The first World Indigenous Games closed on Tuesday with a rather spectacular ceremony, and most declared it a success — but as with most things, the reality was a bit more complicated.
In previous games, only indigenous people from Brazil were allowed to participate. But this year the competition was open to the world, and 2,000 participants from 23 countries competed. Among the countries represented were were Finland, Bolivia, Canada, Russia and yes, the U.S.
Events? Blow gun (my favorite), tug of war, spear toss, archery, canoeing, soccer (yep) and running. It’s supposed to foster cultural exchange and understanding, but there’s a catch.
Many in Brazil protested the games, among them some indigenous people, claiming that the Brazilian government is being hypocritical. They say that Brazil isn’t doing enough to support its own people, and that the Games are just window dressing to fool people.
Antonio Apinaje, a leader of the Apinaje people, said the games were an effort to “pull the wool over our eyes,” and declined to take part.
Much of the criticism is due to a government proposal that would give the country’s legislative branch, which is influenced by agricultural lobbies, the power to define indigenous lands, many of which are home to valuable natural resources.
One thing that no one can deny: a blowgun competition is the coolest event ever. Also, this was one of the most colorful sporting events ever.
Let’s roll some awesome images from the Games, in Palmas, Brazil (Getty Images):