Meet Brazil’s Indigenous Leader Attacked by Bolsonaro at U.N. over Efforts to Preserve the Amazon

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A number of indigenous leaders from Brazil traveled to New York to protest Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to open the Amazon rainforest for agribusiness, logging and mining. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh spoke to Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó tribe on Monday outside the U.N. Climate Action Summit about the situation in the Amazon, including the recent outbreak of devastating fires. After the interview, Chief Raoni attempted to enter the U.N. summit, but despite support from dozens of activists, he was barred from entering. He is a nominee for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

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AMY GOODMAN: In other news from the U.N. Climate Action Summit, a number of indigenous leaders from Brazil traveled to New York to protest Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to open up the Amazon rainforest for agribusiness, logging and mining. Democracy Now!’s Nermeen Shaikh spoke to Chief Raoni of the Kayapó tribe on Monday. He talked about the situation in the Amazon, including the recent outbreak of devastating fires.

CHIEF RAONI METUKTIRE: [translated] Today there are many things happening in Brazil. In the previous government, it wasn’t like this. It wasn’t so bad. Now the Bolsonaro government is authorizing deforestation. He is authorizing the entrance of wildcat miners and loggers and mining companies into indigenous territories. This is bad because it will destroy everything. It will destroy the forest, destroy the Amazon. It will be bad for us in the future. This is what I defend. I don’t defend standing virgin forest just for me. No, I’m thinking of the future, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in peace in this forest. So, what Bolsonaro is doing is very bad for me.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Do you have any hope that something will happen at this summit? I mean, Bolsonaro is not here. President Trump is in the building, but he’s not attending the climate summit. What do you hope will happen to save the Amazon here, if anything?

CHIEF RAONI METUKTIRE: [translated] I hope that something good comes out of this gathering. I hope they decide to help the Amazon and the environment. I hope that here in this gathering they help the Amazon to remain. This is what I want. I don’t want people to be in conflict. We need to live in peace, to live well, to live without conflict. This is what I think. I always say this, and this is what I say now. This is my thinking, for you to hear that we should live in peace, without fights, without problems, without conflict. This is what I think.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: What are indigenous groups like your own people doing to resist Bolsonaro’s policies in the Amazon?

CHIEF RAONI METUKTIRE: [translated] We, Kayapó, want to continue defending our lands, our forests, our future and our people. This is what we think. We will resist. We will continue. I will continue speaking so that they in Brazil respect us, that they respect our culture, our customs, our land. I have been saying this, and I’m saying it again here, but destruction is happening around our area. Soy and corn planters are destroying all of the forest surrounding our land. But we Kayapó will resist. We will continue our struggle to not have invasions of miners, loggers, fishermen. This is what I do not like and do not accept.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You said the Amazon, which we know is very important for the survival of humanity, not just for the communities who have lived there. Explain why the Amazon is so important for the climate of the world.

CHIEF RAONI METUKTIRE: [translated] I am seeing that the standing forest cools the land. The land becomes cold, becomes normal. If you deforest, as we are seeing deforestation, there will be no more trees to provide shade.

AMY GOODMAN: After the interview with Democracy Now!, Brazilian indigenous Chief Raoni of the Kayapó tribe attempted to enter the U.N. Climate Action Summit.

CHIEF RAONI METUKTIRE: [speaking Kayapó]

AMY GOODMAN: Despite support from dozens of activists, he was barred from entering. Earlier this month, a group of Brazilian anthropologists and environmentalists nominated him as a candidate for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Charina Nadura and Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch.

This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, our interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates. He has a new novel out. It’s his first. It’s called The Water Dancer. Stay with us.

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