This is what I say to you teachers: our history needs to be told in the way that
it actually happened. The animals have disappeared, the fish have died. Today
we live in a totally dependent situation working as cheap farm laborers. Our
mathematics was reduced to um troquinho [a little change], and then we were
not able to buy anything with that troquinho .
For this, our friends and brothers - the Krenak, Pankararu, Terena, and Guarani -
let us fight for a better education. Because us Indians have to have the space to
restore our knowledge and be recognized as real teachers.
The other day we went out to dance and the Whites asked me: “Why aren't
you naked? Do you sleep naked?” And why did they ask me these questions?
Because of a lack of knowledge and prejudice about us. It is the same thing
with our mathematics, the Whites think that we are dumb and don't know how
to think or how to count. But this is not the truth and thus should not continue
So this is my story. I've become very emotional, and I am grateful to all of you.
Ilson Iaiati wiped tears with the back of his hand, and returned to his seat amidst
strong applause. “This is an important date for us,” said Luiz Karaí, a Guarani
teacher and headman of the village of Itaóca, in the southern coast of the state of São
Paulo. And the headman went on:
This is what we shall all be doing for the next 500 years! For 500 years we've
been ignored, most of our people killed, our land taken away. Our languages,
cultures, everything! It's very clear why our mathematics was destroyed,
because it's dangerous! If we know mathematics, we can defend ourselves,
protect our land, defend our rights. But not all of it has been lost. This is what
we've seen here today. Thank you.
More applause, and then a standing ovation by all Indigenous and non-Indigenous
educators alike. Luiz Karaí was referring to the fast approaching commemoration of
the 500 years of the “discovery” of Brazil by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares
Cabral in the year of 1500.
A few months later in April 2000, Indigenous leaders from all over the country
protested against the celebration of the 500 anos de descobrimento do Brasil
(500 years of the discovery of Brazil). They marched to Brasília, met with former
President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, asking that their constitutional and human
rights be respected. Amongst their urgent pleas was voting the new Brazilian
Estatuto dos Povos Indígenas (Statute of Indigenous Peoples) into law, replacing
its 1973 outdated version. The Estatuto dos Povos Indígenas would help guarantee
in practice their rights to land, natural resources, socio-cultural diversity, health,
education, intellectual property, amongst many others rights.