Kayapo Chiefs Raoni Metuktire and Megaron Txucarramãe arrived in England last Monday. They found themselves very quickly ushered into the high tech surroundings of the Channel 4 studio!
It has been twenty-five years since Chief Raoni was accompanied by rock star Sting on a world tour. Sadly, the threats and problems that existed then are still causing problems, and a giant dam – Belo Monte, which will be the world’s third largest – is being built on the Xingu River where he lives.
The Chiefs were here to ask for our help. The interview is moving. Paul Mason said on his blog “It’s one of the most amazing encounters I’ve ever had – and one that nobody in the world will be able to have again if we let development and resource speculation destroy what’s left of the world’s indigenous peoples.” – See more on Paul’s blog
Here is the interview with Paul Mason on Channel 4 News:
It was a great experience. It was very touching how, with the interview completed, all of Paul’s highly professional team just couldn’t wait to get selfies of themselves with the chiefs – and that included Paul Mason himself, who was clearly deeply moved by the meeting!
Photos related to the June 2014 visit are available from the Sue Cunningham Photographic picture library. The gallery below includes photos taken during the visit and historic photos of the two Chiefs, together with a selection of images which illustrate the issues they raised while in the UK.
The pictures are available for editorial use on a commercial license, but a limited selection may be made available free of charge on a limited license for use only in connection with this visit and stories related to it. Photos are not supplied Royalty Free and may not be distributed to third parties or used on the Internet, other than as stated above. Clicking on an image will take you to the Sue Cunningham Photographic site.
Bianca Jagger has written a thorough article in the Huffington Post, timed to coincide with both the coming visit of Chiefs Raoni Metuktire and Megaron Txucarramãe and the start of the World Cup. Well worth a read.
Chiefs Raoni Metuktire and Megaron Txucarramãe are coming to Europe. In the UK Tribes Alive has organised public meetings with University College, London (UCL) on Tuesday 10th June at 6:30pm, and with Oxford University on Wednesday 11th at 5pm.
Please join us for either of the meetings. For UCL please follow the link below to register. Attendance is free of charge but places are limited, so you need to register:
In Oxford, the venue will be the Blue Boar Lecture Theatre at Christ Church College. There is no need to register.
The Chiefs are here to highlight the failure of the Brazilian government to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples. Not a single indigenous territory (TIs) has been approved since April 2013 and only a handful were approved during the first two years of the Rousseff government, although over 33 percent have yet to be demarcated. In addition there are numerous proposals for changes to Brazil’s constitution and laws which would see indigenous rights drastically undermined.
The indigenous people of Brazil today feel marginalised and discriminated against. The government has ignored the timetable laid down in the 1988 Constitution which said that demarcation of all indigenous territories (TIs) must be completed by 5th October 1993.
More than twenty years after that deadline expired a third of all TIs are still not approved.
The present government has the poorest record on demarcation of any since Brazil’s return to democracy, having initially slowed approval of demarcations to a trickle, then paralysed the process completely.
Brazil’s performance on the rights of indigenous peoples has been roundly condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indiegenous Peoples and by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Over 500 indigenous people from 100 ethnic groups last week staged marches and demonstrations in Brasilia, in the run-up to the World Cup, using the event to highlight government failings and to protest against the proposed changes to the law.
During their visit to Europe, which has been organised by French NGO Planète Amazone, Chiefs Raoni and Megaron will be meeting representatives of the French and British governments, King Harald of Norway and Prince Albert of Monaco. In the UK they will have a personal audience with Prince Charles.
Two Kayapo Chiefs today issued an invitation to the England squad to visit their Amazonian village for a game of football.
In a letter to England Manager, Roy Hodgson, Chief Raoni Metuktire and Chief Megaron Txucarramãe have invited the squad to their rainforest territory “after playing Brazil in the final”.
“We are all huge football fans and we challenge England to play against the Kayapó ‘national team’,” wrote Chief Megaron.
