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Feature - Issue #12

A Born Activist

Translated by Le Guimarães
Photography by Nathalie Brasil

Environmental activist Samela Sateré Mawé, from the Sateré Mawé people in the state of Amazonas, is showing how Indigenous youth in Brazil are taking control of their own narrative and using contemporary weapons in the fight to defend their territories.

Our generation shares many singularities, we have always heard and seen our grandmothers, mothers, our leaders, telling stories of the struggle of our people. Our ancestors walked and opened the same path that we are walking today.

During an interview at COP26 [the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference], the following question arose: “When did you decide to become an activist?” Thinking about the etymology of what non-Indigenous people conceptualise as ‘activism’, as a fight for a certain objective, and then looking for such a unique moment within my own short life story, I expressed, “I think we were born activists!”

The fight of the Indigenous movement has been ongoing since the invasion - an invasion which has decimated villages, people and languages. It’s a fight for territory, differentiated education, differentiated health and for our constitutional rights - we are always fighting.

This fight was once done with the use of force, with bows and arrows, harpoons and blowpipes, as these were the only ways for us to be heard. Nowadays this struggle has gained new tools. Indigenous youth are protagonists in the fight with contemporary weapons - technology allied to the defence of the territory, with the blessing of the elders and the support from the leaders. Drones fly over Indigenous lands and look for outbreaks of fires or invasions, and cameras denounce the attacks, violence and violations that affect the people. Mobile phones share the richness of our cultures and the diversity of our peoples, deconstructing, demystifying, decolonising and simplifying the Indigenous agenda on social networks.

We are using the internet and technology as a tool of struggle and resistance in the defence of our people, bodies and territories, occupying the screens and demarcating the networks, because, for a long time, we have had other people speaking for us. “What do the Indigenous eat, where do they live, how do they survive, why do they do this or that?” This is always the point of view of non-Indigenous people about us - increasing and sharing stereotypes and fetishes regarding our bodies. Now we have the opportunity to be protagonists of our own stories, to tell them from our own point of view.

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