Eye on the Amazon: The Official Blog of Amazon Watch

Profiles: Sônia Guajajara, A Powerful Voice for Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples

March 10, 2014

Sônia Guajajara

Meet Sônia Bone Guajajara, the national coordinator of Brazil's Association of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) and tireless spokeswoman for the country's indigenous movement. She hails from a Guajajara village in the state of Maranhão and was vice-coordinator of the Brazilian Amazon's indigenous network COIAB for four years prior to assuming her national leadership position in Brasilia.

Today Sônia regularly confronts her adversaries from Brazil's ruralista agribusiness bloc face-to-face, steadfastly pushing back against their manifold attacks on indigenous rights. This week she brings this struggle to a growing European public, where she'll be speaking at the United Nations in Geneva and leading a series of public events in Paris. Amazon Watch is proud to accompany Sônia's courageous efforts in Europe and will be bringing you live updates and stories from her delegation activities there.

Sônia's trip to Europe comes at a critical moment as a spate of Brazil's political and economic interests – including the Dilma Rousseff government – attempt to dismantle the fundamental indigenous right to be consulted about development decisions that concern native lands and livelihoods. In particular, the Brazilian government's rush to dam Amazon rivers brutally disregards the right to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of affected and threated indigenous communities.

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Amazonas: Guardians of Life

March 8, 2014 | Caroline Bennett, special thanks Felipe Jácome

© Felipe Jacome

"My name is Hueiya. I live in the Waorani community called Ñoneno. I fight for my community, so that in the future our children don't suffer and can live in peace breathing clean air. I fight so my children don't have to suffer, so that their land continues to be fertile and free of pollution, so that our rivers continue to be clean so they can drink clean water. I fight for all children who are yet to be born in this earth."

Meet Alicia Cahuilla – given name Hueiya – a courageous Waorani warrior from the Ñoneno community deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Alicia's Waorani family has lived on the edge of Ecuador's Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse remaining wild places on the planet, for thousands of years. Like much of the Ecuadorian Amazon, until the 1960's this ancestral territory was a pristine expanse of life-giving trees and clean flowing streams. Today Ñoneno is wedged between two bustling oil fields, Cononaco and Armadillo, where the Ecuadorian government is pushing to expand oil production into the heart of Yasuní. Alicia, who is also the vice president of the Waorani Indigenous Federation, does not agree and has voiced concerns to her community, federation, the Ecuadorian government and the world.

"We are struggling for Yasuní because it is our home. President Correa wouldn't like it if oil companies went to his home and tore it down like they come and cut trees and build roads in our rainforest homes," she told a crowd of women at an international Rights of Nature conference that included Yasuní ambassador Vandana Shiva.

Experts continue to state that in order to avoid the worst of impending climate change impacts, most of the planet's remaining fossil fuel resources should remain under ground. Ecuador's Yasuni-ITT initiative, launched in 2007, would have been an inventive plan to keep oil exploration out of the country's most pristine rainforest and to protect Alicia's homeland, the Waorani and the many other indigenous peoples living there. Ecuador abandoned the plan last year, and the global attempt to save the region now rests largely on the shoulders of the indigenous peoples and their NGO allies who have pledged to fight to keep oil companies out.

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In Pictures: "Klamazon" Brings Unity and Hope

A recent delegation led by Amazon Watch unites indigenous youth from the Klamath and Xingu rivers

March 6, 2014 | Maíra Irigaray

Notes from the Field, Brazil Program Coordinator Maíra Irigaray:

My journey over the past four years in this fight against the Belo Monte dam has been intense, but accompanying the Klamath delegation to the Xingu brought hope not only to the local populations of the Xingu, but also to myself!

We arrived in the city of Altamira with one main goal: to connect and inspire. We did not know by then that the self-proclaimed "Klamazon delegation" would leave such big tracks. We met with local students, traveled to the Xikrin-Kayapó village Poti Krô, participated in a press conference and meetings with community representatives, and flew over the Xingu River eyeing destruction caused by the Belo Monte dam from above. It's tough to describe such moments as a simple list of activities when they felt like so much more!

Anna Rose, a young leader of the Hoopa tribe, brought tears to many eyes when describing the pain and history of her people. "We have followed this battle for Belo Monte for a few years and we feel in our hearts this pain and suffering," she said. "We do not want to see the people from Xingu go through what we went through. We do not want history to repeat itself."

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"Rivers like the Klamath and the Xingu are the bloodlines of every human on the planet."

Indigenous youth unite for rivers

February 23, 2014 | Team Klamazon

Brasilia, Brazil – After an amazing journey deep into the Amazon we arrived safely in Brasilia with a hopeful feeling of urgency in the struggle to preserve the Amazon and its people. For our group – comprised mostly of indigenous North American youth – meeting our indigenous brothers and sisters, experiencing the Amazon's unique environment, and witnessing the destruction being caused by the Belo Monte Dam project is powerfully motivating,

We are people who call the Klamath River home. The Yurok, Hoopa, Karuk, and Klamath tribes are the protectors of the Klamath River landscape. The campaign to remove the dams on the Klamath has been a long fight, won through science, protest and defending the inherent rights of indigenous communities. All of us have prioritized protecting the Klamath River in our lives and many of us have been in the struggle since we were little kids. Seeing the Amazon Basin facing these threats has focused us on the fight to save the world's ecosystems and indigenous cultures. Through this experience, we have all become even more committed to the cause and will be warriors for life!

16-year-old Yurok tribal member Mahlija Florendo stated today, "Rivers like the Klamath, the Xingu, and the Amazon are the bloodlines of every human on the planet. They are our life-givers and they all run with the same blood through all of us. We need to realize that we are all human and we all need to stand up for our rights, for our rivers, and our mother earth. These people from the Xingu are family and all our blood runs red."

The similarities between the genocide and oppression of indigenous cultures happening now in the Amazon and continuing in the U.S. are frightening. Power, mining and logging companies are wreaking havoc on the Amazon, and their resource extraction operations are disrupting the ecological balance of one of the richest biological hotspots on the planet. They are displacing the lives of people, who have been stewards of their lands since time immemorial , protecting and enhancing their environment.

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Chevron: "Let Them Eat Pizza!"

February 19, 2014 | Paul Paz y Miño

Let them eat pizza!

Don't let Chevron turn defending the environment and human rights into a crime!

Tell the U.S. Senate's top corporate watchdogs to investigate Chevron's attacks against the very people it poisoned and their allies.

TAKE ACTION

Would people really offer a coupon for a free pizza and soda to families who just had a gas well blow up in their community, killing a worker and burning for days? People did.

In a move that would make Montgomery Burns proud, Chevron "apologized" to the community for the massive explosion of their fracking well in rural Pennsylvania by offering each affected family a coupon for free pizza from a local pizza joint.

This is one of those rare glimpses into a corporation's ethos, or lack thereof. Somewhere inside Chevron the decision was made that a $12 large pizza and a two-liter soda was proper compensation, or at least sufficient to pacify people for the "inconvenience" of having a huge explosion and toxic fire in their neighborhood. We called Bobtown Pizza this morning (with a story like this, you really gotta hear it for yourself to believe it) and at this point they are just wishing this whole thing would "blow over" (no pun intended).

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