At a time of increasing commodification of common goods, such as of land and other natural resources, the access and control over ancestral territories by indigenous peoples is increasingly at risk. Despite being recognized by international law, and reflected in a high number of national legal frameworks, the rights of indigenous communities are trampled upon by business activities, under the complicity and failure of governments. And, underlining all this, is the fact that indigenous approaches to land, who possess a genuine connection to nature, and to its sustainable maintenance in a world of environmental destruction, seem to be disregarded.
The Guarani and Kaiowá (GK) indigenous peoples, who account for circa 60.000 in Brazil (around 45.000 only in the southern State of Mato Grosso do Sul), have increasingly been suffering acts of violence and the expulsion of their traditional lands. Since 1920, they have continually been kicked out from their ancestral territories, something which is an essential part of their identity and self-determination, and of their human dignity.
In Guarani, their own language, Tekohá is the term used to refer to their territory. Tekohá goes beyond a mere description of a piece of land. The prefix teko- represents a series of norms and customs of the community, while the suffix -ha has a connotation of place. Tekohá is the physical place – including land, jungle, fields, watercourses, plants and remedies – where the way of life of the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous peoples develops. The land is an extension of themselves and their source of life. In their own words, “the land is them, and they are the land”.
‘Tekohá is Life’ is launched as an initiative to shed light on the struggles of the Guarani and Kaiowá to regain access to and control over their ancestral lands. In a world increasingly alienated and disconnected from nature, it is key to boost the understanding of non-dominant and more sustainable approaches to mother earth.
A series of advocacy and awareness-raising initiatives will be carried out under this initiative, in the hope to also bring people the world over closer to the realities of their fellow human beings, the Guarani and Kaiowá.