An endangered indigenous community has reiterated their willingness to die while defending the Brazilian Amazon rainforest against mining operations.
Several new reports indicate that the Waiãpi tribe of the Brazilian Amazon remains committed to opposing future mining projects on or around their land. The Waiãpi’s reserve is in the rainforest near the eastern end of the Amazon river in a conservation area called Renca.
The Waiãpi have been under threat of extinction since the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs department first made contact in 1973. The government first reported that the tribe was made up of only 150 people. More recently the tribe has over 1,200 people.
When the Brazilian government first made contact they were attempting to build a massive highway which would destroy the Waiãpi tribe’s land. The Waiãpi resisted and have had an uneasy relationship with the Brazilian government and mining companies ever since. Survival International reports the Waiãpi tribe are now promoting an open letter in which they declare their opposition to mining. “We’re against mining because we want to defend our land and forest,” the letter reads. “We believe the land is a person.”
The Waiãpi tribe wrote the letter in response to recent actions by Brazilian President Michel Temer. Fiona Watson, campaign director for tribal peoples’ rights organisation Survival, told The Independent the Waiapi’s constitutional rights are under attack.
“These attempts are spearheaded by President Temer himself, as he cuts deals with a large bloc in Congress which is dominated by the powerful agribusiness sector,” Watson told The Independent. “These are powerful landowners and business people determined to take over indigenous lands and steal tribal peoples’ resources.”
The opposition to the mining projects come from the Waiãpi’s concern about potential poisoning of water and soil, as well as the influx of outsiders which bring potential for conflict and disease. The Waiãpi’s way of life is under threat by future mining projects and the potential environmental destruction. Not only do they rely on the forest and water for food and spiritual practices, but their culture and customs are under threat. Survival International reports that in 2008 UNESCO recognized the Waiãpi’s graphic art, known as kusiwa, as the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”
Agence France Presse (AFP) news visited some of the tribes people and described their day to day life:
To this day, they exist much as their ancestors did before Europeans arrived in South America five centuries ago, living in harmony with the planet’s biggest rainforest. But the outside world is getting ever closer.
At first glance, life in Manilha and dozens of other tiny settlements of thatched, open-sided houses appears to be from another age.
Men hunt and fish, bare-breasted women harvest cassava and tend the fires, and all, from young children up, smear themselves in the natural dyes that the Waiapi believe protect both body and soul.
AFP talked with Jawaruwa Waiapi, a tribe member who travels into Pedra Branca – the closest town about two hours away – every week and then comes back to the tribe in the forest. “You have to follow the rules of the city. Here you need money to live, you need to pay for everything,” he says. “Back in the village you don’t pay for anything: water is free, the firewood is free.”
Jawaruwa Waiapi is 31 years old and the first indigenous Waiãpi to be elected to city council member in the city. He says he ran for office because there was no one representing his indigenous family. Although he is fighting for the Waiãpi as a council member, other Waiãpi, including Tapayona Waiapi stress that their people will fight to the death if necessary.
“When the companies come we’ll keep resisting,” he told the Agence France Presse. “If the Brazilian government sends soldiers to kill people, we’ll keep resisting until the last of us is dead.”
This is not the first example of indigenous people willing to die to defend the land. In 2016, Activist Post reported on indigenous communities in Ecuador proclaiming the same commitment. In 2016, the Mundruku people, also of Brazil, were successful in their resistance to hydroelectric plants and dams. As indicated by recent studies, indigenous communities are at greater risk for violence, loss of land, and violation of rights.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter for ActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of three books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 1 and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion, Vol. 2
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com
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