Thinking global as indigenous peoples in the era of climate change
2015, Buritizeiro, Minas Gerais state, in the southern part of Brazil.
Two women, two sisters Tuxà, guide their people to conquest 6.000 hectares of a land that until that moment was propriety of the Brazilian government. A land devastated by the industries of wood and cellulose, by the immense eucalyptus monocultures that monopolize the landscape. The lagoon is poisoned, fishless. A scenery that is far from the songs the ancestors that lived in those lands used to sing.
A wasted land, T. S Eliot would say:
I sat upon the shoreFishing, with the arid plain behind Shall I at least set my lands in order? (What the thunder says, T.S. Eliot)
After 3 years, this territory is flourishing again thanks to the presence of the Tuxà people. But, the fire is not over yet, and the live coal is still burning. The relationship between the Brazilian government and the indigenous people, in this case Tuxà people, is complicated, and the bureaucratic procedure to regularize and legitimate the propriety of those lands to the indigenous peoples is slow and often obstructed by the government itself.
During an interview, Analia Tuxà, the leader of the Tuxà people and one of the two women being protagonists in the reconquest of the territories in Buritizeiro, told that after the conquest the negotiations for the lands followed. During that process, the Brazilian government proposed them to accept just 10% of the 6.000 hectares they conquested. They obviously refused.
1992, Argentine Patagonia. The Italian company Benetton purchases 970.000 hectares of a land, that was actually a territory in which an indigenous community lived, the Mapuche. Just some months later, the whole Mapuche population was expelled from their ancestral home. Eradicated from the territories that have been not just their home, but also a reference point for the whole construction of their culture.
In 2002, Atilio Curianco and Rosa Nahuelquir occupied 385 hectares of those lands. The Italian company offered them just 7.500 hectares which they refused. The conflict in Santa Rosa persisted until 2014, year in which the government recognized the ownership and use of 625 hectares in Santa Rosa to the Mapuche people. Unfortunately, the discrimination and the impoverishment of the soil has made the living conditions for these people hard, and often they have ended up working as a cheap and exploited labor force. Also, it’s common for them to be marked as terrorists if they try to raise their voice for their rights.
The same happened in Temuco, southern part of Chile, in 2016.Machi Francisca, spiritual leader of one of the Mapuche groups living in Chile, was arrested for the third time because of the denounce she had openly made to the corporations that were illegally destroying the native forests with intensive agriculture and illegal wood cutting. She was marked publicly as a dangerous figure for the Chilean Government and civil population. She could return to her home only many months later, after a long hunger strike, and thanks to the pressure of many Chilean citizens, but mainly due to her very bad health conditions.
In this era, in which everybody speaks about freedom, realization and determination of who we are and how to find our true self , episodes like the ones described above cannot be justified. It’s too easy to pretend freedom for us, and not for the rest of the people living in this world. It’s too easy to use the excuse of a liberal and free market to impose the decision of one on the reality of thousand of people, whose vision of the world is totally different. And it’s disgusting to use power, corruption and money to achieve that. The examples described are actually the story of the majority of the indigenous peoples that every day wake up fighting against abuses, discrimination and the possibility to be expelled from their land again, and again.
But, fortunately many groups of indigenous peoples, in particular women, are starting to create a solid network, that is growing more and more, to contrast the corporations, the corrupted governments. They are representing a solid faction that seeks to claim and fights for their rights as indigenous and also as women. “We can’t exist without our land. With our land, they are taking away also the possibility we have to elevate ourselves in a spiritual way. With our plants”.
Tuxà means people of the waters. Mapuche means people of the earth.
Both those indigenous peoples are strictly connected with their environment. They are their environment. In the majority of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, women have a deeper connection with the earth; women take care of everything that’s related with agriculture and harvest, they develop a very profound knowledge of the timing, of the plagues, and all the techniques that are necessary to have a good crop. Their knowledge, originated in the ancient roots, has been transmitted through generations.
But everything is getting harder. Apart from the exploitation of lands there’s another big issue that is endangering indigenous women and people. Climate Change. A monster that many consider just a myth, but that is actually burning forests, drinking rivers, unbalancing the equilibrium of the planet. And we’re feeding him. And he’s getting bigger and bigger.
In November 2018, 30 women from different parts of Ecuador met to discuss about how to act against climate change. They underlined the consequences of the massive extraction of oil and minerals, the inequality women have to face when it comes to be part of an agricultural unit. In Ecuador, rural women produce 90% of the food for the national consumption, but just 25.4% is actually part of an agricultural unit. They also underlined the importance of stopping the extraction fossil fuels. Many Ecuadorian women, leaders of movements contrasting the fossil fuels corporations, have been subjected to harassment, violence and also death.
The indigenous women of Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, just as other women of Africa and Asia, are not just fighting for their lands. They are fighting for us as much as for them. They are fighting against gender violence and discrimination that every woman, both in Europe as in Africa or in the US or in every other country in the world, has to face daily. They took action for the climate, for the forests that we breathe and keep us alive.
When you’re a part of a reality is hard to see it properly. That’s what’s happening in the occidental world. We’ve lost the capability of seeing. We think that globalization means exclusively having the possibility to buy sushi in every country in the world or to purchase the same shoes in Milan as in Lima. Actually though, this is just the darkest part of globalization. What is its greatest side is indeed the chance we now have to be able to “think globally”, having the the consciousness that we’re living in a wonderful ecosystem and our actions have a weight in what happens in the world, in a positive and negative way.
Indigenous peoples see our society from outside. They are conscious of what we’re doing and what is actually happening, because they see the effects of the changes. Because they are living the environment. The majority of people in the occidental world is living in the cities where it is hard to distinguish even the seasons. It’s obvious that we’re not feeling so much the impacts of climate change. We buy food in the shop, often grown in greenhouses, because we want everything in every moment. We’ve lost the pleasure of the waiting. Of following the rhythm of nature, and actually right now we’re dancing hip hop on classical music.