Yanomami leader repeats demand: Illegal gold miners, leave our indigenous territory!
Yanomami leader, shaman Davi Kopenawa, participates in the Salgueiro Samba School’s parade in the Sapucaí Sambadrome. Credit: David Normando/Rio Carnival

Shaman Davi Kopenawa says: “Salgueiro’s honoring the Yanomami is going down in the history of the people—of the forest and of the city.”

In a conversation with the website Brasil de Fato (The Real Brazil), Davi Kopenawa, principal leader of Yanomami Land, celebrated his first experience of taking part in the parade of the Salgueiro Samba School in the 2024 Rio de Janeiro carnival last month.

“For all those who want to know my thoughts [after the parade], I speak with love, I speak with love. I love the Land, I love my Amazonia, the coordinator of the Hutukara Yanomami Association declared.

He spoke movingly of the happiness he felt passing through the Sapucaí parade grounds on top of a thematic float beside his “warriors.” Furthermore, the leader reiterated his demand that the illegal miners leave the territory.

“[The parade] was very good, very good, very strong, healthy and joyous. This is history that we’re bringing to Rio de Janeiro. This is historical and it’s going to remain in our future Yanomami generations and in the future generations of the city people,” he said.

On Sat., Feb. 17, Salgueiro returned to the Sapucaí for the Parade of Champions, beginning at 10 p.m. The samba school, which came in third this year, will follow first- and second-place winners Vila Isabel and Portela.

Were still alive!”

This year, Salgueiro brought a samba to the avenue that celebrates the battle of the Yanomami people in dealing with a humanitarian crisis caused by illegal mining.

Entitled “Hutukara,” the samba theme song uses words from the Yanomami language and was constructed in partnership with the leaders of the territory, including Kopenawa. The shaman had asked the samba school to portray them not just as victims, but as a warrior people.

“Salgueiro called us people who are waging a battle for the sake of the land, of the water, for the sake of the Indigenous people of Brazil. We are fighting for those who live in the city and who defend nature. It was wonderful,” Kopenawa declared.

Among the most important lyrics of the theme song, which also remembered the Indigenist Bruno Pereira and the British journalist Dom Phillips, was the phrase “Ya Temi Xoá” (“I am still alive”) in the Yanomami language.

Davi Kopenawa praised the lyric: “It was very good that those who sang and danced learned to sing ‘Ya Temi Xoá.’ This is very important for those who are going to commit themselves to our cause and grow with us.”

The miners keep coming”

On the other hand, Kopenawa expressed his indignation against the continued invasion of miners in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory. He called for the federal government, the state of Roraima, and the purchasers of gold to act.

“This is my warning. I continue to speak out about the invaders: Illegal prospecting has to stop. It really has to stop, it isn’t just about talking and talking. The truth has to be told, you can’t keep telling lies. You can’t just promise that the gold miners are going to leave. I don’t believe it. It’s just talk. Nothing happens.”

Since the beginning of 2023, the federal government has been conducting an integrated operation to expel the prospectors, who invaded the territory by the thousands during the government of Jair Bolsonaro. The majority of the miners have departed but, without the closure of airspace, planes continue transporting gold, food, and machinery for the illegal prospectors.

“Gold is the blood of my people, the blood of my children, blood of the planet Earth, of water,” Kopenawa emphasized in his speech to Brasil de Fato.

Davi Kopenawa’s conversation with Brasil de Fato was edited by Rodrigo Durão Coelho and translated for People’s World by Peter Lownds.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Murilo Pajolla
Murilo Pajolla

Murilo Pajolla is a reporter at Brasildefato, a news website and a radio agency that contributes to the debate of ideas and analyzes events from the point of view of those who defend the need for social changes in Brazil.