The sound of singing and maracas echoes from all sides of the camp as groups of women from all corners of Brazil approach the main tent, where they will gather for the Third March of Indigenous Women. It is 8 a.m. and the already extremely hot sun in Brasília, the country’s capital, highlights the colors of uncountable different traditional costumes.

The march is part of a three-day event marked by celebrations and denunciations. More than 5,000 Indigenous women from all 26 states in Brazil marched 4 km (2.5 miles) toward the National Congress to demand territorial rights and the end of gender-based violence.

This year’s guiding theme, “Women Biomes in Defense of Biodiversity Through Ancestral Roots,” emphasized the presence of Indigenous women in the six biomes of Brazil, which include rainforests, savannas, and semi-deserts. It also highlighted the crucial role these women play in preserving all of them. For Indigenous women, there is no separation between their territories and their own bodies. Their dependence on the land for both physical and cultural survival makes them the guardians of the nature that surrounds them.

“Indigenous women were the first target of attack since the invasion of Brazil. Our bodies, like Mother Earth, were seen by the Portuguese invader as an object to be subjugated, hunted, violated,” says Ávelin Kambiwá, of the Kambiwá people, specialist in public policies on gender and race. “With the Indigenous women’s movement, we make the leap from body-object to body-territory, and place ourselves on the front line of the fight to defend our rights.”

This year, the march took place under the most contradictory political context Indigenous people have seen in decades.

On the one hand, it was marked by relevant achievements. The current Congress has the largest Indigenous presence in the history of Brazil; the first-ever Ministry of Indigenous Peoples was created in January; and the demarcation of Indigenous territories, which had been abolished by the previous government, was resumed in April with eight new demarcations so far.

For Indigenous people, their territory is more than just a piece of land. It is part of their culture and history, and it is key to their survival. Once the area they occupy is demarcated, it is legally protected from invasions and from the abusive exploitation of outsiders. In short, demarcating land is the first step toward guaranteeing all other physical and cultural rights of Indigenous peoples.

On the other hand, even in progressive democratic governments, it is a struggle to bring issues concerning minority groups out of the shadows.

Read the full article about Indigenous women marching by Amanda Magnani at YES! Magazine.