We Are All Connected With Nature: Nixiwaka Yawanawa at TEDxHackney (Transcript)

Hello everyone. Everyone good? Sorry, I am not very used to speak with a microphone. I hope it will be OK.

My name is Nixiwaka, I come from the rainforest in Amazon, Brazil. And I am living here for four years now. And when I came here I didn’t know any English. I didn’t know nothing, actually. And the weather was crazy for me, especially the weather. But it was OK, afterwards.

If I walk in the street with just clothes and my face not painted or not with my headdress, people think that I come from Peru, Bolivia, Mexico. But yes, I come from the Yawanawa tribe in the Amazon rainforest. I will just put my headdress on. It is much better for me. Thanks. Yes! I feel more comfortable.

I really feel more comfortable. I would like to say just some few words in my language, if it is OK. ” Mon sharai?” “Mon sharai?” means “how are you, how is it going?” “Nixiwaka ki. Yawanava ehuhu. Mattu uwi yuwa” I just said that “My name is Nixiwaka. I come from the Yawanawa tribe and I am here to visit you, just to see you. I just, I would like to talk a little bit of nature. And how nature is so important for indigenous people especially tribespeople. But also for everyone in this world.

If you think really deep I think everyone will feel something that where you came from and what this world look like now. Many thing has changed all over the world. But for tribespeople like me it didn’t change anything. In some countries even in Brazil in South America some tribe, they are different; they know the language, for example, Portuguese or any other language. Some of them, they lost their language. They lost their culture, tradition. But there is still many live in the same way that they used to. I just want to talk a little bit about my people.

When we made the first contact with the white people, it was my great-grandfather. He was 11 years old. He first saw the white man and he just ran away. The white man didn’t see him. And he told our family that he saw some people — strange people, different people with clothes, with beard, with sunglass or glasses. And he didn’t understand where these people came from. And he said “how we will talk with them if we don’t know the language?” So he decided to ask an idea, he went to Farhand?? and he came to those white people and just told them the idea. The white people gave him a small knife. It was a positive contact, it was a good contact because usually when the first contact happened with indigenous people battle happened, lots of killing and in most of South America it happened like that. We are glad that it didn’t happen any fight and nothing. Only problem was that the different kind of diseases.

Our Shamans, for example, our people start to get in ill and they didn’t understand what was this illness and the Shaman did everything to heal but he couldn’t heal and all the shamans were also dying because we indigenous people had no immunity for diseases like flu, cold it was all new for us. But we survived and we learned Portuguese. I was very young when I went to a city, very small town and I learned Portuguese; that is why I speak English.

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If you go to Brazil, Amazon, I am quite sure you would not find someone, an Indian person that can speak English and speak with you. And I am really glad to be here to be able to speak about indigenous people, the culture about our traditions. We still have our knowledge with the meats and plants. Brazil, for example, is home for more than eighty different tribes that still isolated. They even don’t have any contacts with indigenous people like mine. And the reason I came to London was to learn English first of all and be able to speak for them because they have decided not to make contact with the white, the western world. We see that when we come close to them they run away or they want to shoot us, with arrows and bows, we are trying to go after them, to protect them to protect their territories.

The first thought I have was to adopt here because the weather was really cold and it was very different for me. And then I went to a school to study for one year. Last year I found this organization called Survival International. They work with different tribespeople around the world, especially in South America and yes I have this opportunity to.. now I am working with them and I am raising awareness for tribespeople, for the protection of tribespeople. Especially as we were in Africa, South Africa and Botswana. And it has been really great for me; it has been a really good experience. I am still learning the language and excuse me for my English. We still practice our culture. This is something that I would like to say talking about we all are connected to nature.

We receive many people that from Europe. They want to visit my tribe for example to see how we are still living. And we have this week of the traditional party and we have our sacred rituals. It is the ritual that we have all meats and plants that we use it to communicate with the spirits of the forest. We believe that in the forest there are lots of spirits. When a Shaman, for example, goes to take a plant in a forest, he asks the plant “I will take you, I will use you to heal someone” because İf he doesn’t say anything, the plant has no effect. The plant has effect when the Shaman says, when the Shaman asks that I am going to use you to heal my people. And right now, our forest has been disappearing because of many big projects of government for example mining and logging. It is really hard for us to protect our forest. Because we think that the forest is not just important for us for my people but for other people in Brazil, in South America and especially keep the balance in the world because everyone needs to have the forest protected because it cleans the air, it is a pure hair for us to breathe.

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