A day after the inauguration of Brazil’s new President, the Indigenous affairs agency Funai reopened, giving Indigenous peoples a boost of hope with the agency’s own new president (also the first ever Indigenous woman elected to Brazil’s Congress!), a worthy change in its official name, and even the country’s adoption of an unprecedented Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.
“From the moment [the government] start wanting to negotiate our rights, wanting to make our rights more flexible, we will also rethink,” warns Congresswoman and newly-elected Funai President Joenia Wapichana. “Because for me, I am not tied to a job title, no. What I am is on the side of the Indigenous peoples.”
Under the leadership of Brazil’s former president, Funai was shut down, undermining the importance and the agency of Native people who took it upon themselves to act as ministers of the Environment in the absence of an official one. The reopening of Funai was attended by some 300 people, and its formal name was changed from the National Indian Foundation to the National Foundation of Indigenous Peoples, a request made by Indigenous leaders and accepted by the newly-elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.