#JogosIndigenas

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The World Indigenous Games went down last week in Palmas, Tocatins, a landlocked state in the middle of Brazil’s agro-business heartland.

 

Brazil’s Ministry of Sports hosted the event with the UN Development Program (UNDP), bringing together 24 tribes from Brazil and as far as Canada, Lapland, Mongolia and New Zealand to compete in sixteen events from running and swimming to archery and tug-of-war. I flew to the games to visit my dear friend Temryss Xeli’tia Lane, from Lummi Nation, a UCLA grad student in American Indian Studies researching Indigenous futebol, Nike N7 Ambassador, and member of the American delegation in Palmas.

Widely criticized by Brazilian tribes as a strategically-timed photo-op, the World Indigenous Games attracted journalists from 21 countries who were more interested in photographing Indigenous people slinging arrows and rowing canoes than reporting on the big issues currently affecting Brazil’s Indigenous groups.

The biggest issue is PEC 215, a bill Brazil’s Congress passed during the World Indigenous Games that would strip power to determine Indigenous land territory lines from Brazil’s FUNAI foundation to protect Indigenous groups, and put it in the hands of Congress. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would effectively overwrite Brazilian Indigenous groups’ constitutional right to their land.

There are other threats to indigenous land. Brazil’s Munduruku tribe, has been battling to protect their land from flooding by a proposed mega-dam project. And a dozen tribes in the Amazon — including some in attendance in Palmas last week — who have seen literally half of their territory go up in smoke this month in a fire suspected to be set by illegal loggers.

“While Brazil plays with agro-business and promotes games “for gringos to watch”, our lands are are having their boundary marking processes revised, reduced or suspended by the government,” said an open letter from the local guaranis-Kaiowás tribe, which boycotted the games in protest. “The only game that we want to play is to recover our lands.”

The World Indigenous Games were nonetheless a powerful gathering of Indigenous groups on an unprecedented scale. “I’m at a loss for words,” said Reinaldo Quispe, an Aymara Indian in the Bolivian delegation. “I never in my life thought I would meet my brothers from the different tribes around the world.”

And I was nonetheless a journalist taking photos.

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Like this guy.

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The Maori delegation waiting for their turn at the cabo de força (tug-of-rope).

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Maoris in motion. The women won the championships but the men lost to Brazil’s Kuru Bakuiri tribe.

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Members of Brazil’s Paresi Haliti tribe demonstrate Jikunahati, a kind of futebol played only using your head.

 

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There are an estimated 1,955 living members of the Paresi Haliti. Almost half of Brazil’s Indigenous nations have less than 500 members.

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Protests outside the arena about all kinds of issues the organizers didn’t want to deal with. To repeat a few:

  • PEC 215, a bill Brazil’s Congress passed during the World Indigenous Games that would strip power to determine Indigenous land territory lines from Brazil’s FUNAI foundation to protect Indigenous groups, and put it in the hands of Congress. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would effectively overwrite Brazilian Indigenous groups’ constitutional right to their land.

After Indigenous Brazilians protested PEC 215 during the opening night ceremony, the organizers beefed up security to keep it from happening again inside the arena. A missed opportunity for a historically marginalized and diverse group of people to say what matters to them and be heard in front of 300 journalists from some twenty countries.

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Meanwhile, Brazil’s newspaper giant Globo decided the Mongolian archery demonstration was more newsworthy:

Indigenous people from cold countries like Mongolia faced heat of 40 degrees Celsius to hit their target…. Are they warriors or athletes? They are both.

 

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Empty seats at the end of the night. Officials estimated over 100,000 people attended over the course of the week’s games.

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Late night pow-wow honor dance by members of the First Nations of Saskatchewan from Canada.

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Full moon for the women’s 100M.

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A pick-up game on the arena outskirts…

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Which is what’s happened anytime I’ve ever seen Temryss with a soccer ball.

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Team USA in front of the sacred torch.

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An an American with the Brazilians.

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Boy vs drone. The craziest thing I saw all weekend was this Kayapó boy staring down a drone. It hovered in place filming him while he took slow, deliberate steps towards it. Then it flew away.

 

 

See more photos from the World Indigenous Games:

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Inside Canada’s history of indigenous futebol. (link)

 

 

 

 

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#JogosIndigenas 100M

My favorite shots from the 100M kids, men’s and women’s heats at the World Indigenous Games in Palmas, Brazil. (link)