“We live beside the Xingu River in the eastern part of the Amazonian rainforest. Our village is very traditional and we still live as our forefathers, so this would be a great opportunity for you to see how we live.”
The Chiefs are awaiting the Squad’s reply anxiously. Channel 4 News carried the invitation yesterday.
The programme of visits to schools by Sue and Patrick Cunningham continues to grow. They are now being invited back to some schools for the third time to present their illustrated talk, which is continuously updated to reflect the changing situation.
The talks are lively and generate sustained question and answer sessions, cramming a huge amount of information into a short time in an exciting and accessible format. Audiences value the personal connection to the rain forest which they get from the talks. You can follow on Facebook the growing list of schools, colleges and universities across Britain which they have visited.
Sue and Patrick would very much like to extend their visits to reach more schools, especially in the public sector. They work as volunteers for Tribes Alive, so they need to be paid for the talks. They are looking for sponsorship to fill the gap in resources which makes it difficult for public sector schools to take advantage of the talks.
British fashion chain Sahara has launched its ‘Xingu’ range. The six tops in the range make use of a traditional face paint design, created by Nghongo Kayapo using genipapo fruit dye. The clothes are the outcome of a co-operation between the company and Tribes Alive.
For every item from the range sold the company makes a donation to the community which will be used to strengthen their culture and protect their territory from invasion.
Here’s the Sahara range.
This collaboration is a great way to bring a little information about the tribal people of Brazil to an audience who might not come across them in their normal lives, while helping to bring much-needed resources to the community.
It is good news that the English AQA examination board is focusing on Belo Monte in the Geography 4B GCSE unit.
On this website we have a section specifically for schools (More Information>For Schools) which includes general information about the Amazon, highlighting the position of and threats to indigenous people. Under More Information>Threats there is original material about hydroelectric dams, focusing heavily on Belo Monte: Hydroelectric Dams. Don’t stop at the end of the section, there is relevant material under the next heading – Mineral Extraction – and there are some links related to Belo Monte at the bottom of the page.
Please let us know if you find this interesting. If there is more information you would like to know or if you have questions, either go on our Facebook page and post your enquiry there, or send us an email. You will be in direct contact with people who have long personal experience of the Xingu River and a profound understanding of the issues involved. You should of course also explore the views of other people who hold different views!
There is plenty of additional information on the Heart of Brazil Expedition blog. The following posts are relevant to your studies about Belo Monte:
The No Belo Monte Dam blog also has plenty of information about the scheme
Indigenous People’s Cultural Support Trust, the registered charity behind Tribes Alive, put out this press release at the time of the huge demonstration in Altamira in 2008. It includes useful historic, scientific, legal and social background, but remember that it was written four years ago!
Finally, you can see galleries of our photos from the Xingu in our photos page. Although you can’t download them from the galleries, if you have a specific request we will grant you a restricted license and send you a download link.
Belo Monte is a very complex issue, It can be covered in a quite superficial way, but if you mine the resources presented or linked to here you will gain a profound understanding. Good luck!
Today, the 30th November 2012, representatives of 141 Brazilian civil society organisations will deliver to Brazil’s Supreme Court judges a carefully reasoned letter pointing out the absurd legal inconsistencies which are allowing construction of Belo Monte to continue.
The letter details the loopholes which Norte Energia and the Brazilian government are exploiting to bulldoze through, both literally and metaphorically, the construction of Belo Monte despite the existence of 13 outstanding legal cases, most of which have resulted in injunctions to prevent the continuation of work. These injunctions have been set aside one by one by a single judge sitting in chambers using a draconian and undemocratic law passed by the generals of the military dictatorship era, fifty years ago.
The dam builders are betting on those cases not reaching the Supreme Court until the dam is a fait accompli. Their actions have no place in a modern democracy which claims to respect human rights and the rule of law. All the Brazilian organisations are asking is that the Supreme Court should adjudicate these cases; we don’t think that is too much to ask!
