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Iury Lima – from Cenarium

VILHENA (RO) – While the President of the Republic, Jair Bolsonaro (no party), spews hate against the environmentalist, activist and indigenous leader, Txai Suruí, the 24-year-old young woman continues to inspire the new generation to fight for ethnic and environmental issues, gaining international appreciation and the admiration of all indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Better known as Txai, Walelasoetxeige Suruí did this week what the head of the Federal Executive should have done: represent the nation before 196 world leaders at the most important and urgent climate conference in the history of the planet, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

At the age of 24, Txai Suruí is a law student, legal advisor for an environmental protection NGO, founder of an indigenous youth movement, activist, and environmentalist. (Personal archive/Reproduction)

A more committed generation

Gabriela Yamaguchi, Engaged Society Director at WWF-Brazil, believes that the participation of Txai Surui, as one of the first voices that the whole world heard at the opening of the COP26 reflects a very clear message: “There is no other way to face the climate crisis, which impacts us all, than by talking directly and openly about social justice”, she said in an interview with CENARIUM.

She guarantees that it is only by including the voices of the populations most weakened by the historical, economic, and social context, that it becomes possible to talk about more concrete solutions of confrontation. “They are the black populations, the peripheral communities, the original peoples, the indigenous peoples, the extractive, riverside dwellers, and traditional communities from all territories. It is only by including these representations that we will bring more legitimacy to a decision-making forum like COP26”, continued Yamaguchi.

For the director of the WWF-Brazil Engaged Society, Gabriela Yamaguchi, the voice of the younger generation is crucial to “turn the tables” and get fossil fuels and representatives out of the picture. (Iury Lima/Cenarium)

The director of Engaged Society believes that the participation of young people is of fundamental importance to “turn the tables” and remove from the scene not only fossil fuels, but also the “fossil representatives”, in her assessment, linked to production chains that for decades, “lobbied to stay in power,” i.e., “the fossil representatives of governments that have empty promises and that, in practice, are trying to make up what in fact is not happening in the presentations [of COP26], as in the case of Brazil, where there is a great socio-environmental dismantling underway”, she clarified.

According to Yamaguchi, there is now “a generation that demands concrete actions, that demands the truth, actions that represent real impacts of confronting the climate crisis, of energy transition, and of social inclusion.

Indigenous activism

In his speech on the 1st, Txai Surui recalled the bloodshed in the struggle for the protection of territories, for nature conservation, as well as the wounds caused to the planet’s environment, which earned him much praise from other activists, as well as from indigenous, environmentalists and Brazilian and international organizations, with the statement being reproduced by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) and the WWF itself, for example.

In an interview with CENARIUM, the young woman, who is also a founder of the Indigenous Youth Movement in Rondonia, a law student and legal advisor to the Kanindé Association for Ethno-Environmental Defense, a non-governmental organization (NGO) considered to be a reference in matters related to the indigenous cause in the state, says that she does intend to continue as an activist. “And I hope that I can influence the world in a positive way and show the world the importance of the indigenous peoples’ wisdom, of living in harmony with nature and preserving it, as well as the importance of the indigenous peoples in all this construction”, she declared.

Txai Suruí intends to continue as an environmentalist and perform actions of positive transformation for the planet. (André Dib / Txai Suruí Collection / Reproduction)

“I hope for the future of the planet that the world can understand that we have no more time, right, and that it has to be now, that the planet sees that if we do nothing, we will destroy what is our home. Everything we have is given to us by Mother Earth, so she takes care of us, but we are destroying her”, continued the environmentalist.

Call for Justice

The will to change the world comes from those who know the price that is paid for defending the forests, their resources, and the existence and permanence of traditional native peoples of the largest Brazilian biome, such as the Paiter Suruí, the family of Txai, with six thousand years of legacy. Last Monday, the only Brazilian to speak at the UN, did not let the silence and neglect regarding the extermination of forest guardians come cheap. “While you are closing your eyes to reality, forest guardian Ari Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, my childhood friend, was murdered for defending nature”, she repudiated the bloodshed.

Ari-Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, indigenous leader and childhood friend of Txai Suruí, murdered in 2020. (Reproduction/ Kanindé)

Ari Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau was killed at the age of 34 in April, 2020. The indigenous leader’s body was found in the rural zone of the Tarilândia district belonging to the municipality of Jaru (RO) with blunt force injuries (caused by an instrument) in the region of the neck. He worked registering and denouncing the illegal extraction of wood inside the villages. More than a year later, no one has been held responsible for the crime.

The case adds to the worst rate of murders of indigenous people in Brazil in 25 years. In 2020, 182 members of different ethnic groups were killed by violence, according to the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi).

A reason to be proud

For Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo, an indigenous lawyer and president of the Kanindé Ethnoenvironmental Defense Association, who is also the mother of Txai Suruí, the speech reveals the situation to which the indigenous population is subjected, “with invasions of their territories, setbacks in the rights acquired with the 1988 Federal Constitution, with the death of the defenders of the forest and the need to ensure the defense of life, the forest and the climate. “The planet needs everyone to continue existing and the indigenous people have guaranteed the standing forest”, she said in an interview with CENARIUM.

The president of the Kanindé Association, indigenist, activist, environmentalist and mother of Txai Suruí, Ivaneide Cardozo. (Gabriel Uchida/ Kanindé)

Ivaneide says that the world should learn from the millennial knowledge of indigenous peoples, starting by listening to Txai Suruí, a member of an ethnic group that has inhabited the Amazon for more than sixty centuries. “It is fundamental that we support indigenous peoples and guarantee the conservation of indigenous lands”, she declared.

“Txai is a great activist. Pride for Brazil to have a young indigenous woman taking to the world the message that together we can ensure climate balance and the need to save the Amazon forest. My heart beats strong, to see that in Txai we have a defender of life, of the Amazon, of the indigenous people, and of the entire planet. She is the voice of Brazil to the world”, said the proud mother.

Legacy ahead

Almir Surui, the father of the young activist and considered the greatest leader of the people, is thrilled to see that his daughter is carrying on the legacy of the Paiter people. “She is doing her part, pursuing the dream that our people have, and contributing to a better world”, he also said in an interview to CENARIUM.

“Txai’s speech reveals to the global society that it is not easy to defend the Amazon and seek balance on what the world is discussing, which is climate change. She was the only Brazilian to speak at the opening and really showed Indigenous protagonism. Today, the indigenous peoples have done this, showing that the role of the Amazon is crucial for the world.

Indigenous leader and father of Txai Surui, Almir Surui. (Reproduction/Kanindé)

Almir also says that unlike empty promises from world leaders, Txai reverberates an ultimatum, asking the global population to see reality, “while indigenous peoples have played their role to protect the forest and humanity, from their struggles”. “That is what she is trying to show at this COP”, he added.

“As a father, I am very proud. She was born, grew up, and now, young, is fighting for what, as a father, I also outlined, right: the indigenous right, the right of the forest, of sustainability, of conscience, everything. I feel very proud of this and what I hope from this generation is that they continue to seek the path to show the economic world that the forest needs to be worked with respect. Development needs to work with wisdom, knowledge. It is for a better world that the young activists are there, in the fight”, he concluded.