On 25 January 2019, a tailing dam at the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine suffered a catastrophic failure. When it broke a stream of toxic mud devastated villages and buries more than 300 people in no time.

Aldeia Naô Xohã, a small indigenous village from the Pataxó people near Brumadinho, the epicenter of a mining dam collapse, saw their community profoundly affected by the disaster. The members of the tribe were highly dependent and deeply connected to the Paraopeba River, the most important in the basin affected by the dam rupture.

For years, they had been using the river for rituals, to bath and wash their clothes. So, when the flood of toxic mud killed the river, the Pataxós not only lost their main source of food, but also large part of their tangible and intangible culture.

The water is, indeed, the most important element for the Pataxó people. According to their mythology Txopai was the first Pataxó to appear on Earth and was born from a raindrop. Today, the Pataxó are relocated to another territory, far from the river, where they struggle to adapt given many adverse situations and still face numerous problems including contamination of the water source and pressure from land grabbers and the communities around their village.

Chief Angoho and her husband Hayó are the leaders of the resistance in the Aldeia Katurãma community.

“The Crime Against Txopai” is a text and photo reportage and my most recent work for “Open Democracy” where I had the privilege to have access to the story of struggle and activism of part of the Pataxó people in Minas Gerais, Brazil.