Sônia Guajajara swears in as Brazil’s first indigenous minister

“Indigenous peoples face a real humanitarian crisis,” she declared

Published on 12/01/2023 - 11:50 By Pedro Rafael Vilela - Brasília

In ceremony brimming with emotion just three days after the terrorist attacks that ravaged top government buildings in Brasília, Sônia Guajajara became the new head of Brazil’s Ministry of Indigenous Peoples at the Planalto presidential palace on Wednesday (Jan. 11), in a ceremony attended by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva himself, vice-president Geraldo Alckmin, and several other cabinet members.

The first indigenous woman to become a minister in the country, Guajajara affirmed that the original peoples are facing a humanitarian crisis in Brazil, citing the invasion of territories, deforestation, illegal mining, and poor health care and sanitation, among others.

“We can no longer tolerate having indigenous peoples subjected to all sorts of evils, such as malnutrition of children and the elderly, malaria, the rape of women and girls, and high suicide rates. President Lula, I dare say without exaggeration that many indigenous peoples face a real humanitarian crisis in our country. And I am here to work together to bring an end to an unconstitutional state of affairs that has worsened in recent years,” she said.

Climate and the environment

Guajajara also talked about the climate emergency and how indigenous territories are crucial in the fight against global warming.

“If, before, demarcations focused on the preservation of our culture, new studies have shown that the maintenance of these areas plays an even more comprehensive role, as they are key to the stability of ecosystems across the planet by ensuring quality of life even in large cities. That is why it is so important to recognize the original rights of indigenous people over the lands on which they live,” the minister declared.

She also called society’s attention to the preservation of the planet. “We are not the only ones who need to live here. We just cohabit Mother Earth along with millions of other species. The disregard for other life forms and the intense deforestation practices—always in the name of short-term economy—have devastating effects for the future of all of us,” she warned.

Guajajara went on to announce the re-creation of the National Council for Indigenous Policy, extinguished in 2019 by the previous government. “[The council] brings parity to indigenous representation from all Brazilian states and agencies of the federal executive branch,” she pointed out.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Fernando Fraga

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