Brazil Honors the Memory of Payakan, Continues the Struggle

FROM THE EDITORS: The indigenous leader of the Kayapó people, “Paulinho” Bepkororoti Payakan, who led the fight against the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, fell victim to COVID yesterday. At just 67 years of age, he died in a hospital in the State of Pará, after a tireless struggle was able to include the right of self-determination for indigenous peoples and their territories in Brazil’s 1988 Constitution. Payakan’s reputation suffered for years when accused of rape and “cannibalism” by Veja magazine in an article titled “The Savage.” Although he was found not guilty by a court in Brazil for lack of evidence, years later he would be sentenced to two years of house arrest. In 2016 he was elected president of FEPIPA, the Federation of Indigenous Peoples of Pará. As of mid-June, 249 COVID deaths have been registered affecting 45 indigenous nations in the Amazon. Its people, however, continue their fight against an openly racist government and extractivist policies that threaten their survival. Below we replicate a translation of the tribute paid to Payakan by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon and the Amazon Basin (COIAB and COICA).
“Cada corpo indígena carrega uma ancestralidade, e assim construímos nosso legado.” Em memória do guerreiro Paulinho Payakan Por: @culturehackelabs @midiaindiaoficial @apiboficial

COAIB and the Indigenous Peoples of the Brazilian Amazon Honor Our Leader Bepkororoti Payakan Kayapó

The great leader Kayapó Bepkororoti, better known as Paulinho Payakan, left us this morning. One more life taken by Covid-19! For indigenous peoples, especially the Kayapó, one more encyclopedia of traditional knowledge was lost! For us, the indigenous movement, one more companion of struggle and leader of  reference leaves us! Payakan left his village at an early age and spent time working with Funai and getting to know cities and life outside of the Indigenous Land, as a strategy to “investigate the world of the Kuben (non-indigenous),” as he liked to say. When he returned to his territory, as a young leader, he was a key participant in various struggles for his people, including the demarcation of the Kayapó Indigenous Land in the 1980s.
Payakan participated in the discussions of the Constituent Assembly that ensured the inclusion of articles 231 and 232 in the Federal Constitution of 1988, so important for indigenous peoples in Brazil. Intelligent, a great speaker and a great strategist, his voice in defense of indigenous peoples went far, in Brazil and throughout the world, during various international trips, he taught about the indigenous struggle, sought partners, and made numerous demands for our rights. Payakan was also a great defender of the environment, playing a key role in the articulation of indigenous peoples with the themes of the environment and sustainable development. He became an international benchmark for the subject. Among many tributes, he appeared on the cover of the important Parade magazine (Washington Post) with the title “The man who could save the world”. Payakan never stopped using his intelligence and voice to fight for indigenous peoples. He was always active in his region, on issues related to the Kayapó. In 2016, he was elected president of FEPIPA, as he participated in the struggle of the peoples of Pará and, often, in Brasilia for various movements, with a marked presence in the Terra Livre camps. Payakan is the symbol of indigenous leadership! Very connected with its traditions and proud of the beauty of the Kayapó culture! But he was also connected to modern times, connected to the world by making films and taking photos. His generosity to share knowledge and wisdom, his strength and intelligence for the fight, but also his contagious joy. Payakan leaves us with many memories and inspirations! We will remain here and continue the struggle in defense of our rights, with nostalgia and great memories. May he go in peace, our GREAT UNFORGETTABLE WARRIOR Bepkororoti Payakan! Manaus, June 17, 2020 Coordenação das Organizações indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira (COIAB)
All of us need to stay united in order to fight. It’s our strength to fight. Without solidarity we won’t have strength to fight. The only thing that’s evident it’s that we all need to be united in order to fight. That’s they only way we can win against any government. Without that, we are giving away our struggle, our power, our wealth, our customs, our way of life to the ruralists [agrocommerce] and the government. But if we organize, the white man is going to lose.
SOURCE: APIB – Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil