We are an indigenous people that lives in the Cerrado, a tropical savanna in Brazil. Like all Timbira people of the Gê ethnolinguistic family, we call ourselves “mehi,” which means “our body.” Some of the characteristics of the mehi way of life include the native language, traditional haircuts, the use of ear gauges, body painting, a circular arrangement of villages, log-carrying races, and traditional myths and rituals.
Our community is composed of 3,663 individuals spread among 38 villages. In the past, our ancestors occupied a vast expanse of territory located in what is now known as Central Brazil, but our territory has been reduced to a smaller area of legally demarcated land called the Krahôlandia Indigenous Territory. This territory was demarcated in the 1940s after a massacre carried out by farmers in the region that took the life of over 20 indigenous people. The Krahôlandia Indigenous Territory has an area of 3,200 square kilometers (1,236 square miles) and is an important conservation area of the Cerrado tropical savanna.
The Krahô and the Cerrado
The Cerrado is the second-largest biome of South America and one of the richest savannas in the world. It is home to great cultural and biological diversity and is known as the “cradle of waters,” as it is home to the sources of Brazil’s main river basins. The Cerrado is also currently one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet and is considered a world biodiversity hotspot.
According to our perspective, the Cerrado is composed of multiple environments, animals, plants, and beings that think, feel, and have an active role in the world. Thanks to our ancient co-existence with these other inhabitants, our ancestors came to acquire a large body of ecological knowledge, which to this day is passed down by our elders to the younger generations, who continue to carry on this knowledge, knowledge that contributes to the conservation of the Cerrado’s immense biodiversity. We, the Krahô people, help to keep the Cerrado standing! We are on the front lines of a battle that is also in the interests of the cupe, or non-indigenous, and the planet as a whole.