The new president of the National Foundation for Indigenous Peoples (Funai), lawyer and former federal deputy Joenia Wapichana, took office this Friday (3rd) promising to rebuild the indigenist body and manage it based on the demands of indigenous organizations.
It is the first time that Funai, created 55 years ago, will be chaired by an indigenous person. “Never again will Brazil be without us”, said Joenia.
Wearing a headdress, traditional paintings and a Funai brooch, Joenia said that her priority will be to demarcate, protect and expel miners from indigenous lands. To circumvent the lack of resources available to Funai, she announced that she intends to seek parliamentary amendments and partnerships with NGOs and foreign governments.
We are here (at Funai) not only with the physical presence, but the spiritual presence of our ancestors. For me it’s too strong – Joenia Wapichana
In addition to the term of office, Joenia took advantage of the event to sign the first administrative measures as head of the body. She made official the creation of a Working Group (GT) to work with the Yanomami and kicked off seven processes for the demarcation of indigenous lands.
He also signed the restriction on the use of two indigenous lands with the presence of isolated groups that were left unprotected under the Bolsonaro government: Jacareúba/Katawixi (AM) and Piripkura (MS).
“This is the first step we have to take: reorganize Funai, strengthen it and seek a budget,” he said.
The inauguration officially marks the end of the disastrous management of the Federal Police (PF) delegate, Marcelo Xavier, who chaired Funai from 2019. Faithful executor of the “zero demarcation” policy put into practice by Jair Bolsonaro, Xavier removed the agency of indigenous leaders and handed over management of Funai to ruralists and the military.
The historic inauguration ceremony took place at the Memorial dos Povos Indígenas, in Brasília (DF), with the presence of the ministers of the Environment and Climate Change, Marina Silva, and of the Indigenous Peoples, Sonia Guajajara.
In the crowded hall, there were also indigenous leaders such as Chief Raoni Metuktire, and Secretary of Indigenous Health Weibe Tapeba, in addition to parliamentarians, former presidents of Funai and employees of the agency.
In the speech, Joenia said that Bolsonaro is accused of indigenous genocide and lamented the humanitarian crisis in the Yanomami. He also recalled the death of indigenist Bruno Pereira, who was persecuted by the federal government for trying to expel miners from the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land when he was an active servant of Funai.
“Funai is full of lawsuits for omission and negligence. But now we are going to reverse this. Because instead of Funai chasing servers, instead of closing its doors to indigenous peoples, Funai has to be on the side of indigenous peoples”, declared Joenia .
Joenia graduated in Law from the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR) and has a master’s degree in International Law from the University of Arizona. Born in Boa Vista, (RR), she was the first indigenous woman in Brazil to practice law and also the first indigenous federal deputy in Brazil. She was legal advisor to the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), acting in several demarcation processes in the state.
Editing: Thalita Pires
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