A reflection on Davi Yanomami & Mauricio Ye’Kuana’s visit to Lee House

I had the privilege last Saturday of attending a CAFOD day hosting Davi Yanemami Kopenawa and Mauricio Ye’Kuana. These two men are key activists from indigenous tribes in the northern Brazilian Amazon, and vital members in CAFOD partner group Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY). Although they come from different tribes (Davi is from the Yanomami people, and Mauricio, the Ye’Kuana people), both are working for indigenous rights and the protection of the rainforest which is their home. I found these two men’s stories profoundly moving, not only for the work they do and the struggles they face, but maybe more especially for the wise understanding they have of their relationship to this world. This is an understanding we have a lot to learn from.

Lee House welcomes Davi & Mauricio

Lee House welcomes Davi & Mauricio

Davi and Mauricio’s talk wove the threads of a story which seems to have been lost in our Western world; a world of individualism, Cartesian dualism, separation, and ultimately disconnect. It might sound like a ‘new’ story to us, but in fact is a story that goes back to our source, to the beginning of time itself. This explains, I think, the resonance and draw it has for me. A book I am reading puts it beautifully: these stories ‘exemplify a way of being that we intuitively recognise and long for. They stir a memory in our hearts, and awaken a desire to return.’(Eisenstein, ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible’).

Davi and Mauricio spoke of a ‘mother earth’ who cares for them as they care for her. This is a personal, reciprocal relationship. Both parties are living beings, responding to each other, as sacred, precious, and interdependent. We are all – the people, the creatures, the plants, the air, the water – strands in the great tapestry of life, whose thread is sacred, imbued with the divine. Matter and spirit are one. You and I are one. Humanity and creation are one. As such, what we do to any part of creation, we do to ourselves. A Native American leader, Chief Seattle puts this gracefully: ‘This we know: the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.’

This story of connectedness leads almost by definition to a very different way of living in the world, and one which doesn’t necessarily sit naturally alongside the industrialised, consumerist society that dominates today. I seem to inhabit a world of barriers to creation. I cover my skin with clothes, I put shoes between my feet and the ground, I live inside brick walls, I put text on a screen between me and others, I get my food from a sanitised, cooled supermarket shelf…the list could go on. Now you may point out, that living in the UK – if I didn’t do some of these things, I would be very cold and wet a lot of the time… but I do think there is an underlying point. In our western world, connection to creation, even to ourselves, isn’t obviously part of the set up, and so we might need to make a point of seeking creation out, in order to re-connect. Because until we re-connect, we are likely to continue cutting down trees, poisoning rivers and land with pesticides, buying the jewellery made from illegal gold-mining which is destroying the communities and forests of Davi and Mauricio.

So, what have I taken away from the testimony of these two men?

I think it is an invitation. To re-connect, to take off my shoes, to stand in the garden and feel this living, vibrant, sustaining ‘mother earth’ that I am a part of. I feel an invitation to get in touch with this sacred life that flows through all things, including myself, and which connects me, not only to this garden behind my house, or my family and friends, but also to Davi and Mauricio, to their communities, and to all people and life the world over. Imagine if our actions reflected this idea that we are all one body, all one world, all precious and sacred. Imagine the ripples that would spread.

Iona Reid-Dalglish

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Indigenous leaders from Brazil visit Lee House

We are thrilled to welcome two special guests from Brazil to Lee House – CAFOD partners Davi Yanomami, and Mauricio Ye’kuana, from Hutukara Yanomami Association, Brazil will be with us on Saturday 27 September at Lee House, Chipping Road, Thornley, Preston PR3 2TB.

Davi Yanomami Kopenawa is President and Founder of CAFOD’s indigenous partner, Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), which was set up in 2004 in the state of Roraima, in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. Hutukara has been a CAFOD partner since 2007 and works to protect Yanomami and Ye’kuana  indigenous rights to land, health, bi-lingual education and cultural preservation through campaigning, lobbying and community mobilisation activities.


Davi is a world-renowned indigenous leader, and has won numerous national and international awards, for his efforts to protect the Yanomami and Ye’kuana people and the Amazon rainforest, including the UN Global 500 award for his contribution to the battle for environmental preservation.

Today Davi lives in his community Watoriki, (‘The Mountain of the Wind’), on the watershed of the Amazon and Orinoco rainforests. Despite Yanomami territory being legally demarcated in the state of Roraima, northern Brazil, in 1982, land invasions continue, such as illegal gold-miners and farmers, and communities are increasingly feeling the impacts of climate change, which are affecting their health, food security and environment.

mauricio-foto4Mauricio Tomé Rocha, known as Maurício Ye’kuana, is a 29 year old Ye’kuana Brazilian indigenous leader and activist. His community lives on the banks of a river also called Auaris, in the north west of the state of Roraima, Brazil.

Davi and Mauicio will be with us on the 27th Sept from 2pm with to 5pm.

Please join us for a fascinating afternoon in which we will explore our relations with nature and learn from Davi & Mauricio.


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Working with nature

Techniques to bring life back to arid regions in Africa has real potential for the semi arid regions of north east Brazil.

tony_rinaudo_75Tony Rinaido, a permaculture specialist working in Africa, had spent years battling to bring life back to dry landscapes when he observed the tenacity of ‘weeds’ to keep reappearing from the parched land. Tony realised that the ‘weed’s were trees, that had been cut down years even decades ago, trying to re-emerge. He discovered underground forests,  tree root systems still very much alive under the baked earth. With careful management the root systems were allowed to bring life back to the desert and this process is helping to transform agriculture across many parts of  Africa.

Observing and working with nature rather than against it is proving to be very beneficial to the local human populations. I have often thought that there must be a better way to work with the bush land in N.E Brazil than the slash and burn approach taken at present. Tony has inspired me to re-think and re-visit this approach.

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Missing the climate in the classroom!

Now what could a 15 year old do to influence Michael Gove’s ‘new’ curriculum for schools? Well, this is Esha Marwaha’s attempt. If you would like to support the campaign you can sign her petition at ActionAid.

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