Chief Raoni Metuktire has been campaigning for environmental causes for decades, most recently for the fires raging in the Amazon rain forest, and he’s now being recognized for his efforts as a candidate for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
A group of Brazilian anthropologists and environmentalists has nominated Chief Raoni, 89, of the Kayapó tribe and the Darcy Ribeiro Foundation, named after one of Brazil’s first anthropologists, formally proposed his name to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides who wins the annual award, Reuters reports.
“Chief Raoni is a living symbol of the fight to protect nature and the rights of indigenous people in the Amazon,” Toni Lotar, spokesman for the foundation, told Reuters. Lotar added that the nomination had been initially accepted by the committee, but the foundation has yet to complete the full nomination process.
The legendary Kayapo chief recently called for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro’s removal from power in response to the president’s alleged encouragement of deforestation for economic development in the Amazon rainforest.
“He wants to finish with the forest, with us. It’s really terrible what he does,” Raoni told AFP reported Yahoo, accusing him of emboldening farmers, loggers and miners to take Amazon land. “We have to get him out soon.”
Raoni has met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has called the fires an “international crisis,” and the foundation has written to President Macron for his endorsement of Raoni’s nomination.
In the 1980s, the Amazon chief famously campaigned with Sting for the better treatment of the rainforest and is recognized for his large lip plate, yellow macaw-feather headdress and long, beaded earrings. Now he’s been focusing his efforts on the fires which have burned through 30,000 acres in August alone, according to The Guardian.
“We cannot let it burn like that,” Raoni added, according to Yahoo. “What is happening is extremely dangerous. When I see these fires I feel very sad.”
Raoni isn’t the only member of the indigenous community in the Amazon to gain attention for their efforts to fight the fires and protect the community. Ajareaty Waiapi (Nazaré), one of the few female indigenous chiefs, has also been raising awareness of the dangers of deforestation as the rainforest makes up 90 percent of her homeland.
It is the efforts of the indigenous communities and these vocal advocates that bring a human element to the devastation in the rainforest, and their campaigning is one of the ways the indigenous community can continue to sustain itself.
The nomination deadline is February 1, 2020, and winners are announced in October. If he wins he’ll be the seventh individual to win a Nobel Peace Prize from Latin America and the first from Brazil.
“He is respected worldwide for a life dedicated to the survival of our planet that is so threatened by climate change,” Lotar said.