Experience Report

Researcher: Iuri Alves Gomes

People: Jenipapo-Kanindé

Degree: Bachelor’s in Biology

Research about the situation of other Indigenous peoples during this pandemic has been very important.  It has been moving to hear these reports. I feel badly for all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19, for those who don’t have basic sanitation to protect themselves, who battle against the lack of water, who don’t have a village to live in. I feel badly for those who suffered prejudice for having become infected. I believe that we are never prepared to live through a moment as difficult as this one, and that the fear of dying and of losing a relative caused people to become less or more solidary.

In the interviews with Indigenous relatives, a questionnaire was given which explained a little about the study and had some questions.  However, the questions were soon left aside, and the conversation broadened, ceasing to be monotonous. 

I would like to thank all the Indigenous people (caciques, cacicas [male and female chiefs], pajés [shamans], leaders, educators, people in the health field, mothers and Indigenous youths) who participated in this study, directly or indirectly, confiding to me their anguish and fears. The fact that I am an Indigenous researcher, and research our culture, proved to be of great importance to the parentes [this word is used to refer to other Indigenous people].  Many, in their statements, spoke of the importance of having Indigenous people in universities.

May Father Tupã protect them and enlighten us. Very, very soon, we will be singing and dancing our rituals.  Soon, the songs will be sung, the drums played, the maracas shaken and the prayers heard.  DEMARCATION NOW!


This study is being conducted by Indigenous students from the Federal University at Recôncavo Bahia (UFRB), along with Indigenous students from the Federal University at Bahia (UFBA)  and from the Bahia State University (Uneb), in partnership with the University of Sussex in England. It is part of the Mapping Indigenous Rights Abuses in Northeast Brazil project.  The main objective is to discover how the pandemic has affected the Indigenous populations of Ceará, focusing on the prevention measures adopted by the villages, the number of cases and the main impacts on the communities.    

  1. What is your name?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Who are your people? In which municipality do you live?
  4. Were there any cases of Covid-19 in your village?
  5. What safety protocols did the village adopt?
  6. How was it for you, an Indigenous person, to live through this very difficult moment?
  7. Were you affected in any way? If so, what were the main impacts?
  8. Did you lose a relative or someone you know to Covid-19?

Heraldo Alves, leader of the Jenipapo-Kanindé people, coordinator of community tourism and the Museu Indígena [Indigenous Museum]

My name is Heraldo Alves, I am known as Preá. I am from the Jenipapo-Kanindé Indigenous people, in the municipality of  Aquiraz, Ceará state. We, the Jenipapo-Kanindé, have had two Covid-19 cases.  We had the case of an Indigenous woman, but the virus was not contracted here; she lives on the front line, works in Caucaia. The other case was a non-Indigenous person married to an Indigenous one, who also lives on the front line.

We were concerned about this new corona virus pandemic. The moment it began, we locked up the village and followed safety guidelines. The pandemic has greatly disrupted our spiritual work.  We can’t do the toré because of the number of people who gather. So, we practiced our spirituality alone, receiving strength from the enchanted ones. I, Preá, was very affected. I work with community tourism and at the Indigenous Museum, and we had great losses, with visitor packages cancelled. So, we were very affected, because this situation took a lot out of our income, and we had no craft sales.  Thank God, this was the only way we were affected, we didn’t lose relatives here.  (Heraldo Alves, September 17, 2020)

Carline Alves, leader of the Jenipapo-Kanindé people, secretary of the Jenipapo-Kanindé Indigenous School

I am Carline Alves, I am 33 years old, and a Jenipapo-Kanindé Indigenous person, from the municipality of Aquiraz (Ceará state).  Here in the village, there were two cases of Covid-19. When the pandemic began, we closed off all entrances, to avoid contact between outsiders and our community.  The people of our community stayed protected in their homes, as WHO (the World Health Organization) requested, and, if they had to go out, they used PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), masks and alcohol gel – only in cases in which they really needed to leave home.

This moment has been very difficult, because we had a life and, when the pandemic came, everything changed.  We had to adapt ourselves to many things and stay locked in our homes.  For us Indigenous people, this isn’t how we live.  It’s as if we were a little bird locked in a cage.

We are returning to our activities, but with reticence and fear. We suffered many impacts; one of which was community tourism on ecological trails.  These families who survived off of community tourism lost their income.  Since we couldn’t receive visitors any more, there was no income for these families.

As a pregnant woman, I was very scared.  I went out only to take prenatal exams and ultrasounds. But it was like, if we put our foot in the street, the virus would be waiting there to get us. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, we would walk down the street and not see anyone, everything was closed.  It was as if the world had really stopped; something we had never experienced before.  I am still very afraid, even more so for being in a risk group.  The resumption has been very difficult.  Seeing everyone in a mask is scary; it seems as if we’re living in another world.  Before the pandemic, when we’d see someone with a mask on, it was because they had a serious problem; not today, everyone has to use a mask.

Education has also been very difficult, because since March students are having remote classes only.  For many families and students it’s very difficult, since not everyone is able to have a cell phone to receive the video classes and follow the activities intended for that class, because you can’t have direct contact.  Indigenous communities still won’t allow a return to the classroom, because it’s risky.  In a classroom, students touch each other, they’ll want to take off their masks and, if by chance one of them is infected, he’ll contaminate everyone.  And not all schools have the organization needed to receive the students as they return to these activities. (Carline Alves, September 17, 2020).

Iuri Alves Gomes

Iuri Alves Gomes, nascido em 19 de outubro de 1998, é indígena do povo Jenipapo-Kanindé, da aldeia Lagoa Encantada, localizada em Aquiraz (Ceará). É graduando no bacharelado em Biologia na Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB), estagiário no Laboratório de Ecologia Vegetal e Restauração Ecológica (Levre/UFRB), membro do Grupo de Pesquisa Restauração Ecológica, Conservação e Conectividade da Universidade Federal do Vale do São Francisco (Reconecta/Univasf), integrante do Coletivo de Estudantes Indígenas na UFRB e bolsista do Projeto Mapeamento das Violações aos Direitos Indígenas no Nordeste do Brasil. Atua como monitor do Museu Indígena Jenipapo-Kanindé e guia das Trilhas Ecológicas da Etnia Jenipapo-Kanindé.