A leader who took the indigenous people's role on climate change to a global perspective

Sineia do Vale is an Indigenous leader and environment executive who defends the incorporation of traditional knowledge - especially Indigenous communities - in the build up of action to deal with climate change. 

This is the message she wanted to convey to the Leaders Summit on Climate this past April, which was organized by Joe Biden’s administration. Sineia was the only Brazilian to attend the Summit besides president Jair Bolsonaro. 

She was born in Serra da Lua to the Wapichana ethnicity. Sineia has been the manager of the Territorial and Environmental department of the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) since the late 1990s. In 2014, she organized the publication “Amazad Pana’Adinham: Indigenous Perspective on Climate Change in Serra da Lua”, the first of its kind in Brazil. Now she is preparing a similar action for the Indigenous Land (TI)  Raposa Serra do Sol. 

CIR is celebrating 50 years in 2021, and participates in the project Promoção do Bem-Viver of Indigenous People in Roraima State, developed through the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB). Implemented by the International Institute of Education of Brazil (IEB) and Nature and Culture International (NCI), the project’s main goal is to promote governance as well as environmental and territorial management in Indigenous Lands at Roraima State.

Besides implementing the National Policy for Indigenous Territory and Environmental Management (PNGATI), Bem-Viver creates sustainable practices for indigenous livestock, which was introduced in local communities over four decades ago. 

PCAB’s website team interviewed Sineia: 

How did you receive the invitation for the Leaders Summit on Climate?
I believe the invitation came due to my participation in several Conference of the Parties (COPs) and for having worked with environmental and climate debates that the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) develops on climate change and Indigenous Peoples. At first I thought I was being invited for a separate meeting, and I was astonished by how big it all became.

What is your take on the impact of your participation? 
It was great to have a strong organization like CIR take Indigenous Peoples’ strategy on climate change to a global perspective, as well as speaking about our plans and actions to face these changes. People were interested in our strategies, as we brought a different outlook to the issue. 

Indigenous people in Brazil have been constantly threatened by invasions, mining, illegal deforestation and so on. How can they protect themselves? 
We have these threats indeed, but we also have the Brazilian Federal Constitution, which protects the rights of Indigenous Peoples and also of local communities. Indigenous Peoples are resilient and wise, so much so that they have been maintaining and managing their territories.These are difficult times, but we can learn and create strategies to overcome any hardships. 

How do you overcome these hardships? 
Indigenous Peoples have the knowledge to live in the forest and to keep them standing. I always say that to keep forests alive is also to know that there are people living there, and people who need public policies and rights. This is what we work for. In that sense, the disbursement of funds created for conservation and implementation of the territorial management plans have an important role. 

Is Project Bem-Viver included in this context?
This project, developed with USAID’s support, strengthened the territorial and environmental management plans (in Indigenous Lands), and it also works with sustainable livestock. We have been doing land use planning and, alongside IEB, capacity building of  new environmental agents. We created indigenous fire brigades to prevent and combat fires, and we have six brigades so far in the state of Roraima. 

The project helped us to implement structuring actions in the communities, which were developed using the management plans devised by the communities involved. They are glad to have autonomy to discuss and implement the actions they consider to be important. It is not  a top-down policy, but is the fruit of their own choices on what to focus on.