A 439,000 signature petition calling on the Brazilian government to prevent the genocide of the Yanomami people was handed over to the Brazilian Congress during an online ceremony attended by Indigenous leaders, Dario Yanomami, Mauricio Ye’kwana, Congresswoman Joenia Wapichana and others.
The “MinersOutCovidOut” petition calls for the immediate expulsion of 20,000 illegal miners from inside the Yanomami Indigenous Territory. The miners have brought in outside diseases such as Covid-19 and malaria, and their prospecting has polluted the rivers.
The original target for the petition was 100,000 signatures. Drawings of the Yanomami spirit beings known as xapiri were projected onto Brazil’s Congress buildings, in a historic first.
Covid-19 is now rampant across the Yanomami Territory, and from August to October alone, confirmed cases jumped from 335 to 1,202. Lack of testing means the real number of cases is probably far higher.
Jair Bolsonaro’s government backs the miners. Its actions have seriously hampered efforts to prevent Covid-19 spreading inside indigenous territories. Little has been done to remove the miners, whose numbers have increased dramatically in recent years.
Joenia Wapichana, Brazil’s first indigenous congresswoman, received the petition virtually from Yanomami and Ye’kwana leaders. Other indigenous representatives were also present in the online event.
The hand-in comes after the publication of an explosive new report revealing the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Yanomami Territory. Dario Yanomami, campaign spokesperson and Vice President of Hutukara (an organization that represents Yanomami and Ye’kwana people) referred to it as a “historic document showing how the disease spread in our territory”.
Dario said: “We want to deliver this document to the Brazilian authorities. It’s an instrument to denounce the problems with the invasion of miners, the contamination of the environment including our rivers, and infection from diseases, like this xawara [epidemic], which are killing a lot of people.”
Fiona Watson, Survival’s Research and Advocacy director who has worked with the Yanomami for three decades, said: “The government is rapidly creating conditions for another genocide of the Yanomami people. If the authorities don’t act now to expel the miners and stop the spread of coronavirus and malaria, the Yanomami, the Ye’kwana and several highly vulnerable uncontacted communities in the territory will see their lives shattered beyond repair. Public concern is mounting and the government must be held to account before it’s too late.”
The campaign was launched in June 2020 by several Yanomami and Ye’kwana associations: the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum, Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), Wanasseduume Ye’kwana Association (SEDUUME), Kumirayoma Yanomami Women’s Association (AMYK) Texoli Ninam Association of Roraima State (TANER) and the Yanomami Association of the River Cauaburis and Affluents (AYRCA).
It is supported by various organizations worldwide, including Survival: APIB (Coalition of Indigenous Organizations of Brazil), COIAB (Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon), ISA (Instituto Socioambiental), Survival International, Greenpeace Brasil, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Amnesty International Brazil, Rede de Cooperação Amazônica (RCA), Instituto Igarapé, Rainforest Foundation US and Rainforest Foundation Norway and Amazon Watch.