Cimi North Regional I
Doroti died on December 3, victim of a stroke. Her funeral on Sunday the 5th in the town of Presidente Figueiredo, was accompanied by family, friends and the local community.
From Blumenau in the state of Santa Catarina, she left home, in the 1970s, to be an OPAN volunteer (Operation Anchieta, today Operation Native Amazon) and member of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI). Her embrace of the indigenous cause and the Amazon was intense, passionate and radical. She was initially called to conduct a survey of the indigenous people in Western Amazonia, Acre and Southern Amazonas. It was the first step for the indigenous people of this region, then known as mestizos, to begin to organize themselves to sever the relations of exploitation in the rubber plantations and the struggle for the demarcation of their lands. To provide support for the work of supporting the indigenous struggle of the region, she helped to create the CIMI regional office of the Western Amazon, and was then chosen to be the coordinator.
Some facts illustrate Doroti’s determination in what she was proposing to do. Arriving in Labrea, a small town situated on the Purus river in Amazonas, in 1977, she appeared in the Prelature to inform the local church about a survey that she intended to carry out in that region. Frei Jesus, now bishop of Labrea, realizing that she was going to walk alone down the rivers and byways, tried in every way to dissuade her from the idea, warning of the dangers of the forest. Realizing that she would not desist, the only alternative that remained was to hurriedly pack his bag and accompany her.
I had the opportunity to live in the team with Doroti and Marta (an Italian volunteer) in 1978, shortly after I arrived in the Amazon. The team served with the Jarawara, Paumari and Jamamadi people. The support house, built on stilts like the other houses to remain above the seasonal flooding of the Purus river, was located in the rubber center known as Estação, a day trip from Labrea. Living in daily contact called attention to the consistency of Doroti to the cause of the poor and indigenous people whom she embraced and her concern for the people around her. She provoked constant assessments by the team so that everyone lived as closely as possible to the same conditions as the indigenous peoples and rubber tappers. When we walked [among the beached fishing boats]in the varadouros, she walked a little slower, proposing to be last, so as not to hasten the pace to reach us and thus would not affect the rhythm of walking.
In 1979 Doroti married Egydio Schwade, then Executive Secretary of CIMI. Subsequently the couple settled in Itacoatiara, AM, the Prelature of Don Jorge Maskell, with the objective of working together with the Waimiri-Atroari people, and in 1984 moved to Presidente Figueiredo, AM. While seeking to create conditions for a more permanent presence in the indigenous communities, they participated in the construction of the Ecclesial Base Communities (CEBs) and were tirelessly devoted to combating the major economic development projects that were decreeing the death of the Waimiri Atroari people. In addition to construction of federal highway BR-174, which from 1968 to 1973 was massacring the Waimiri people (estimated from Funai population data of this period, approximately 2,000 indigenous people were killed), the construction of the Balbina hydroelectric dam and Taboca Mining of the Paranapanema Group directly impacted lands of this people directly who were reduced to fewer than 350 people.
When they could, with the end of the military dictatorship in 1985, they began to speak openly with indigenous communities, Doroti and Egydio were immediately challenged by the Waimiri Atroari to initiate a literacy process. Not speaking the Waimiri Atroari language, they made the "school" a place of mutual learning and where literacy could include the indigenous language. The school, conceived as a space of freedom, using drawing as a teaching resource, gradually casting light on the recent history of violence against the Waimiri Atroari people. Drawings showing planes flying over the villages and indigenous dead on the ground during the construction of the BR-174 presented a history that inconvenienced many people. Nor was there interest in [their conveying] indigenous reports about mining on their lands. Thus, in 1986 the couple was expelled from the indigenous area by the FUNAI, whose policy was still strongly influenced by remnants of the military dictatorship.
Diversity and abundance
Prevented from returning to the Indigenous land, they had more time to spread this new idea that came from their Christian convictions of faith, their political activism and of learning from the indigenous people - caring for the earth and the creatures to be happy - without exploitation, accumulation and domination. And the best way they found to spread this idea was to show that it was not just a dream, but that it could be achieved. The children Ajuri, Adu, Maiá, Maiká and Luiz were raised living this experience.
The many testimonies given by people from the local community and friends during the celebrations preceding her funeral highlighted how they felt welcomed by Dorothy, as much upon arriving at her home as in departure. That her home had been transformed into a reference site, where people always met from distant places in search of new paths.
Doroti, though coming from the city, but with the conviction shared by all her family that the "living well" arose from diversity and abundance of foods, she devoted herself to restoration of the soil, planting and care for plants. In this way, her house might be transformed into a place of encounter, acceptance, fellowship, of abundance, joy, celebration and a true school of life.
That the radicalism of Doroti, in her choice for life, can inspire and encourage us all in the struggle for justice and in the care of the earth.