Ailton Krenak
Ailton Krenak © Guito Moreto Agencia O Globo
Public debate

Ailton Krenak

The human population and its artificial world are panicking, the way they work is in a state of crisis.

Leader of the combat defending the Brazilian indigenous peoples, Ailton Krenak, whose name is that of his ethnic group, has been subjected to exile. As a philosopher and writer, his work and undertaking reflect the combat for recognition of these populations and their “rights to the Earth”.

Published on 23/03/2021

2 min

Ailton Krenak was born in 1953 on the banks of Rio Doce in the State of Minas Gerais. When he was 9 years old he was separated from his people by force, obliged to leave his lands that had been requisitioned by the Authorities. He was educated in traditional Brazilian society, becoming a journalist, and witnessed other natives suffer the same way. His reflection and combat were born of his experiences. He founded several organisations defending indigenous rights, and had natives’ territorial rights recognised in the 1988 Constitution. From 2003 to 2010, he was special aid for indigenous affairs to the governor of Minas Gerais. In 2015, he received the Order of Cultural Merit, and the following year, an honorary doctorate from the Juiz de Fora Federal University, where he lectures on indigenous cultures. As a writer, in 2020 he has published Tomorrow is not for sale and Ideas to postpone the end of the world.

Journalist, philosopher, writer, lecturer, socio-ecologist militant and political leader: these are all the fronts on which Ailton Krenak has been acting since the 1970s, with the same common thread, that of recognising the Culture and Lands of indigenous people. An ideological, political and ecological combat that, beyond the indigenous question, ponders Humanity and the crisis of civilisations through the eyes of an anthropologist.

With the appearance of the Covid-19 pandemic, in 2020 Ailton Krenak published Tomorrow is not for sale where he talks about “the anxiety-driven mentality that dominates in the world”, that of considering life non-sustainably by extinguishing other living species to survive. He deems it necessary to abandon anthropocentrism and accept that humans – who revolve in an existence that is disconnected from the Earth and nature – are not lacking in biodiversity. In Ideas to postpone the end of the world (2020), he takes on the discussion about the Anthropocene: with the new environmental crisis which is also a civilisation crisis for industrial societies, he considers that indigenous people, who are used to material and cultural survival, are probably better prepared than Western societies.

What Ailton Krenak has done for his Krenak people, he has also done for other native people, organising the Forest Peoples’ Alliance (which brings together the indigenous communities of Amazonia), taking part in creating the Union of Indigenous Nations (UNI), proposing to the UNESCO to create the Serra Do Espinhaço Biosphere Reserve in 2005. At the time when the West – and not only – is concerned about the harm industrial society is doing to the Earth and the need to turn towards a more sustainable world, his words have universal reach. They express ideas he shared last January during the 2021 Nuit des Idées (Night of Ideas). 

  • 1953


    Ailton Krenak was born in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

  • 1962


    Under duress from the Brazilian Authorities, Ailton Krenak had to flee his native land with his family.

  • 1988


    The militant for the native cause contributed to having the territorial rights of Indians recorded in the new Brazilian Constitution.

  • 2015


    Ailton Krenak was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit in Brazil.

  • 2020


    Publication of his works Life is not useful, Tomorrow is not for sale, Ideas to postpone the end of the world.

The Institut français and Ailton Krenak

Ailton Krenak participated in the Night of Ideas 2021, as part of the live stream 24h of Night and Ideas.

An annual meeting devoted to the free movement of ideas and knowledge, the Night of Ideas is coordinated by the Institut français.

Find out more about the Night of Ideas


L'institut français, LAB