Members of the World Youth Parliament for Water Visit an Indigenous Community in Brazil

An account from Khadija Stewart and Natalya Chemayeva - General Members (www.sie-see.org/en/article/guest-blog-young-parliamentarian-khadija-stewart)

Brazil had quite a number of experiences that touched our hearts as a parliament, but the one that stood out the most was our visit to the indigenous community; The Sanctuary of the Shaman (Santuário dos Pajés).

Nothing prepared us for this visit, leaving the sheltered world of the city centre, we arrived at an apartment complex on the outskirts of Brasilia. On one side of the road there were condominiums and on the other was the entrance to an indigenous community. Each and every one of us were stunned to our core by the advancement of real estate that was infringing on their sacred lands.

Confronting the municipal authorities of Brazil, who are trying to expand the territory of the city due to the jungle of Noroeste, they are in defense of their land and are ready to give their lives for it. Once the fertile land of impenetrable jungles with countless streams turned into an islet of "savannah" (as it is called by the indigenous people themselves), where now the city's sewerage system passes through the territory, and access to clean drinking water is severely limited.
Joyous welcomes greeted us as they shared their stories, their struggles and their victories. As indigenous people of Brazil their lives and resources are constantly threatened by the Brazilian government, as development appears to trump their rights and needs. Despite their battle, however, they were able to celebrate life on every spectrum with us and teach us the meaning of nature.

The Indians told their difficult history of confrontation, which at times included open conflicts with the authorities and protection of their rights to land and natural resources through courts of law. Representatives of the group of human rights defenders Auditoria Cidadã Da Divida , consisting of teachers from local universities, spoke about how they help the community by providing legal assistance in this difficult struggle.

Although there was plenty joy in their story, we could not ignore the sorrow, suffering and injustice that this community and many other indigenous communities face. We saw that was once water-rich lands with flourishing springs were now completely dry, filled with tractor marks and sewage tanks.

One boy, a 19-year-old named Fexta, openly shared with us an event that occurred during the night as his family was resting. There were loud noises and activity on their land so he investigated. Upon his investigation, he discovered fully armed soldiers and a tractor.

After informing them that they were on private property, he was physically moved by the tractor, his mother was held at gunpoint and the community’s lives were threatened simply because they were protecting what was theirs. Activists from across Brasilia and other indigenous communities came and stood in solidarity with them as they stood united protecting what was theirs.

Preparing for this meeting, we expected more a constructive political dialogue, which is so familiar to us through the Forum, building evidential system, periodically driving its listeners into depression and sleep. However, here we are faced with a different perception and attitude, based on feelings.

We listened to the silence, the singing of our indigenous hosts, felt the ground on which we stood barefoot, shared their stories, and the most emotional of us were brought to tears. We received the most powerful charge of a spectrum of emotions on this day, which will support us in our daily work for a very long time.

This community taught us the meaning of strength, gratitude, perseverance and determination. Each of us took turns sharing our stories and expressing our gratitude for their knowledge as our eyes were opened for the first time to see the hardship that they face which is a total contrast to our blessed and privileged lifestyle. This has never been our reality so we can only empathize and join the fight for water and peace.