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Photo credits (clockwise): Felipe Contreras, Taylor Hensel, Tracy Rector, Dan Lin
Indigenous Advocacy Leads to Early Vaccination in Remote Territories
By John Reid, Senior Economist and Partnership Lead, Nia Tero
Brazil has drawn attention for the collapse of the Manaus’ hospitals, overwhelmed by waves of COVID-19, and for the plague denial and anti-Indigenous posture of the country’s president. In a recent analysis of 98 countries’ response to the pandemic, Brazil ranked last (with the similarly miserable U.S. in the 94 position). Amid all the bad pandemic news there are bright spots. One is the fast pace of vaccination of Indigenous people in some of the remotest parts of the Brazilian Amazon.
On January 18 Vanda Ortega Witoto, an Indigenous health technician in Manaus was the first person vaccinated in the state of Amazonas. The following day, vaccinations began in the Javarí territory where Nia Tero supports the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javarí Valley. By the end of January, the vast majority of the Javarí’s people had received their first dose of the vaccine despite being spread among scores of villages in roadless forest the size of Austria. By mid-February, the vaccine teams are expected to reach the most remote inhabitants of the territory, including a group of Korubo people initially contacted in 2019 who are still in only intermittent communication with the people outside their village. 
Similar stories played out in other parts of the Brazilian Amazon, including the remote forests of the northeast Amazon where Nia Tero supports the Z’oé people and the diverse peoples of the Tumucumaque and Paru D’este Indigenous Territories. The Zo’é, a tribe first contacted 30 years ago, still lives very traditionally in near isolation. They received their first doses without suffering a single case of the disease. In the other territories, COVID hit hard. Vaccines have arrived just as fears grow that new variants of the disease of the disease may make previously infected people more susceptible to a second bout of the illness. 
The rapid vaccination of some of Brazil’s most vulnerable people shows a different side of this society from dire stuff that often makes headlines. It’s a testament to the success of Indigenous leaders raising their voices to highlight the toll the pandemic has been taking on native populations. As Brazil set priorities for the order in which people would receive the shots, Indigenous villages were placed in the most urgent group. Leaders have been fighting to extend this priority of Indigenous peoples in cities, some of the hardest hit groups due to the difficulty of isolation. The vaccination of Indigenous population also showcases the competence and collaboration of Indigenous organizations, health workers and the Brazilian Air Force, all veterans of past vaccination campaigns across the vast, wild rainforests of the Amazon. 

A Z'oé man carrying his father 30 km to receive his first COVID dose, photo courtesy of Dr. Erik Jennings.

"We are all in the same fight, sharing the same struggles. We are relevant in this world.” 
- John Taukave

John embraces his culture and identity through song and dance as a member of Rako Pasefika - a cultural and professional collective of artists based in the Pacific. He shares his vision of creating space for young Pacific artists to revive the old stories of the past and bring their culture and traditions into the future. John’s values of breaking boundaries and embracing the freedom in storytelling inspire us!
John Taukave (left), photo courtesy of Vijesh Datt Photography
The 4th World Indigenous Media Lab invites Indigenous creators to apply for the 7th annual cohort. 

This lab, which includes residencies at Camden International Film Festival in Maine, Big Sky Documentary Festival in Montana, and Seattle International Film Festival in Washington state, provides a progressive immersion into film learning and film exploration ranging from storytelling basics and pitching, to presentation and marketing at SIFF, to distribution and industry networking. Past cohorts have included Razelle Benally (Oglala/Diné), Alex Lazarowich (Cree), Taylor Hensel (Cherokee Nation), Justyn Ah Chong (Kanaka Maoli), Ivan & Ivy MacDonald (Blackfeet), JJ Neepin (Cree), Asia Youngman (Cree/Métis/Haudenosaunee), Shaandiin Tome (Diné) and Khalil Hudson (Tlingit). Learn more and apply today.
The uniqueness of 2020, which included a global pandemic, distinct but overlapping human rights movements, and heart-filling cross-community mutual aid efforts, has deepened conversations about systemic inequities, including in the film industry. The need for capacity building, education and mentorship, resourcing, and distribution of work by Black, Indigenous, Latinx, undocumented, female, trans and nonbinary people, people with disabilities, and otherwise underrepresented artists has never been more prevalent. A session of deep and honest conversation about who's doing the work to support Indigenous and Black filmmakers, as well as other creators of color, what's still needed, and how we can work together to get there.

Panelists include partners from Working Films, Firelight Media, COUSIN Collective, imagineNATIVE, and the University of Arkansas. The Panel will be moderated by Nia Tero’s Managing Director of Storytelling, Tracy Rector.

Click here for tickets and more information.

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