Eye on the Amazon

Profiles: Sônia Guajajara, A Powerful Voice for Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples

Sônia Guajajara

Meet Sônia Bone Guajajara, the national coordinator of Brazil's Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) and tireless spokeswoman for the country's indigenous movement. She hails from a Guajajara village in the state of Maranhão and was vice-coordinator of the Brazilian Amazon's indigenous network COIAB for four years prior to assuming her national leadership position in Brasilia.

Today Sônia regularly confronts her adversaries from Brazil's ruralista agribusiness bloc face-to-face, steadfastly pushing back against their manifold attacks on indigenous rights. This week she brings this struggle to a growing European public, where she'll be speaking at the United Nations in Geneva and leading a series of public events in Paris. Amazon Watch is proud to accompany Sônia's courageous efforts in Europe and will be bringing you live updates and stories from her delegation activities there.

Sônia's trip to Europe comes at a critical moment as a spate of Brazil's political and economic interests – including the Dilma Rousseff government – attempt to dismantle the fundamental indigenous right to be consulted about development decisions that concern native lands and livelihoods. In particular, the Brazilian government's rush to dam Amazon rivers brutally disregards the right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of affected and threated indigenous communities.

Sônia refers to three benchmark phases in Brazil's indigenous movement: "We passed through the pre-constitutional moment, where our leaders fought to guarantee indigenous rights. Then, there was the time to fight for the implementation of the rights we won. And now, we are fighting to preserve these rights."

Her testimony at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva will bring important scrutiny on Brazil's flagrant abuses of indigenous rights. In Paris Sônia will confront the French companies profiteering from Amazon destruction, while leading a spirited protest on an International Day of Action for Rivers this Friday.

As one of Brazil's most dynamic advocates for human rights, Sônia brings the voice of Brazil's indigenous peoples to the world when we most need to hear it. Stay tuned for more and please join us on International Day of Action for Rivers!

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