JULIEN BISMUTH, 9.23.20:
Video filmed by the Guató community in the Terra Indigena Baia dos Guató, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, September 2020.
Starting in 2013, I have been traveling regularly to Brazil to work with Indigenous groups and the researchers and activists that work alongside them. In all of these projects, I have restricted myself to a very specific role: that of a witness, both in the sense of someone who sees and remembers, as well as of someone who testifies and communicates.
When I left the city of Campo Grande in Mato Grosso do Sul last summer, I saw vast clouds of smoke in the distance as the plane embarked on its ascent. My neighbor on the flight explained to his wife that it was nothing, just farmers clearing their land of brush. Within days, similar fires were being started in other regions of Brazil, specifically in the Amazon rainforest. Countless acres of forest were lost, in a deliberate attack on the rainforest and its inhabitants. The same process is happening again this year in the Pantanal wetlands of Mato Grosso and in the Amazon rainforest, to even more devastating effect. The images attached are from the current wildfires in the Pantanal, filmed by the members of the Guató community whom I visited last year. There is something undeniably tragic and absurd in these images of the largest network of tropical wetlands in the world being engulfed in flames.
In addition to fires, Indigenous groups have suffered land invasions and attacks - primarily from miners and farmers - that have been not only tolerated but encouraged by the current government. The situation has only gotten worse with the Covid-19 pandemic, and Indigenous groups are now among the hardest hit communities in Brazil. What is happening in Brazil has been described as a de facto genocide on the part of the Bolsonaro government. The threat they face is a threat that concerns all of us: a threat to the diversity of the world that surrounds us, and to the diversity we each contain within.