’ I was not able to react at all, I was just embarrassed.
This is just an example of the sad episodes – and prejudices – Anália Tuxá is constantly experiencing together with all the indigenous nations around the world. Anália, who is Leader of the Tuxá people (the “sons of the waters”) and comes from Minas Gerais (Brazil), took part in several side-events here at the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. She shared her experiences and highlighted the importance of protecting forests in her home country. Thinking about the land where her people used to live, she was moved in recalling memories of a time that seem distant. “My dearest memory is when we could be free on the island.”
The island Analia recalls is “Ilha da Víuva”, in Bahia (Brazil). It was submerged by the construction of the Itaparica hydroelectric plant. After the flood, her people was forced to move in six territories, with the biggest one settling in the city of Bahia and other reaching Alagoas, Pernambuco and Minas Gerais. According to the latest Siasi / Sesai data from 2014, there are now more than 1,700 Tuxà scattered in different Brazilian regions.
“Warrior” and “resistant” are words that define Anália very well. She is proud to keep her traditions alive. “We are the only Tuxà group who still speak our language, as other groups have already gave up on it”. And she adds: “We still have our original spirituality, we keep our traditional way of farming and living the territory. We live in a sustainable way”.
When asked about the relationship among indigenous and white people, Analia emphasizes that it is peaceful and that it can only be based on respect. “We co-exist and this does not affect anyone. Some indigenous get married with non-indigenous people, but that does not take away our identity.” Yet, there are things that make the situation worrisome. The resources of the village are scarce and Tuxá people have limited livelihoods, and they are constantly worried about the environment where they live.. “We do our best to protect the environment, because everything is sacred for us. You cannot pick a flower or a medicinal plant without the permission of our ancestors”, she says.
With gleam in the look, strength and inspiration, Analia emphasizes the reason of its fight. “Our sacred territory where our ancestors were buried is underwater. The Tuxá people were forced to surrender their own land for the sake of economic development and power generation. So I fight because the Brazilian state has a very large debt to the indigenous peoples of Brazil.”