The first edition of the indigenous games is underway, having begun on the 23rd of this month in the city of Palmas, Brazil.
Words: Natalia Alejarra, Sub Editor: Corey Armishaw
The games will last 13 days with over two thousand athletes competing from 23 different countries, including New Zealand, Russia, the Philippines, Finland and Ethiopia.
Participants from each continent will compete against 24 Brazilian tribes. There are 16 sports, divided between traditional indigenous games and western sports, such as barefoot races, canoeing and football.
Between games, the event has been promoting cultural encounters as a way to get the participants to exchange experiences and celebrate tradition and diversity.
The country, which has hosted many major sports events in recent years and is due to host the 2016 Olympics, has invested over 8 million pounds in the event, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Sport.
The ministry declared that the games are intended to not only strengthen the indigenous culture but also highlight important issues, for example indigenous agriculture and the valorisation of the handicraft indigenous production.
Only a few days after the opening ceremony, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved a change in the constitution, passing the power of demarcating indigenous lands to deputies, as opposed to being ruled by the executive power. The change has led to protests all over the country.
A group of over two hundred people interrupted one of the games to make a speech about the government measure, declaring that “the decision was affecting them today, but could affect many others tomorrow”.
The change, called PEC 215, is said to be harmful to indigenous rights and interests. By giving power to deputies over land division, the natives fear government will prioritise the interests of farmers and rich landowners who supported their candidacy, having also the right to review lands already established as indigenous property.
The timing of both events have been taken as a “sad contradiction” by indigenous leaders.