You destroy our lands, you poison the planet and you sow death in the Amazon, because you are lost. And soon it will be too late to change
• Raoni Metuktire is the head of the Brazilian indigenous Kayapó people.
For many years, we, the indigenous leaders and the peoples of the Amazon, have been warning you, our brothers, that you have caused a lot of damage to our forests. What is happening will change the whole world and destroy our home, and it will also destroy your home.
We have put aside our divided history to come together. Just a generation ago, many of our tribes fought each other, but now we are together, fighting together against our common enemy. And that common enemy is you, the non-indigenous peoples who have invaded our lands and are now burning even those small parts of the forests where we live that you have left us. Brazilian President Bolsonaro is encouraging farm owners near our lands to clear the forest, and he is doing nothing to prevent them from invading our territory.
We ask you to stop what you are doing, to stop the destruction, to stop your attack on the spirits of Earth. When you cut down the trees, you assault the spirits of our ancestors. When you search for minerals, you go through the heart of the Earth. And when you pour poisons on the land and in rivers, chemicals from agriculture, and mercury from gold mines, you weaken spirits, plants, animals, and the earth itself. When you weaken the earth like this, it begins to die. If the earth dies, if our earth dies, none of us will be able to live, and we will die too.
Why are you doing this? You say it is for development, but what kind of development takes away the richness of the forest and replaces it with just one type of plant or one type of animal? Where the spirits once gave us everything we needed for a happy life, all our food, our houses, our medicines, now there is only soy or cattle. Who is this development for? Only a few people live on agricultural land.
So why are you doing this? We can see that it is so that some of you can get a lot of money. In the Kayapó language we call their money piu caprim, “sad leaves”, because it is something dead and useless, and it only brings harm and sadness.
When your money reaches our communities, it often causes big problems, separating our people. And we can see that it does the same in its cities, where what you call rich people live isolated from everyone else, fearful that other people will come and take away their piu caprim. Meanwhile, other people are starving or living in poverty because they do not have enough money to get food for themselves and their children.
But those rich people will die, as we all will. And when their spirits are separated from their bodies, their spirits will be sad and they will suffer, because while they are alive they have made many other people suffer instead of helping them, instead of making sure that everyone else has enough to eat before feeding, which is our path, the path of the Kayapó, the path of the indigenous peoples.
You have to change your way of life because you are lost, you have lost your way. Where you are going is only the path of destruction and death. To live you must respect the world, the trees, the plants, the animals, the rivers and even the earth itself. Because all of these things have spirits, all of these things are spirits, and without spirits the Earth will die, the rain will stop, and the food plants will wither and die too.
We all breathe this air, we all drink the same water. We live on this planet. We need to protect the Earth. If we don't, great winds will come and destroy the forest.
Then you will feel the fear that we feel.
• Raoni Metuktire is an environmentalist and head of the Brazilian indigenous Kayapó people.