First, they lost the river, their source of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing, and of fish, which formed the cornerstone of their diet. Then, they lost their land, where they planted crops and followed their traditional customs. And now, they run the risk of losing their lives from Covid-19. This is the story of the Pataxó-hã-hã-hães indigenous community, ran out of their homes after the collapse of the Córrego do Feijão tailings dam in January 2019, in the town of Brumadinho, Minas Gerais.
Before the tragedy, which resulted in the death of almost 300 people, the destruction of entire communities, and the contamination of several sources of freshwater, 18 families lived in the Pataxó-hã-hã-hã-hãe Naô Xohã village, in São Joaquim de Bicas, a small municipality in the Paraopeba River valley. Most had only lived there for two years, after leaving their homeland in southern Bahia due to lack of water. Naô Xohã means “warrior spirit” in Patxohã, the traditional language still spoken by some members of the indigenous community.