“The land, for us, is our mother: it is what takes care of us, feeds us. It is with it that we guarantee our future generations”, says Puyr Tembé, leader of the Tenentehara people, when explaining why he considers indigenous women so resistant to negotiations involving their territories. “Mothers are not negotiated. They are not sold. Mothers take care of themselves.”
This March, the National Articulation of Indigenous Women Warriors of Ancestrality (ANMIGA) completes two years, an organization present in all biomes of the country and whose creation Puyr participated. It was founded in the middle of the covid-19 pandemic and went public during the II March of Indigenous Women, which took place in 2021, in Brasília. For the next edition of the demonstration, scheduled for September this year, the expectation is to bring together 10,000 indigenous women.
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On the one hand, the articulation carries in the young age something new that Puyr perceives in the performance of indigenous women in recent years, such as the use of technology for communication and the occupation of institutional spaces.
On the other hand, as the name suggests, the organization, according to her, seeks to continue the struggles that came before. “We are born with that flavor there, from the past, which is today in the present and which makes us see the future”, summarizes Puyr, who is also one of the founders of the Federation of Indigenous Peoples of Pará (Fepipa).
Announced by Governor Helder Barbalho (MDB) as head of the newly created State Secretariat for the Original Peoples of Pará, Puyr Tembé was born in the village of São Pedro. It was there that, before leaving in 2010 to study law, she grew up observing the work of women such as chief Verônica Tembé, now deceased, and now elderly Brasilícia Tembé.
The two indigenous women, among the many who inspire her, were important in the struggle that culminated in the homologation, in 1993, of the territory that encompasses the village: the Alto Rio Guamá Indigenous Land (TI). There live the Tembé – or Tenetehara, as they call themselves -, Guajá and Ka’apor peoples.
Despite being demarcated, the TI is constantly invaded by loggers. According to Puyr, non-indigenous settlers are encouraged to settle within the territory by the city halls of the surrounding municipalities.
About these themes and the energy that makes her “arrive, stay and follow”, Puyr Tembé spoke with the Brazil in fact. Check out:
Brasil de Fato: You are one of the founders of the National Articulation of Indigenous Women Warriors of Ancestrality. What is ANMIGA and how did it come about?
Puyr Tembé: It is an articulation that involves indigenous women from all biomes in Brazil. Looking at women who preceded us, we decided to join together to give visibility to our voices and show the power of those who resist and fight for our collective rights.
We seek to join women who want to occupy spaces, including political representation. For this reason, ANMIGA had, last year, the Bancada do Cocar as one of its projects. Which worked super well, opened doors not only in the Legislature, but also in the Executive, creating opportunities in other instances in the states as well. We also work to empower women within communities, occupying spaces in indigenous organizations.
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In these last five decades, many women are managing to show their faces. And in recent years, with the help of technology, this has been even stronger.
Was it during the Free Land Camp (ATL) that the joint emerged?
Yes. Fruit of the dialogue of a smaller group of women, but it came to be born in the First March of Indigenous Women. And it materializes in the Second March. We are born with that spice there, from the past, which is today in the present and which makes us see the future.
How, as you grew up in the Alto Rio Guamá IL, did you realize that the women of the Tembé people organize themselves or become politically engaged?
I am very inspired by one of our elderly women, who is no longer with us today, but who was fundamental in defending the territory, maintaining and persisting our culture and language. It’s the cacica, who we called captain, Verônica Tembé. Another is Brasilícia Tembé, who is still alive. She is a fantastic lady, mother and grandmother of women who are also leaders.
And of course, there are other women, I have an aunt who, with her way of being, is quiet, but has her leadership. Deep down, she raised children to lead. Who is Aunt Maria Paulina. There’s Aunt Francisca too.
So we have different types of women. Some are more about talking, exposing yourself. Others do this work within their own home. That power of leadership, of leading. I get a lot of inspiration from that. And I think that this energy makes me arrive, makes me stay and keeps me going every day, you know?
In my generation, I had three daughters. Who gave me two granddaughters and two grandsons. It is for these granddaughters that I want to see women freed, with the strength to fight for their existence. And that they have the right to be wherever they want to be. Based on the struggle of the Tenetehara people.
We are a people with 400 years of contact. And we have a lot of struggle in the face of several municipalities that surround us, of invasions. We resisted all these years to be who we are, the Tenetehara. It is this teaching that I pass on to my daughters. You can be whatever you want as long as you don’t forget who you are. Tenetehara… I get emotional…
In addition to the more explicit attacks on the appropriation of indigenous territories, there are means such as leasing, co-opting or buying support. Much is said, however, that women are at the forefront of combating all these forms of what the indigenous movement calls “death projects”. Do you agree? If yes, what explains this?
Indigenous women have a very strong connection with the territory. Because the earth for us is our mother: she is the one who takes care of us, feeds us. It is with her that we guarantee our future generations. That is why women are the most resistant in any negotiation that is focused on the territorial issue. Because mom is not negotiated. She doesn’t sell herself. Mom takes care.
That’s why you will hardly find women involved in land sale, lease or invasion processes. Whites have inheritances, stores, farms, material goods. For us, our heritage is our territories.
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And the pandemic has made that very clear. It was a process in which the women’s movement was very resistant and used communication as an instrument. We had to learn. Collected, we fought for the screens. We did several lives, several celebrations, a series of things that we weren’t used to doing.
And there came a time when the pandemic eased a little and women thought: “We’re going to have to take to the streets”. We did a march in the middle of a pandemic. “What we can’t do is stand still and watch the government kill us”, we thought. Then we went to the Second March of Indigenous Women, with more than seven thousand participants from all over Brazil.
This year our expectation is to be able to place more than ten thousand women, so that we can have even more strength and show the Brazil that we really want. One that includes all, all and all, with the demarcation of territories.
What is the current situation of the Tembé people?
The Alto Rio Guamá Indigenous Land is demarcated and homologated. However, we face pressure from municipalities around our territory. And we are in the process of disintrusion. There has already been a court decision and now it needs to be enforced by the federal government.
Disintrusion means removing the invaders, the settlers that are still within that territory, and finding a place to relocate them. It is a difficult process, but necessary, Incra needs to act. Politicians involved settlers inside the territory, saying that it is not indigenous land and that it could be invaded.
In addition, there is a very serious problem, which is the issue of removing wood within the TI. Unfortunately, actions to contain the loggers’ problem are temporary and have not been effective in the long term. We need to fight this illegal activity and stop it once and for all.
Editing: Nicolau Soares
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