Eye on the Amazon

A United Cry Against Dams in the Amazon

Notes from the Amazon Watch Brazil field team, currently in Altamira.
Follow their journey directly here.

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Yesterday Brazil and the world witnessed a historic moment of unity and struggle for the Amazon and its people. Some 200 indigenous peoples, riverine communities and fishermen joined at the Pimental construction site of the Belo Monte dam where they continue to occupy the area. They did not come to hold discussions with the construction consortium; they want their agenda to be heard by the Brazilian Federal Government.

The group's demands are straightforward: To clearly define the regulation of prior and informed consultation of indigenous peoples and to immediately suspend all work and studies related to dams on the rivers where they live.

Among the warrior communities present are the Munduruku people of the Tapajós River basin. According to their General Chief Saw, the government seeks to build these dams as if there were no genuine life in these places.

"In fact, even in the desert there is life and even these places need to be respected," he said. "The 'white' people come to us and say, 'Indigenous already have too much land, that we are lazy, and that we are not productive.' We understand that nature is not there for anyone to use to accumulate great wealth. We learned from our ancestors that nature has to be respected, that a tree is useful for us, that the river is important, that the animals, and even the small insects are essential parts of life. We depend on nature for everything. The entire forest gives us life, gives us food. Therefore we say that Nature is our mother.'

"The fact is that there is only one earth and that nature provides everything. It transforms the indigenous' universe and this often isn't understood by 'white' people. But this is the indigenous reality and that is why our peoples are uniting in order to put an end to the damage caused by the Federal Government.

"Our world was big. We have already lost enough lands. Now, it's enough!"

The Munduruku traveled some 900 kilometers to fight in solidarity with the Xingu people. Their strength is held in the belief that the fight should never be faced alone. But Saw stated that they are not there to instigate war, they are there in a peaceful manner until they are guaranteed their rights given to them by the constitution.

"We come asking for peace, respect, and the upholding of the laws under the Constitution," said Saw.

The Brazilian government has repeatedly disrespected and assaulted traditional populations and has conducted studies on their lands without hearing them, often accompanied by troops, chariots of war and ammunition.

Civil society organizations expressed solidarity with the occupiers despite strong pressure and retaliation they have experienced through years of struggle against the Belo Monte dam.

It has been a long journey for the Amazonian peoples fighting for respect and justice, but the saga does not end here. Yesterday the struggle of the people took a new color and a new direction: Demands were unified, calling on respect of the Brazilian constitution, of international treaties and for Justice Now!


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