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The biggest Indigenous gathering in Brazil took place in the last week of April this year. Acampamento Terra Livre (ATL or Free Land Camp’) had as its theme “The Indigenous future is today – without land demarcation, there is no democracy!”. Through collaborative communication, Indigenous collectives denounced abuses and informed others about their struggle and ways of resistance.

The event was also attended by human rights defenders, politicians and activists, such as the WITNESS Brazil and USA teams, who participated in the collaborative coverage and held workshops there.


Demonstration at ATL
Demonstration for land defense at ATL

In its 19th edition, ATL brought together around 6,000 Indigenous people to Brasília, to address the defense of territories, the importance of reclaiming Indigenous narratives, the role of Indigenous youth, political participation, the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ Indigenous people, confronting climate emergencies, the bill known as PL490, among other topics.

Over the course of a week, plenary sessions, film exhibitions, cultural activities, conversation circles, and marches were held with the aim of drawing attention to the historical agendas of Indigenous movements, and to also hold meetings in the Brazilian Congress. Six Indigenous reserves were ratified by the Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was present at the gathering. 

Another highlight was the climate emergency decree, which culminated in a march and a proclamation through which Indigenous communities highlighted their role in combating global warming. 

Access the decree here (text in Portuguese).

Collaborative communication

All ATL media and communications are a collective endeavor led by Indigenous communicators representing fronts and organizations from the different regions of Brazil. Certain factions focused on methodology, whilst others engaged in collaborative communication and press relations.

During the camp we spoke with Samela Sateré Mawé, communication coordinator at ATL and Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB or ‘The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil’). She explained that “In a large convocation like ATL, where we occupy several spaces, we are also the protagonists in communication, and this is very important”.

For Samela, the biggest challenge is trying to reconcile many forms of communication, and to demystify and teach major media companies to communicate appropriately about diverse Indigenous peoples, their territories, cosmologies, and vision.

“We got tired of seeing our narrative being miscommunicated by the traditional media, so we appropriated the internet and social media to guide our struggles, our causes, to denounce, demystify and decolonize various issues related to our peoples”, she said.

Samela Sateré Mawé
Samela Sateré Mawé talks about Indigenous communication

Demarcating screens

Luan de Castro Tremembé, the journalist responsible for ATL’s press office, explained to us that the main objective of the communication strategy is to strengthen the struggle and resistance of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil. That is why Indigenous communication expresses “demarcating screens”, which is the understanding that Indigenous peoples occupy spaces beyond their land, beyond their territory. And it is the idea that that territory is expansive, and includes the internet and social networks.

“And we are demarcating these spaces; we have Indigenous communicators in all spaces. Indigenous communication has advanced very significantly. Despite the challenges, from having quality internet connection and equipment, we are managing to fortify communication”, he said.

Samela adds that since the pandemic, in addition to demarcating territories, demarcating screens was crucial in organizing online and carrying out ATL. During the gathering, groups were able to occupy media networks, to take over the agenda and talk about Indigenous culture, language, and identity.

“The cell phone is a weapon, and a tool of struggle and resistance. Things that are not discussed in schools, we were able to talk to people as protagonists of our narratives through mainstream media. We were able to reach spaces such as people’s homes where we couldn’t before”, said Samela.


Short-form video workshop
Short-form video workshop

Members of the WITNESS BRAZIL team, Victor Ribeiro and Jéssica Ribeiro, and Natalia Guerrero from WITNESS USA, conducted two short-form video workshops that were attended by about 20 Indigenous people of different ethnicities interested in using video to tell the story of their people. A resource was also produced to distribute ideas and suggestions in the narrative framing of short-form videos and how to film them.

The workshops were aimed at creating video formats that could be quickly disseminated via social media platforms. During ATL, workshop participants were able to film, do interviews and preliminary video editing, as well as share them on social networks.

Bruno Pedrotti, a workshop participant and member of the communication collective Catarse that defends Indigenous territories in the south of Brazil, highlighted that the importance of the right to record was reaffirmed at ATL. “The audiovisual materials made by Catarse and other communicators are important sources of denouncing violations for advancing the recovery of Indigenous lands”, he said. 

Published Thursday 1st June, 2023.

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