Brasilien: Maninha Xukuru

Society tries to deny indigenous origin. They took our land, our language and our beliefs. Today, we know who we are, what are our rights and the status we wish to occupy in the history.

— Maninha Xukuru

During the first days of 2005, an indigenous baby died of malnutrition. Less than a month later, in another indigenous settlement, a little girl was unable to reach age four. She also had nothing to eat. In two decades, Maninha Xukuru (born 1966) has challenged latifundiary land owners, politicians, unlawful land possessors and citizens in general. Her battle: to win back the land of her people, the Xukuru-Kariri. Her goal: to ensure the effectiveness of indigenous rights.

Whether under the sweltering summer sun or the long winter rains, this girl would not give up. Maninha Xukuru who, at the time was ten years old, would face barefoot the seven kilometers dirt road from her settlement to the town school, in Palmeira dos Índios, Alagoas. When she turned 18, she left the settlement. She moved to Recife, capital of Pernambuco, where she got a scholarship from Funai (National Indigenous Foundation) to study at a preparatory course to get into university. “Five months later, I was invited to leave. Funai had only paid for the first two months.” She got a job as a sales clerk, but her salary was not enough. “It was a terrible shock. I had never lived outside of the settlement. I could no longer be a Xukuru-Kariri, nor be a person from the city.” In 1989, when Maninha Xukuru was still living in Recife, she participated in her first public act beside indigenous leaders, demanding public hospital. “It was when I realized who I was.” She returned to the settlement and found her people fighting against each other over tiny pieces of land. She started to organize meetings. Currently, there are 1300 Xukuru-Kariris living in six settlements, located in about 1000 hectares. “Our fight will be long; we have the right to 15,000 hectares.” Some conquests that her people achieved were the construction of health centers and a school. She began meeting with other ethnic leaders and also participating in forums in other states. In 1994, she took part in the foundation of APOINME (Articulation of the Indigenous People), of which she is one of the coordinators. She does not give up, even facing death threats. “I was born in a family of warriors. Our fight runs in our blood.”

Articulação dos Povos e Organizações Indígenas do Nordeste, Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo (APOINME)