Artemisa Xakriabá is an indigenous climate activist of the Xakriabá people. In 2019, she was 19 years old when she attended the New York Climate Action Summit. She concluded the largest Youth Climate Strike to ever take place in New York with a poignant speech about the increasing intensity of environmental destruction across Brazil and the interconnectedness of the fight for climate justice:
“We fight for our Mother Earth because the fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all other fights.”
Artemisa Xakriabá comes from the Xakriabá tribe, one of 13 indigenous groups located in São João das Missões, in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. She is a representative of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities for indigenous communities. In 2019, she joined tens of thousands of indigenous women to march in the streets of Brazil’s capital Brasília. For the first time in history, indigenous women from across Brazil joined forces to denounce president Bolsonaro’s “genocidal” policies relating to the explosion in forest fire occurrences in the Amazon. Having played an important role in the march, she was asked to represent indigenous people in the New York Climate Action Summit, where she addressed members of the US congress and US House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington, and gave the closing speech of the New York Youth Strikes:
“The Amazon is on fire. The Amazon agonizes year after year for the responsibility of the government and its destructive policies that intensify deforestation and drought, not only in the Amazon, but in the other five Brazilian biomes. Climate change is a result of this, and it also helps to make the fires stronger. And beyond the Amazon, there are the forests of Indonesia, Africa, North America, whose suffering has such an impact in my life and in your life. We, the indigenous peoples, are the children of nature, so we fight for our Mother Earth, because the fight for Mother Earth is the mother of all other fights. We are fighting for your lives. We are fighting for our lives. We are fighting for our sacred territory. But we are being persecuted, threatened, murdered, only for protecting our own territories. We cannot accept one more drop of indigenous blood spilled.”
Artemisa now lives in São Paulo, where she hopes to study psychology and music. After graduating, Artemisa is determined to return to her village to continue fighting against the government’s refusal to take action to protect the Amazon rainforest, home to millions of her compatriotes. The Brazilian Government is ignoring its indigenous tribes land rights and taking over their land, which are being deforested for farming and mining.
Story by Cécile Girardin