63 international organisations have endorsed the letter, including Tribes Alive.
Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre, the lead organisation, has established an on-line petition (in English), which is open to be signed by individuals from around the globe:
Xingu Vivo Petition
Not unexpectedly, but still disappointingly, the President of the Supreme Court, Carlos Ayres Britto, has suspended the injunction which halted work on the dam.
In a move which represents a total capitulation of the Supreme Court to the wishes of the Executive he refused to comment on the legal aspects, but nonetheless suspended the injunction until the case reaches a full Supreme Court hearing.
How is this a total capitulation? According to Norte Energia, the company building the dam, the government has already spent the major part of R$5 billion through the largely nationally-owned companies which form the core of Norte Energia, and it is incurring further costs daily. Immense damage has already been done in terms of the destruction of the physical, social, cultural and food security of the indigenous tribes affected. The environment suffers more with each day that work progresses. We are at, or very close to, the point where the damage done is irreversible, and the investment so huge that no judgement from any court could stop the Leviathan’s progress.
No date has been set for a hearing in the Supreme Court. The case is unlikely to reach the Court for months or even years, by which time the dam will be more or less built, the destruction will have already have been done, the indigenous cultures will have been wiped out, and therefore the case will be no more than academic.
Ayres Britto seems to be blind to the fact that the government has succeeded in bypassing the country’s constitution and huge swathes of its environmental and human rights legislation. Because of the enormity of the project, judging that a fait accompli was carried out illegally can do nothing to reverse the damage done. The Supreme Court will have no sanction available; at worst the government may receive a slap on the wrist, which it will simply shrug off on its march towards the next illegal mega-project on the next river.
It is sad to see Brazil’s young democracy suffer such degradation. Without a proper balance between the Three Powers – which are so iconically at the heart of Brasilia, where the Executive, the Judiciary and Congress all sit on the Square of the Three Powers – Brazil is reverting to a dictatorship, with a Judiciary cowed into submission by an all-powerful Executive, which in turn is endorsed by a supine and submissive Congress, influenced and financed by corporate interests.
We watched through the 1980s as Brazil left the years of dictatorship behind. We were in awe as the country swept into a new age of enlightenment, enacting progressive laws to protect the rights of its citizens, whether rich or poor, black or white, immigrant or indigenous. The adoption of the 1988 Constitution was a high point, and the hosting of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit was a triumph. Brazil was seen throughout the world as a bright star, a shining example of how a young democracy could vigorously defend what was good and humanitarian.
How sad to see such promise dashed. Mired in wave after wave of corruption at the highest level – ironically the Supreme Court cannot judge the Belo Monte case because it is embroiled in the Mensalão case, which is about corruption in the highest ranks of the government – Brazil’s burgeoning wealthy elite are following the worst example of their gurus in the developed world and enriching themselves with no thought for those who are paying the price for their riches.
The government is enthusiastically endorsing policies and legislation which has no other intention but to take away the safeguards built so painstakingly into the fabric of the modern Brazilian state. First, the courageous and far-reaching (if poorly enforeced) Forest Code was watered down, paving the way to rising deforestation and increased conflict over land tenure. Now there is a project to change the constitution (known as PEC 215) which will transfer responsibility for demarcation of indigenous territories from FUNAI to the National Congress, where each and every proposal will be bogged down for years unless it is simply dismissed at the outset. There is the crazy AGU 303 decree referred to in another article here. And there are the multiple mega projects planned for the Amazon which will result in no more nor less than cultural genocide.
President Dilma Rousseff appears disinterested in anything which might impede her developmentalist agenda for the Amazon. She seems to look upon anyone and anything which is not part of the rich, new world of Brazilian economics and business as a trifling impediment to be brushed aside, whether they be indigenous people, rural settlers, threatened species or ecosystems. She has her priorities and nothing and no-one may be permitted to stand in her way.