Joênia Batista de Carvalho – Brazil

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She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

(ENS) – Brazil’s first female indigenous lawyer makes her legal debut today in Washington, DC. Joenia Batista de Carvalho, 30, a Wapixana woman who is one of this year’s Reebok Human Rights awardees, is presenting her people’s land rights case to the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights. On behalf of the Indigenous Council of Roraima, she will ask this branch of the Organization of American States to intervene in a landmark battle for ancestral indigenous land known as Raposa Serra do Sol. The Rainforest Foundation US is co-filing the petition with the Indigenous Council of Roraima. Batista’s work is fully supported by the U.S. branch of The Rainforest Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in New York City, London, and Oslo founded in 1989 by Sting and Trudie Styler … // … The Raposa Serra do Sol territory in Roraima state is home to the Macuxi, Patamona, Ingaricó, Wapichana, and Taurepang peoples … // … Joenia Batista de Carvalho is representing the Indigenous Council of Roraima before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights … (full long text).

ON all her official papers, she is known as Joênia Batista de Carvalho. But that is not the real name of the first Indian woman to become a lawyer in Brazil, just a name a clerk randomly selected when her parents were first brought from their Amazon village to have their births registered. Whether her preoccupation with issues of cultural identity and autonomy stems from that incident, Ms. Batista is not sure. Still, when she went to the United States earlier this year to receive a Reebok Prize for her human rights work, she chose to accept the award as Joênia Wapixana, using the name of the tribe to which she belongs. (full text).


Joênia Batista de Carvalho – Brazil

Watch this video in portugese: Indigenous lawyer tells of fight for Amazon land on 11 Dec 08, 2.16 min, 10 December 2008.

She says: … “Peace, to us indigenous people, is living with dignity, quietly, with our families, in our community, in our land, free of threats, invasions, destruction, persecutions and death”. (1000peacewomen).

For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, an indian rises to the podium to make oral arguments. The first is also by a woman, lawyer Joênia Batista de Carvalho of the Wapichana people. Pela primeira vez na história do Supremo, um índio sobe à tribuna para fazer uma sustentação oral. A estréia é de uma mulher: a advogada Joênia Batista de Carvalho, do povo Wapichana. (on

She works for Conselho Indígena de Roraima CIR – named: on; on apontador; on

She says also: … “We are accused of being thieves in our own land, of being invaders. We are slandered, we are discriminated against. This must come to an end”.
“It falls upon this Court to enforce what we’ve been hearing for a long time – that traditional indigenous lands go well beyond mere houses”.
“Many people do not know that indigenous lands cannot be characterised only by dwellings. They also include areas where people fish, hunt, walk, maintain sacred places, where we maintain spirituality, where our culture is maintained” … (full text, 10/11/2008).

Find her on RHR award; on Google Video-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Blog-search.

And she says: … “My grandmother couldn’t even speak Portuguese,” she recalls, but “my mother and most people of her generation speak very little Wapixana, which means that something got lost there” … and: “Your identity is on your face and in your hair, you can’t deny it,” Ms. Batista said. “I was the only Indian in my class, so of course I felt different. Plus, we had very little money, which meant I didn’t have proper clothes” … and: “From the time I was little, I was always rebellious, always making trouble, and I thought I could contribute more than I would working as a teacher” … (full text, November 13, 2004).

(1000peacewomen): Joênia Batista de Carvalho (1974) is part of the Wapicharas, an indigenous ethnic group. She was born in Roraima, a Brazilian state where indigenous rights still face great resistance to be recognized.

She was the first indigenous in the country to become a lawyer. She works at the Indigenous Council of Roraima and is mainly focused on indigenous territorial rights. She seeks for justice for victims of violations: death threats, persecutions, torture and racial discrimination.

Until she was seven years old, Wapichara Joênia Batista de Carvalho lived in many indigenous villages. “My father used to move a lot because he believed a spirit was following him”. One day, her mother got sick of that and decided to settle down. She moved to Boa Vista, capital of Roraima, and enrolled her kids in school. Joênia learned how to read and to use mathematical operations. She also learned how to defend herself. “People used to bother because I am an indigenous. I would talk back and my mother would tell me to be quiet, but I never lost my pride”.

She got into the Roraima Federal University Law School in 5th place. “Most students – whose parents were judges, district attorneys, politicians – asked what I was doing there”. In a state where indigenous people are extremely discriminated, Joênia has not only graduated, but has also made people hear her. Nowadays, she is a national role model recognized by public powers and indigenous people, who were not used to female leaderships up until then.

She is the only lawyer at the Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR), and she provides assistance to 238 communities from all over the state. Her main challenge is to obtain full legal recognition of the indigenous land “Raposa do Sol”, home of 15,000 people.

Currently, it is one of the country’s major conflict areas between indigenous people and invaders – gold miners, ranchers, rice growers. “A lot of indigenous people have been killed there.”

Joênia is 31 years old and faces “constant prejudice, discrimination and death threats”. She does not feel intimidated: she is a mediator between indigenous people and government authorities. She gives countless lectures in Brazil and abroad about her people’s situation. She also participates in courses for indigenous leaderships.

The indigenous area “Raposa do Sol” is located in Northwestern Roraima and has 1.67 million hectares. In 1998, it was legally recognized as the permanent territory of five local indigenous groups, by former Minister of Justice, Renan Calheiros. Since then, they await for the President’s ratification. (1000peacewomen).


Brasil Brasil;

an OHCHR pdf text;

Foundation for Endangered Languages;

Members of the Macuxi and Wapixana indigenous groups;

Rainforest Foundation US;

Forest Peoples Programme FPP;

Indigenous Peoples Law & Policy Program of the University of Arizona;


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