The thoughts of Célia Xakriabá, Brazil’s most voted new indigenous deputy

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“It’s not a matter of majority, it’s a matter of strength”. Which she, unquestionably, does not miss. At 32 years old Célia Xakriabá is the first indigenous MP from the state of Minas Gerais in Brazilelected in the first round of the session which then confirmed President Lula in the ballot, and from her hard-won seat she can officially defend the cultural heritage of the natives of the country. In Brazil the indigenous population does not reach 1%, but is responsible for the protection of 83% of the world’s biodiversity. A fundamental and concrete task in the era of sustainability and environmental awareness, and a monumental victory for the communities scattered in the different states of Brazil, which will finally have a consistent representation in the Chamber of Brasília: in addition to Xakriabá for the Partido Socialismo and Liberdade ( PSOL) and Paulo Guedes for the Partido dos Trabalhadores in Minas Gerais, in the state of São Paulo, the activists Sônia Guajajara (PSOL) and Juliana Cardoso (PT) were elected. The only indigenous woman in opposition is Silvia Waiãpi, of the Partido Liberal defeated Jair Bolsonaro, elected in the state of Amapà in the extreme north of the country, where the majority of indigenous populations are concentrated. “I want to overcome the racism of absence” explains the new deputy, born in 1990, with her eyes sparkling under the cocar, the feather headdress of the natives, the face brushed bright red above the eyes and on the chin.

celia xakriaba indigenous deputy brazil

Célia Xakriabá with President Lula during the runoff campaign

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For Célia Nunes Correa aka Célia Xakriabá, first graduate of her tribe (in indigenous studies at the Universidade Federal do Minas Gerais) and doctoral student in anthropology, the concreteness and knowledge of a fundamental part of Brazilian culture brutally silenced by official historiography, is a profession that brings to the academy what practiced for years. She learned it from her parents as a child (“it was with them that I learned to fight for our lives and our territory” she writes in the introductory biography on the electoral campaign website) and shows the precise will to pass it on to future generations. A millenary culture of environmental preservation, respect for nature, historical memory: among the main points ofpolitical activism of Célia Xakriabá there are the lands and education of indigenous peoples, from a feminist perspective. “Defending the planet goes beyond a political agenda,” she told the paper Itatiaia. “Many Brazilian products that are exported involve an invasion of indigenous territories. They promote slave labor, violence and territorial conflicts. Agricultural expansion kills our territories. It is a process that violates people but also violates the land,” he said again in an interview with Context and Action where he paralleled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the ex-president’s widespread devastation of indigenous lands. “In four years of government absence, environmental and territorial conflicts have increased, the garimpo illegal (gold mining), the rape of Yanomami girls, the burning of the Guarani-Kaiowá shrines”.

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His is a very clear vision: with the planet at riskwe need to speak openly about environmental economics, about diversity, about feminism. “People must understand that the environment is not us, our culture, that we are part of something bigger” she explained passionately Célia Xakriabá. After the deaths of indigenous scholar Bruno Araújo Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips, killed and found in the Javarí River, tempers have flared even more: in 2021, according to the report Violence Against the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil176 indigenous people were killed, the saddest number in the history of the country. In this framework, sharpened during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, the attacks, the lack of funds and the invasion of indigenous lands for environmental exploitation have been the most violent threat of aggression and enforced disappearance in recent years (the former of the State had also tried to get a law approved that would have overturned the concessions to the indigenous peoples included in the Constitution in 1988, making their territorial possessions illegal), so much so that a delegation of activists, of which the new deputy was a part, had decided in 2019 to sue the government to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for ecocide against humanity. “The 21st century belongs to women and our voices are louder than ever,” she told her ad Al Jazeera. Three years later, even politics proved her right.

The thoughts of Célia Xakriabá, Brazil’s most voted new indigenous deputy