We know indigenous peoples are important stewards of the environment. But specifically how do they protect their territory? With Amazon Watch's Andrew Miller as your guide, travel into the northern Peruvian rainforest and meet the Achuar people who have successfully organized to stop oil exploration and extraction on their lands. Review the drivers of deforestation like illegal logging, gold mining, dam construction, trans-Amazon highways, and oil palm plantations, all of which are also grave threats to indigenous rights. Hear about other indigenous struggles for territorial defense, specifically the Kichwa of Sarayaku (Ecuador) and the Kayapó of Brazil. Learn about an innovative approach devised by Peru's main indigenous federation AIDESEP for "Indigenous REDD+" or holistic territorial management, which just received commitments of almost $20 million from the World Bank's Forest Investment Program.
Meet the Xikrín, a subgroup of the Kayapó, the westernmost group of the Northern Gê. The Kayapó – who call themselves "Mebengnôkre" meaning "people of the big water" – are divided into 15 autonomous groups, each with its own name and distinct cultural characteristics. Collectively, Kayapó communities have been fighting the encroaching Belo Monte dam project which threatens their territories and very survival for decades.
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I met Mukuka Xikrin for the first time in February of 2012. He was 23 years old and a student at that time, knowledgeable and quiet with the inside strength of a leader hidden behind his humble look. He took me to seven Xikrin communities on the Bacajá River, a tributary of the Xingu, including his own village Poti-Krô. At that time Mukuka knew what Belo Monte meant for his community but didn't realize what it would mean for his own future and growing leadership role.
Our third partner profile is someone you will recognize as Amazon Watch was proud to have Mayalu Txucarramãe as our guest of honor at our 2013 annual Luncheon. Daughter of Kayapó Chief Megaron and grand niece of legendary Chief Raoni, Mayalú comes from a long line of Xingu warriors whose unwavering strength and skills led to the demarcation of the Xingu Indigenous Park. She was born a warrior – fierce and determined to defend the rights of her people. "Resistance is in my blood!" she proclaims. Mayalu continues the fight against the devastating Belo Monte Dam complex – we stand with her.
Fearless, strong, and a mother of two, Mayalu's motivation springs from her ancestral roots and the dream that her children and grandchildren will inhabit a healthy Amazon, with its rivers and forests preserved and thriving for future generations.
This week members of Brazil's indigenous peoples renewed their unwavering objection to a series of proposed laws and constitutional amendments that aim to erode their land rights. After their historic mobilization in October, indigenous leadership learned of new and high-level attempts to undermine land demarcation norms, prompting hundreds of indigenous representatives from across Brazil to march on the presidential palace this Wednesday. In a protest marked by anger and indignation, indigenous marchers stood resolutely against the actions of an increasingly unsympathetic Dilma Rousseff government, affirming that they will not allow their rights to be legislated away.
Belo Monte has not killed the resistance. Its cement has not blinded all people’s eyes, nor has its money bought all consciences. Its repression has not deadened courage or silenced mouths; its lies have not deafened all ears.
On April 12th, something incredibly inspiring happened in Ecuador. Yasunidos, a civil society collective of environmentalists, artists, activists, and indigenous leaders, delivered nearly 800,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on oil drilling in Yasuní National Park.