Policy Center Prominent in the fight for indigenous rights in Brazil, Representative Joênia Wapichana confirms presence at COP 26

Representative Joênia Wapichana is the president of the Mixed Parliamentary Front in Defense of Indigenous Peoples. Photo Credit: Tiago Miotto/MNI (Reproduction: CIMI)

Gabriella Lira – from Cenarium

MANAUS – One of the prominent names in the fight for the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil, Representative Joênia Wapichana (Rede/RR) confirmed, on Saturday, 30, presence at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), in Glasgow, Scotland. The participation of the first indigenous woman elected as a federal lawmaker in the country at the event was uncertain, since she had made a request to the commission responsible for the participation of Brazilian representatives in the event, but had not received an answer.

Joênia will participate in the first week of the world conference, from November 3 to 7. The president of the House of Representatives, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), informed the congressmen that he intends to lead the delegation to COP 26. According to him, at least ten parliamentarians were authorized for the trip. Joênia’s name was not on the list, but, among those selected was federal lawmaker Carla Zambelli, who does not meet the main rule of the event for entering the United Kingdom: being vaccinated.

Wapichana was elected federal lawmaker in 2018 with 8,491 votes, in Roraima, after 190 years of parliament in Brazil. The congresswoman now occupies one of the state’s eight seats in the House of Representatives. To celebrate the achievement, the parliamentarian held, on Thursday, 28, the live “1,000 Days of Indigenous Mandate”.

“It is a very important day for our lives, for mine, particularly. Being the only indigenous representative never left me with the feeling that I would be alone, but with the indigenous people, be it with my people of Roraima or with the people of Brasilia”, said Representative Joênia Wapichana.

The parliamentarian stressed that the purpose of her candidacy is to give voice to the traditional peoples in the National Congress, in defense of indigenous interests and rights. “It’s a mandate that came to puncture this ‘bubble’ that didn’t let us enter a representation that is so important for everyone in Brazil, a political representation. I have always thought that the true meaning of politics is to build proposals to improve people’s living conditions. It is in this sense that we work in favor of the indigenous collective rights”, reinforced the congresswoman.

Federal Lawmaker Joênia Wapichana (House of Representatives)

First Indigenous Representative

Born in the Truaru da Cabeceira indigenous community, in the Murupu region of Boa Vista, Joênia Wapichana, 47, belongs to the Wapichana indigenous people, the second largest in the state of Roraima. She is also the first indigenous woman to graduate in law in Brazil, in 1997, from the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR). In 2008, she was also the first indigenous woman lawyer in history to speak in the plenary of the Federal Supreme Court (STF). The speech took place during the homologation that defined the continuous limits of the Raposa Serra do Sol Reserve.

Besides being a lawyer and federal lawmaker, Joência Wapichana has a master’s degree from the University of Arizona, in the United States. With her work focused on the defense of indigenous peoples’ rights, the environment, and sustainability, she has conquered international ground. Between 2001 and 2006, Joênia participated in discussions about the United Nations (UN) Declaration of Human Rights, from where she received, in 2018, the Human Rights Award, one of the most important in the world.

In the National Congress, the federal lawmaker has been a protagonist in raising agendas that deal with indigenous rights throughout the country, addressing issues such as the importance of prior consultation with indigenous peoples and traditional communities, the confrontation of Covid-19, in addition to going against bills and proposed amendments to the constitution of the Bolsonaro government, such as the Administrative Reform PEC, nicknamed “PEC da Rachadinha”, and the Temporal Landmark Thesis.


The COP is the main summit of the United Nations Organization (UNO), which debates issues that deal with human action on the environment. One of the main targets of the debate schedule is the negative effect of the current energy policies, which include the burning of fossil energy sources and greenhouse gas emissions, contributing directly to global warming.

The event encompasses several conferences, with many parallel meetings that attract people from the business sector, fossil fuel companies, climate activists, and other groups with an interest in the climate crisis. World leaders are expected to attend the event, but many of the discussions take place between ministers and other high-level officials working on climate issues.

Read also: CENARIUM covering COP26; learn about the environmental importance of the event for the world

Deforestation and illegal burning are major influences for climate change (Christian Braga/Greenpeace)