Yanomami and Ye’kwana leaders launch global campaign #MinersOutCovidOut

Vulnerable to the pandemic, indigenous tribes demand from the federal government the removal of more than 20,000 gold miners from their territory

November 2019: First Forum of Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leaders held in Watoriki
village from November 20 to 23, 2019. (Photo: Victor Moriyama/ISA) WATORIKI VILLAGE, YANOMAMI INDIGENOUS LAND, RORAIMA, BRAZIL: November 2019: First Forum of Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leaders held in Watoriki village from November 20 to 23, 2019. (Photo: Victor Moriyama/ISA)

A cry for help against an old nightmare, now even more deadly. This is how the leaders of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana indigenous peoples define the global campaign #MinersOutCovidOut, launched this Tuesday, June 2. The initiative, adopted by the Forum of Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leaders, demands from the federal government the urgent expulsion of the more than 20,000 gold miners from the Yanomami Indigenous Land, located in the states of Roraima and Amazonas. Learn more and participate at www.foragarimpoforacovid.org.

The recent history of the Yanomami tribe has been marked by the spread of diseases brought by miners and other trespassers. In the 1970s and 1980s, the construction of roads and gold rushes caused the death of 13% of the Yanomami population from diseases such as malaria and measles. Many elders still bear the pain of this memory. Now, the thousands of gold miners inside the indigenous territory could potentially spread the novel coronavirus, and they may cause the mass infection of an already highly vulnerable population.

“We are monitoring the Covid-19 disease spreading through our land and are very saddened at the first Yanomami deaths. Our shamans are working non-stop to counter this xawara,” said Dario Kopenawa Yanomami, a young tribal leader and vice president of the Hutukara Yanomami Association. “Xawara” is the Yanomami word for epidemics brought by whites. “We will fight and resist. To do this, we need support from the Brazilian people and from the whole world,” added Dario, the son of Davi Kopenawa, one of the best-known shamans anywhere in the Amazon.

The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign is an initiative of the Forum of Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leaders and the following organizations: 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).

The campaign includes a petition calling on the Legislative authorities – Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia and Senate President Davi Alcolumbre – and Eduardo Fortunato (president of the environmental watchdog IBAMA), the ministers Fernando Azevedo (Defense) and André Mendonça (Justice) and the vice president of Brazil, General Hamilton Mourão, to free the Yanomami from the pandemic spread by the miners. The campaign asks that the authorities take steps to urgently vacate the Yanomami Indigenous Land, at the risk of going down in history as being responsible for thousands of deaths and the genocide of the Yanomami.

The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign also takes the message of the leaders of the Yanomami Indigenous Land to Brazilian society in a video created by the Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency, with historic images of the villages and native people impacted by other epidemics in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Dário Kopenawa is in the city of Boa Vista (state of Roraima), far from his community, to ensure the defense of his people and his territory. From their village, his father Davi Kopenawa and other shamans are watching over his health and fighting the xawara with shamanism. Dário contracted Covid-19, but has since recovered. He is now taking the Yanomami’s message and appeal for help to the world. To increase the direct dialogue with authorities and opinion formers, the young Yanomami leader has opened a Twitter account and will use it to inform his followers about the spread of the pandemic on Yanomami Land and to mobilize support for the campaign.

The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign is supported by APIB (Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil), COIAB (Coordination Body of Indigenous Organizations from the Brazilian Amazon), ISA (Socio-Environmental Institute), Survival International, Greenpeace Brazil, Conectas Human Rights, Amnesty International, RCA (Amazon Cooperation Network), Igarapé Institute, Rainforest Foundation US and Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email