Brazil has hosted the first World Indigenous Games featuring archery, javelin throwing, canoeing, and a traditional Brazilian football, where you can hit the ball with your head only. They were almost like the Olympics, but athletes train not in the gym, but where they live — in the jungle or in the forest. However, this sports and culture event has its dark side. See the exclusive reportage of our Brazilian correspondent.
Integration of the peoples, preservation and expansion of cultures and traditions – these are the official goals of the Games. However, the athletes say that the genocide of their peoples continues. Representatives of indigenous peoples, who refused to participate in sports activities, accuse politicians of using games in their corrupt interests.
The event in Brazil was attended by representatives of indigenous peoples from 23 countries of the world, from New Zealand to the Far North of Russia. Their traditional sports are rather a way of life, a way of hunting or protection. For the first time in history the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Games received the status of a world event.
Saina, singer from Yakutia, Russia:
“I am here to unite with others, to draw attention to the problems of indigenous peoples of the world, to raise the status and prestige.”
And the problems are painful. Some of these people are living in exile on their own land, inhabited by them since ancient times.
Ubiranan, the people of Pataxó, Brazil
“The Games have a good side to them: people will know about our culture, and a bad one — they involve politics. For example, the Guarani-Kaiowá people have committed massive suicides, as their land is taken from them. But the organizers are paying attention only to the beauty of their indigenous culture.”
Whetu Rangihaeata, Maori, New Zealand:
“We fully understand and feel the pain of the local indigenous peoples, whose land is taken, who are kicked out of their homes. We also have this problem in New Zealand, although not so extreme, but we still have to fight.”
While at the stadium of the Palmas city athletes are competing in archery, in the Brazilian capital deputies of the lower chamber of Congress are preparing an amendment to the Constitution. If it is passed in Congress, the lands of indigenous Brazilians will be no longer controlled by the Ministry of Justice but fall under the authority of the deputies, including many representatives of the agricultural lobby.
Antonio Veríssimo, Apinajé people, Brazil:
“Although some of the territories officially belong to the indigenous peoples, in fact, they are not protected. The land is being captured by mineral miners, lumberjacks, tenant farmers. We consider the World Indigenous Games a provocation, because the idea came from our chief enemy – Katie Abreu, who was a Senator and today is the Minister of Agriculture. She represents the interests of precisely those who captures and attempts to reduce the area of indigenous peoples.”
This is one reason why out of three hundred indigenous peoples of Brazil only 24 made it to the Games. In addition to the boycott, the indigenous Brazilians organize protests at the stadium and in the surrounding area. The problem of the indigenous peoples of the world has long been noticed by the UN, but there is still no solution.
Alfred De Zayas, Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to determine priorities and strategies of their development and use of their lands and territories and other resources,” says the law. But if the issue is decided by the government and investors, you can forget about it.”
It is especially true in Brazil, where the ruling party and President Dilma Rousseff are simply stuck in corruption scandals.
It seems that the Festival of national sports and culture is to improve the situation of indigenous peoples. But if the main problems of these peoples are not solved, the next Games will be attended by fewer athletes, because their overall numbers will dwindle.
Volha Yermalayeva-Franco, Belsat, Brazil.