Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY) response to President Jair Bolsonaro’s speech to the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2019

Hutukara, the Yanomami association © Hutukara

President Jair Bolsonaro used our name in his speech to the UN General Assembly and made untrue statements about our people. This press release aims to clarify the information the President gave and at the same time enable everyone in Brazil and the world to hear our word.

We, the Yanomami people do not number 15,000 people as the President says. We number about 27,000 people who live in 380 communities in Brazil in a territory which was demarcated [formally recognized] in 1992, according to the 1988 Constitution. Another 14,000 Yanomami live in Venezuela. In total we are 41,000 people.

We, the Yanomami, are not interested in using the resources which lie beneath the earth and we do not want to sell gold and valuable minerals. We are not poor people living in a rich territory. For us the important thing is the forest’s natural resources which enable us to lead healthy lives. We want to use these resources without cutting down trees and clearing the forest. We use fire to produce our food but this does not cause forest fires. The most important thing for us is to keep the forest alive and standing. We Indigenous peoples know just how important the forest is. The forest is not only important for us but also for you, the non-Indigenous peoples. For this reason we are defending it. Our foods come from the forest, as well as much of our knowledge, the spirits of the forest, clean air, humidity and animals which thrive there. The forest is our health and also the health of our planet. Our cultural heritage lies within the forest. It is our home and that is why we defend it. This is important for Indigenous peoples. Our land is rich because of the forest, not because of what lies beneath it. For us wealth is the forest standing.

We fight to protect and defend our land. Non-Indigenous people are occupying more and more land, expelling and killing Indigenous peoples and bringing in diseases. For a long time, the government has troubled the lives of Indigenous peoples. Our oldest leaders, together with leaders of other Indigenous peoples, fought a lot for the Brazilian state to recognize our territories and our rights. But today the government wants to trouble our lives again.

Despite the fact our land is demarcated, there are miners entering it and the federal government wants to legalize mining in Indigenous lands. Its speeches besides being disrespectful and prejudiced towards Indigenous peoples, stimulate and legitimize the invasions of our land. This year the invasions of miners on our land has increased alarmingly, principally along the Uraricoera and Mucajaí rivers. There are nearly 20,000 miners invading our territory, contaminating our water and our fish and bringing in diseases. Malaria is a big cause of death and is returning to our land because of the mining camps. Mining camps also increase conflicts and violence in our territory.

The President referred to Raoni and disrespected him. Indigenous leaders are the legitimate representatives of their peoples and Indigenous peoples in Brazil. Raoni Metuktire, Davi Kopenawa, Ailton Krenak, Sonia Guajajara and other Indigenous leaders have the right to represent Indigenous peoples in any country in the world, to speak of the problems Indigenous peoples face in their territories, and in the Amazon. The president wrote off leaders who have for fought for Indigenous rights, and legitimized people with no history in the fight to defend Indigenous peoples in Brazil.

We will not give up our land. We do not wish to be like non-Indigenous people. The government wants to weaken our achievements and tells lies. The Federal Government must comply with its constitutional obligations and guarantee the rights of Indigenous peoples as set out in article 231 of the Brazilian Constitution: it is the duty of the state to look after our health and education and to protect out territory.

Our territory is already officially ratified but today the government does not want to respect this.

We are legitimate Brazilians, the first people on the land where we were born and where we will die.