Protecting the Amazon, Side by Side With the Munduruku

by Danicley de Aguiar

June 16, 2016

The Munduruku have bravely resisted the Brazilian government’s plans to build dams on the Tapajós River for years — most recently the São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam. And I am glad to stand with them now to keep the Tapajós River free.

© Rogério Assis / Greenpeace

This morning, I woke up in the Sawré Muybu village with a strong sense of anticipation. Today, we start a series of collaborations with the Munduruku Indigenous People to defend their ancestral territories and protect the heart of the Amazon — the Tapajós River basin.

From the structure that we set up in the forest at the village of the Munduruku, I can see the coming day framed by the traditional roof. I can hear the nearby river and the wind shaking the leaves of the trees.

Blue-fronted amazon (Amazona aestiva) inside the house of Juarez Saw Munduruku, Cacique (chief) of village Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, home to the Munduruku people, Pará state, Brazil. Brazilian Government plans to build 43 dams in the Tapajós river basin. The largest planned dam, São Luiz do Tapajós, will impact the life of indigenous peoples and riverside communities. Mega-dams like these threaten the fragile biome of the Amazon, where rivers are fundamental to regeneration and distribution of plant species and the survival of local flora. Renewable energy, such as solar and wind, holds the key to Brazil’s energy future. Papagaio verdadeiro (Amazona aestiva) na casa de Juarez Saw Munduruku, cacique da aldeia Sawré Muybu, do povo Munduruku, no Pará. O governo brasileiro planeja construir 43 hidrelétricas na bacia do Tapajós. A maior delas, São Luiz do Tapajós, terá impacto sobre a vida dos povos indígenas e comunidades ribeirinhas. Barragens como essas ameaçam o frágil bioma da Amazônia, onde os rios são fundamentais para a regeneração e distribuição de espécies vegetais e a sobrevivência da flora local. Energias renováveis, como solar e eólica, detêm a chave para o futuro energético do Brasil. Itaituba, Pará. 21/02/2016. Foto: Valdemir Cunha/Greenpeace.

A blue-fronted amazon (Amazona aestiva) inside the house of Juarez Saw Munduruku, Cacique (chief) of village Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with the Munduruku to prepare for the arrival of activists, Indigenous leaders, and community members to draw the world’s attention to the Tapajós River and the people who live there. The Munduruku have bravely resisted the Brazilian government’s plans to build dams on the Tapajós River for years — most recently the São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam.

And I am glad to stand with them now to keep the Tapajós River free.

Today, the Munduruku publicly identify their territory to demonstrate to Brazilian society and the international community the risk the dam poses to the Amazon forest and their way of life.

Working with Greenpeace activists, they are undertaking a community led, unofficial demarcation of their traditional land — which means putting 50 big signs around the perimeter of their territory. The signs look similar to the official signs the Brazilian government would use if they were doing what their very own departments recommend: recognizing this area as Munduruku traditional land.

Map of Tapajós River Basin in Brazil.

The Tapajós River Basin in Brazil. Map by Greenpeace.

The demarcation is another step in the global effort to stop the construction of the São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam. If built, the mega-dam would flood nearly 400 square kilometers of forest, including important cultural and traditional sites of the Munduruku people and other traditional populations in the area.

Currently, the licensing process for the dam has been suspended due to Indigenous land claims, but the Tapajós won’t be safe until the dam is cancelled for good.

Munduruku in the Tapajós river, next to Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, home to the Munduruku people, Pará state, Brazil. Brazilian Government plans to build 43 dams in the Tapajós river basin. The largest planned dam, São Luiz do Tapajós, will impact the life of indigenous peoples and riverside communities. Mega-dams like these threaten the fragile biome of the Amazon, where rivers are fundamental to regeneration and distribution of plant species and the survival of local flora. Renewable energy, such as solar and wind, holds the key to Brazil’s energy future. Mundurku no Rio Tapajós, na região da Terra Indígena Sawré Muybu, do povo Munduruku, no Pará. O governo brasileiro planeja construir 43 hidrelétricas na bacia do Tapajós. A maior delas, São Luiz do Tapajós, terá impacto sobre a vida dos povos indígenas e comunidades ribeirinhas. Barragens como essas ameaçam o frágil bioma da Amazônia, onde os rios são fundamentais para a regeneração e distribuição de espécies vegetais e a sobrevivência da flora local. Energias renováveis, como solar e eólica, detêm a chave para o futuro energético do Brasil. Itaituba, Pará. 22/02/2016. Foto: Valdemir Cunha/Greenpeace

So today, we will walk around the perimeter of the Munduruku territory or go by boat along the Tapajos river, spreading signs that show another way is possible. Together, we will seek the support of all those who believe in a more just world — one where the Amazon and its Indigenous Peoples have their rights respected and placed above commercial interests.

Please join us: stand with the Munduruku to protect the heart of the Amazon.

Danicley de Aguiar

By Danicley de Aguiar

Danicley de Aguiar is an Amazon forest campaigner for Greenpeace Brazil.

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