Amazon activist fights to save her tribe

24-year-old Samela Sateré-Mawé has one guiding belief:

if the Amazon rainforest dies so will her tribe.

"We need the forest, we need the Amazon, we need the environment so that everyone remains in harmony so that things don't begin to collapse."

Sateré-Mawé got inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and by her roots in Amazon indigenous culture.

She says environmental activism is just a new name for something her people have been doing for centuries.

"The fires make me very sad because we're losing a large part of our territory. I'm not just talking about the Amazon, but Brazilian territory in other biomes like the Pantanal."

The Sateré-Mawé are forest people whose ancestral homelands were by the headwaters of tributaries of the Amazon.

Today, encroachment on the forests - by farmland, miners and illegal loggers - has driven hundreds of the roughly 13,000 Sateré-Mawé to move to urban areas, as Samela's parents did before she was born.

"The main obstacle in the defense of the forests is profit. People's profits and always making money is not indigenous thinking; it is European thinking to make money, to have lots of money saved up, it's not indigenous thinking. Because an indigenous person thinks about the day, what they will eat today, what they will hunt to eat on that day, what they will fish to eat that day. There's no thinking of gathering wealth. For us nature will always be there, But, now that is threatened."

Sateré-Mawé has joined Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future movement to save the forest.

She takes part in the movement and posts videos on social media to boost awareness.

Scientists say the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide and its preservation is vital to curbing climate change.

Samela believes indigenous people are the best guardians of the forest because they depend on its biodiversity to survive.

Today, their main source of livelihood is the caffeine-filled seed of the Guaraná fruit used for energy drinks.

Samela says the forest is under threat from Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro who has eased environmental controls and plans to develop the Amazon economically.

In August fires to clear land for cattle and farming increased to a 10-year high, according to government satellite data.

In a remote address to the UN General Assembly last month, Bolsonaro rebutted international criticism of and said the fires were started by indigenous people.

"We are the victims of one of the most brutal campaigns of misinformation about the Amazon and the Pantanal."

Comments that have outraged Sateré-Mawé.

"If we lose this, we'll die as a consequence. Because, it is an eco-genocide when our culture dies."

Video Transcript

- 24-year-old Samela Satere-Mawe has one guiding belief. If the Amazon rainforest dies, so will her tribe.

SAMELA SATERE-MAWE: [NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING]

INTERPRETER: We need the forest, we need the Amazon, we need the environment so that everyone remains in harmony so that things don't begin to collapse.

- She was inspired by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and by her roots in Amazon indigenous culture. She says environmental activism is just a new name for something her people have been doing for centuries.

SAMELA SATERE-MAWE: [NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING]

INTERPRETER: The fires make me very sad, because we're losing a large part of our territory. I'm not just talking about the Amazon, but Brazilian territory in other biomes like the Pantanal.

SAMELA SATERE-MAWE: [NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING]

- The Satere-Mawe are forest people whose ancestral homelands were by the headwaters of tributaries of the Amazon. Today, encroachment on the forests by farmland miners and illegal loggers has driven hundreds of the roughly 13,000 Satere-Mawe to move to urban areas, as Samela's parents did before she was born.

SAMELA SATERE-MAWE: [NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING]

INTERPRETER: The main obstacle in the defense of the forests is profit. People's profits and always making money is not indigenous thinking, it's European thinking to make money, to have lots of money saved up. It's not indigenous thinking, because an indigenous person thinks about the day, what they'll eat that day, what they'll hunt to eat that day, what they'll fish to eat that day. There's no thinking of gathering wealth. For us, nature will always be there, but now, that's threatened.

- Samela has joined Greta Thunberg's Fridays for Future movement to save the forest. She takes part in the movement and posts videos on social media to boost awareness. Scientists say the Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, absorbs a vast amount of carbon dioxide, and its preservation is vital to curbing climate change. Samela believes indigenous people are the best guardians of the forest, because they depend on its biodiversity to survive.

Today, their main source of livelihood is the caffeine filled seed of the guarana fruit used for energy drinks. Samela says the forest is under threat from Brazil's far right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who's eased environmental controls and plans to develop the Amazon economically. In August, fires to clear land for cattle and farming increased to a 10 year high, according to government satellite data. In a remote address to the UN General Assembly last month, Bolsonaro rebutted international criticism and said the fires were started by indigenous people.

INTERPRETER: We are the victims of one of the most brutal campaigns of misinformation about the Amazon and the Pantanal.

- Comments that have outraged Satere-Mawe.

SAMELA SATERE-MAWE: [NON-ENGLISH SPEAKING]

INTERPRETER: If we lose this, we'll die as a consequence, because it's an eco genocide where our culture dies.