When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

What Brazil Owes Its Indigenous Aikewara

A Brazilian Justice Ministry committee has officially apologized and offered reparations to the Aikewara, decimated in the early 1970s by army soldiers. But one more step is still needed.

A file photo of Aikewara
A file photo of Aikewara
Ywynuhu Surui*


BELÉM — We, the Aikewara, a Tupi-Guarani group also known as "the Suruí do Pará," are writing this article so that everybody knows why on Sept. 19 we became the first indigenous people of Brazil to receive an official government apology, and to be granted reparations for our suffering. This was a historic day for us and for all the indigenous people of this country.

For 40 years, we waited for the Brazilian state to acknowledge the violence we endured during the era of military rule. We suffered both in our homeland and outside, without knowing why these men in uniforms came to our village to "hunt people down." Our grandfathers and fathers asked themselves "Why?" as the military killed their people.

Between 1971 and 1973, the Aikewara lived in fear, trembling at the first sound of a car or plane, immediately fearing they would be killed. Many had insomnia: They couldn't sleep because they were constantly threatened by Brazilian army soldiers.

The women were panic-stricken when the few among them who could speak a little Portuguese translated what the soldiers were saying, that the children needed to keep quiet or else they'd be killed. The adult men had all been taken away, forced to serve as guides for the soldiers in the forest, which we are very familiar with because it is our land.

For days and days the men walked through the forest. They didn't eat properly and were forced to carry heavy loads on their backs while being pushed, screamed at and threatened, sleeping outside in the forest, falling ill.

Regardless of the reparations we obtain, the Aikewara people will never forget these scenes of terror and torture, which everyone in the village witnessed and was subjected to. While the army tried to crackdown on the Araguaia guerrilla, the Aikewara were prisoners in their own homes, locked inside. Children, the elderly and women starved because they were stripped of the right to come and go on their own land.

As children, all of us heard the stories that our grandparents told for years and years. Today we are ourselves parents and some even grandparents. Now we understand why they shared these memories so often, and why we must keep telling our children and grandchildren the story of the Aikewara people.

That, however, is not how we would like to be remembered in our country’s history.

It is a sad thing that we had to fight and lose so many lives to live in a democracy. For freedom, we lost real heroes who can never be forgotten, whose efforts were cut short by violence and death. It is thanks to the bravery of these people that we can now demonstrate for our rights.

Now that our suffering has been legally acknowledged by the Justice Ministry's Brazilian Amnesty Commission, we await the most important reparation of all: the restitution of the indigenous land of Tuwa Apekuokawera, which is part of our territory and was taken away 40 years ago. Only when our territory has been returned to us and protected will we be able to go back to living in peace.

*Ywynuhu Surui is an Aikewara and headmaster of the Moroneikó Indigenous School in the northern state of Pará.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

NYC Postcard: My Arab-American Friends And The Shame Of India's Foreign Policy

The author's native country, India, is both a burgeoning world power and part of the Global South. And yet, its ambitious Prime Minister Narendra Modi hasn't dared to say a single word against Israel's actions in Gaza and the West Bank, even when countries in South America and Africa have severed their diplomatic relationships with Israel.

Photo of pro-Palestinian protesters marching in New York on Oct. 8

Pro-Palestinian protest in New York on Oct. 8

Shikhar Goel


NEW YORK — The three years since coming to New York as a graduate student have been the most demanding and stimulating period of my academic life. One of the most exciting and joyous accidents of this journey has been my close friendship with Arab students in this city.

I have shared a house with a Syrian and a Palestinian here in Brooklyn, which I have grown to call home. I now make makloubeh with lal mirch and garam masala. Pita bread with zaatar and olive oil has become my go-to midnight snack. I have gotten drunk on arak and unsuccessfully danced dabke at parties. The Delhi boy in me has also now learned to cuss in Arabic.

These friendships have made me realize how similar we are to each other as people. My best friend in the city happens to be a Palestinian Christian whose family was displaced from Jerusalem in 1948 and has lived in exile ever since.

My roommate is from the West Bank, where she and her family have to face the everyday humiliation of crossing Israeli checkpoints to travel in their own country.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest