Davi Yanomami, a renowned Indian leader from Brazil's Amazon, has made an emotional plea to the Botswana government to let the Kalahari Bushmen live on their land, "in peace for the rest of their lives". Davi, UN Global 500 award winner, spoke this Thursday, October 25, from Berlin where he is holding meetings with top German politicians.
"I don't think it's good how the Botswana government is treating the original indigenous people in Botswana. It is prohibiting them from using water – but we all drink and need water. The water is on their land and comes from there – it's for all the Bushmen. The Bushmen have the right to use their own land. They can't abandon their sacred places which they know.
"I am a Yanomami and I think that the Botswana government doesn't like the Bushmen. It wants the Bushmen to die. But I don't want the government to ill-treat my indigenous brothers and sisters, the Bushmen, who have lived for many, many years on that land. It's their land.
"I don't want them to suffer for no reason at all. I want the government of Botswana to respect the Bushmen. That land, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, is their home. They should be able to live there in peace for the rest of their lives."
Six Bushmen have been arrested for hunting in New Xade resettlement camp, according to First People of the Kalahari, a Bushman human rights organization.
The latest arrests bring the total number of Bushmen arrested for hunting since last year's landmark court ruling to at least forty-eight, with most being arrested since June this year.
The Botswana High Court held last December that the Gana and Gwi Bushmen had been evicted illegally from their land in the central Kalahari in 2002. The court also held that the government had broken the law in refusing to issue them with hunting permits.
Besides refusing to issue hunting permits, the government has also refused to provide transport for the Bushmen to return. It has banned them from using their water borehole, and will not let them take their small numbers of livestock back with them.
Twenty percent of the Yanomami died in just seven years in the 1980s and 1990s when goldminers invaded their land. After a long international campaign led by Survival, the tribal peoples movement, Yanomami land was finally demarcated as the Yanomami Park in 1992.
Davi Kopenawa Yanomami is a shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami people. He led the long-running international campaign to secure Yanomami land rights, for which he gained recognition in Brazil and around the world.
His courage, combative spirit and tenacity are reflected in his Yanomami nickname, "Kopenawa", or "hornet".
Davi was born around 1955 in Marakana, a Yanomami community on the Upper Toototobi river in the Brazilian state of Roraima, northern Amazon. One of his strongest childhood memories is of his mother hiding him under a basket when white people came to his village for the first time.
In the 1950s and 1960s, visits by the SPI (Brazilian government Indian Protection Service), and later by missionaries from the US-based New Tribes Mission, brought fatal diseases to the isolated Yanomami. Davi's community was decimated and both his parents died in the epidemics which swept through the area in 1959 and 1967.
In 1985, Davi began to fight for the recognition of the vast area inhabited by the Yanomami in the Brazilian states of Roraima and Amazonas. Goldminers were invading the area, and Yanomami were dying of diseases to which they had no resistance.
In 1989 Davi won a UN Global 500 award in recognition of his battle to preserve the rainforest. His struggle has taken him to many countries.
The first time he left Brazil was at the invitation of Survival International, which in 1989 asked him to accept the Right Livelihood or Alternative Nobel Prize on its behalf in a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament.
Today, Davi lives in his community, Watoriki (the Windy Mountain), practicing shamanism with his father in law Lorival, one of the oldest and most respected Yanomami shamans. He is married to Fátima and they have six children and two grandchildren.
Survival International – http://www.survival-international.org
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