Amazon defender

Not afraid of the loggers and land grabbers destroying the Amazon rain forest, Brazilian environmental activist Neidinha fights for the indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people. ‘Protecting the Uru-eu-wau-wau is how we will save the Amazon,’ she says.

Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo, also known as Neidinha, heads the Kanindé Association, which defends the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon rainforest. In the documentary The Territory we see her trying to protect the land where the Uru-eu-wau-wau people live, while it is being invaded by loggers and settlers who want to use it for agricultural development. Their territory is shrinking fast, and from a population of thousands, only around 180 Uru-eu-wau-wau remain today.

However small, for Neidinha their territory ‘is important for the whole planet’. ‘Because of its nature and biodiversity and because it’s fighting climate change, it’s super important,’ she said in an interview. But the authorities do little to protect the Uru-eu-wau-wau against the brute force of the land grabbers. So they take matters into their own hands, form patrols and use drones to track down invaders. But Neidinha herself receives death threats and there are many reports of violence, and even killings, of indigenous leaders. ‘In the name of agrobusiness and the economy,’ a heartbroken Neidinha says in the film, ‘they kill the forest and those who defend it.’

After Jair Bolsonaro became president of Brazil, things have gotten even worse. Bolsonaro declared war on indigenous reserves and his rhetoric spurred a wave of attacks on indigenous leaders. ‘His speeches, his agenda and also his supporters – they’re supporting deforestation and the death of animals… and also the death of indigenous peoples,’ Neidinha says. ‘It is a tragedy for the whole world, not only for Brazil. He’s promoting hate, not love. […] I consider him the worst nightmare for the Amazon.’

But as becomes clear in a strong fragment in The Territory, Neidinha is far from giving up the fight. ‘There’s lots I still want to do, and I know I don’t have much time left,’ she says in the film. ‘But in the time that I have, I will mess with a lot of people. Poor them. If I live another twenty years, it’ll be twenty years of bothering anyone who destroys the Amazon.’

The Territory will be shown at the Movies that Matter Festival 2022, where Neidinha and her daughter, activist Txai Suruí, will be special guests.