“The body is here. We’re going to die!” That’s what Watatakalu Yawalapiti heard over the phone from her relatives after the death of an uncle from COVID-19 in June 2020. His was one of the first deaths from the pandemic in Xingu Indigenous Park in the Amazonian state of Mato Grosso, Brazil’s oldest and among its most iconic Indigenous territories. Watatakalu Yawalapiti, 40, is one of her people’s leaders. Born and raised in the Xingu reserve, she speaks five different Indigenous tongues and is the niece of Chief Aritana, the historic Indigenous leader who died in August 2020 of COVID-19. Chief Aritana was an icon for the 16 different nations living in the Xingu reserve, and part of a generation of leaders who were heavily affected by COVID-19. They were living treasuries of ancestral knowledge and the only people who had survived countless other epidemics, invasions and threats in their decades of defending Brazil’s Indigenous people. Since her uncle’s death, Watatakalu Yawalapiti has still not spoken his name out of respect, as she is grieving. But she speaks proudly of her lineage. Today, the Xingu reserve is an island of preserved forest surrounded by deforested land. Watatakalu Yawalapiti is an artisan and coordinator of the women’s department of the Xingu Indigenous Park Association (ATIX). As the eldest daughter in her family, she tells me how the local communities had to face death and had a hard time adapting to the new normal that arrived unannounced and unwanted “The pandemic showed…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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