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The Impressive Life of Sonia Guajajara

Sonia Guajajara. Image courtesy: Believe Earth
Sonia Guajajara. Image courtesy: Believe Earth

Thundering with aching anger shortly after receiving the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award in 2020, Sonia Guajajara recollected that almost 90 percent of the deaths of environmental activists in Brazil happened in the Amazon. She added that the Guajajara people in Maranhao lost five guardians within their community, and all of them were brutally murdered.

Sonia Guajajara is a Brazilian indigenous activist, politician, and environmentalist. She was initially the candidate for the Brazilian President but became a running mate for Guilherme Boulos. She is the leader of the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil or APIB, an organization representing around 300+ ethnic groups in Brazil that are indigenous. Interested in politics at a very young age, she believed she was born an activist as she had spent her entire life fighting against indigenous peoples’ anonymity. She always appears at public gatherings with her face beautifully painted and in decorative and vibrant headgears. This particular aura goes beyond establishing her as a representative of an ethnic emblem, a manifestation of many and varied cultures, lineages, and beliefs she stands for. Her teammates praise her saying that her work comes from her soul. Her soul is that of a warrior.

She received the Letelier-Moffitt award on behalf of APIB. This organization is being considered to be the largest umbrella organization which is representing Brazilian Indigenous Tribes and their community members. They received the award for their activism against the autocratic and oppressive Bolsonaro government rule, which caused death to Brazil’s crucial ecosystems and native guardians. They also actively campaigned against greedy corporations. Sonia firmly stated her resentment towards the Bolsonaro government, stating that with every policy the Bolsonaro government adopts, she and her team also reinvent their strategies to fight. She believes that the fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all disputes. APIB and Sonia have also been at odds with a group of conservative legislators partnered with agribusiness interests who support forests’ clearing and further development on public and agricultural lands.

With the relentless opposition and sheer determination to rise above autocratic goons and bring the voice of the natives to the top of global agendas, she regularly advocates for native rights at United Nations conventions. In 2018, she became the first indigenous woman to make a run for federal executive office in Brazil while she was a vice-presidential running mate with the Socialism and Liberty Party of Brazil.

At the Global Landscapes Forum event in 2019, Sonia and her team claimed that the indigenous land territories were the most preserved areas. Yet, they are mostly given little attention because there was public investment. Preservation of these areas is naturally embedded in the daily activities of the natives. Still, they are paying a heavy price for it. They are continually criminalized, incarcerated, and killed. Sonia was also targeted in such crimes. Late in January, when she became one of the first indigenous women to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, she immediately became a target of social media, where she was falsely portrayed to have agony and pain due to the vaccine shot and posts attempting to dissuade indigenous people from receiving the immunization themselves spread like wildfire all over social media. In retaliation, Sonia launched a campaign to persuade every Indigenous person to receive the vaccine.

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