Brasilien: Eliane Potiguara

In the process of oppression of the indigenous people, women suffered the most. But the spirituality of my people is deep and it will not disappear easily.

— Eliane Potiguara

Eliane Potiguara (1950) was born in an indigenous ghetto in Rio, formed by indigenous people from Paraíba, a poor state in the Northeast of Brazil. Eliane is the founder of Brazil's first indigenous organization, the Grumin (Woman and Indigenous Education Group), which has now been transformed into the Network of Indigenous Communication. As a writer, Eliane also articulates a group of indigenous authors that fight for the preservation of their culture.

Eliane Potiguara's memories of her childhood are of a life marked by poverty and exclusion. Raised in an indigenous ghetto near one of the city's prostitution areas, her family reached the point where they had to live on the streets. Her grandmother used to sell bananas at the entrance of the school where Eliane studied. The inspiration for her efforts to defend indigenous women comes from the drive and the interest in literature of the women who raised her. “We live a historical violence; my grandmother left her tribe after being molested at age 12,” she says. Throughout her trajectory of fighting on behalf of indigenous women, she also suffered violence, humiliation and sexual abuse. She is the mother of three daughters and grandmother of two grandsons. She still struggles to support her family. Licensed in education, she was very young when she started to teach in the poor community where she lived. As a writer, she remembers being responsible for letters that her grandmother used to send her family that stayed in Paraíba. From this grandmother, Eliane inherited the interest in indigenous traditions. For this purpose, she is a part of the Network of Indigenous Writers and she is an advisor at the Brazilian Indigenous Institute of Intellectual Property (Inbrapi). In 2004, this Institute promoted, in Rio, the first meeting of indigenous authors. One of Eliane's main achievements was accomplished in 1991, when she organized the National Meeting of Indigenous Women, in Rio de Janeiro. More than 200 representatives of different communities attended the meeting. On that same year, in Geneva, she was part of the work group that rewrote the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights. “All my strength was determined in my childhood, when I learned, with my grandmother, the value of the indigenous people,” she says.

Rede de Comunicação Indígena (Network of Indigenous Communication) Rede de Escritores Indígenas (Network of Indigenous Writers)