On the day that President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a bill officially changing the name “Indian Day” to “Indigenous Day”, 50 Brazilian cities woke up adorned with the figure of Chief Raoni Metuktire, one of the few living icons. representative of his generation in the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples and the preservation of the environment and the only native Brazilian nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The initiative comes from 20 civil society organizations. Between today (2) and next 5, which is Environment Day, Brazilian cities, including 24 capitals, will have 5 square meters of artwork depicting the Mebengocre leader. It is also planned to create frescoes and projections about the indigenous leader.
“Honoring Raoni on the 50th anniversary of Environment Day is a way to introduce new generations to this living symbol of peace and dialogue. In times of such intolerance and radicalism, the memory of Raoni is a breath of hope for all of us,” says Jonaia de Castro, Megafon project manager, one of the organizers of the action.
Chief Raoni was born in Mato Grosso, in the village of Metuktira, located in the territory of the indigenous peoples of Capoto Harina. His age is unknown, but he is now believed to be 91 years old. During his life, Raoni was the protagonist in several battles for the indigenous peoples and the Amazon, including the creation of the Xingu Indigenous Park.
Since 2000, the chief has also actively fought against the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant in Para. Since then, away from the public stage, the chief returned in 2019, 30 years after the trip he made with singer Sting to spread the message of forest conservation.
Upon his return, he toured European countries in search of support for the conservation of the Amazon rainforest, meeting with several politicians and figures.
President Bolsonaro reacted to Raoni’s return in a 2019 speech to the UN, saying that the leader was being used by foreign governments as a “maneuver in their information war to advance their interests in the Amazon.”
In vetoing a change in the name of Indigenous Day to Indigenous Peoples Day this Thursday, Bolsonaro said “there is no public interest in this change.”
The name change is a requirement of the indigenous peoples who consider the term “indio” pejorative as it evokes a stereotype that existed during the colonial period in Brazil.