A few years ago, when we were in the rectory of Unifesp, we had an experience that was not new to our university, but transformative for that group that was in administration: using the science developed at our university and experienced researchers, for the benefit of indigenous communities.
Incredibly flexible, Unifesp, although it was already suffering from budget cuts, which in total lasted six long years and which intensified under Bolsonaro, acted diligently. The request came from indigenous communities in Xingu and other regions of the Amazon and our administration sought to get researchers from the university to work and analyze the waters on indigenous lands. And this was how, after just over 10 years of its existence, a group of colleagues from the Institute of Environmental, Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, on the Diadema campus, would start a work monitoring water pollution caused by mining and farms with irregular use of the land. This work resulted in treatises and knowledge about the degree of pollution of river headwaters, especially through pesticide dumping.
Unifesp’s association with indigenous lands was not new, since the Escola Paulista de Medicina had already carried out work related to indigenous health for several decades, initiated by Roberto Barozzi, MD, hygienist and TeacherIn collaboration with the Villas-Boas brothers. There have been many works carried out in Xingu over the past 60 years, many medical and nursing students, who have undergone professional training and the meticulous and dedicated work continued by Dr. Douglas Rodriguez and the entire team coordinating the Xingu project at Unifesp. And so, as Douglas can attest, Barozzi’s work has influenced generations of professors and researchers at EPM and the São Paulo Hospital.
It was this work that enabled many of the pioneering Indigenous health programs to be implemented with the Department of Health. Also as part of this history, Unifesp maintains a collection that is part of the Xingu Museum. Unfortunately, both the Indigenous Health Programs in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Zengo Museum have suffered greatly from the money cuts and attempts to destroy our universities committed in the Bolsonaro years. Without resources for projects and to create and maintain the museum, we worked to resist.
Barozzi’s legacy went beyond health and certainly influenced education measures that also began during our presidency. In addition to working in the field of water and indigenous health, Unifesp has also dedicated itself to the creation of indigenous education, with extension programmes, with knowledge recognition and more recently an indigenous degree awarded by indigenous peoples.
Like Unifesp, several federal universities have worked and worked to support and assist, especially in areas devastated or exploited by the so-called “civilization”. As we already know, the crisis with the Yanomami, which we are now watching with horror, did not begin today. It stems from scouting and predation work, which has occurred particularly in the past four years. Bolsonaro’s government opened the crisis that deepened and made it impossible for many university measures, which were in progress, to continue. The destruction done by Bolsonaro and illegal mining at all levels, which makes it difficult today, including the work and functioning of the health and education sectors. It will take years before we can resume and treat this tremendous pain.
The northern region of Brazil currently has 11 federal universities, including the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR), which has several formalities with the Yanomami region, as well as ensuring access to higher education for the indigenous peoples of the region. stand out Indigenous higher education programsAs well as the activities of researchers in the field of anthropology.
Similarly, other federal universities in other regions are conducting action and research to combat destruction and preserve indigenous peoples. The University of Brasília (UnB) has researchers who have contributed to the Pro-Yanomami and Y’ecuana network, including the sending of complaints by leaders to the Federal Prosecutor’s Office about genocidal acts that were in progress against these peoples. During the epidemic, he conducted studies and published articles in Brazil and abroad on the serious health situation of the Yanomami.
At the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), he began working with Yanomami, among others, in 2013, the year Davi Kopenawa Yanomami was at UFMG as a professor at the Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies (IEAT). Since then, there have been several Hutukara Associação Yanomami (HAY) collaborations, in partnership with the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA). However, everything stopped between 2019 and 2022, when the resources from the Ministry of Education (MEC) that were intended for these projects stopped.
From there to here Davey Kopenawa has on several occasions denounced the neglectThe lack of structure and the seriousness of the health situation in the Yanomami villages, as at the celebration of the 95th anniversary of the founding of the UFP, where he also requested protection and training for the indigenous youth to face the situation of violence and social unrest that had occurred with the miners’ invasion. Recognition of Kopenawa and his important writings comes from several universities, such as Unifesp recently awarded him the title of Honorary Doctor Koza.
There are several federal universities, with their professors and students from the faculties of education and from the fields of anthropology, who are now striving to structure new procedures for the resumption of youth training, as well as health care support through the local community. DSEI in coordination with the Indigenous Health Secretariat, to train Indigenous Health Workers (AIS). These would be businesses that would need time, structure, and a lot of dedication, as well as a great national effort in order for aid and living conditions to actually reach the Yanomami.
Universities and our students and researchers will surely grow together and learn from the knowledge of indigenous peoples, who know and know the land and the knowledge they draw from it for a life that is sustainable, less predatory, and in harmony with nature. And we return to the groundbreaking teachings of Barozzi, who also learned from Indigenous peoples and who also made the experience of Indigenous health a life and training experience that marked the lives and paths of those who have been there and continue to be there.
Thus, universities will continue their work in the fight against hunger and disease, as well as education. But most importantly, it will be the meeting place of indigenous experiences and knowledge that will finally form part of the formation of new generations, inserted in their context and in search of a more hopeful reality.
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