On the 10th of June The Gaia Foundation was honoured to host Kayapo Chiefs Raoni Metuktire and Megaron Txucarramae as they passed through London on their European tour. The meeting brought together The Gaia Foundation, Tribes Alive, Planete Amazon (both instrumental in organising the tour) and old friends of Chiefs Raoni and Megaron who were present at the famed Kayapo-organised Altamira Gathering in 1989. It offered the Chiefs an opportunity to discuss, amongst friends and allies, the new and ongoing injustices suffered by the Indigenous Peoples of the Brazilian Amazon.
It is some 25 years since Chief Raoni left his Amazon home on a world tour to raise awareness of the threats posed to his people’s territory by the proposed Belo Monte Dam. Tragically, despite gaining huge international support for the Kayapo’s campaign, we heard that the plans to build the dam- the third largest in the world- are going ahead on the Xingu River. The dam threatens to displace 20-40,000 people and will flood over 1,500sq km of precious rainforest.
Describing his dismay for the Kayapo People, whose ancestral territory will be extensively flooded, Chief Raoni also warned that mega dams like Belo Monte spell death for un-contacted Indigenous Peoples living in the Amazon basin. Living in voluntary isolation and moving through the forest, these peoples would likely be drowned or forced onto farm or ranching land as a result of dam flooding. Cut off from their homes (should they survive) they could face persecution and even death at the hands of hostile landowners or through disease.
Chief Raoni and Megaron both spoke of their unreserved opposition to large infrastructure projects, such as mega dams, mining and road building, that threaten the rainforest’s countless species, and thereby the Kayapo People and way of life (and vice versa). They pledged their support for the growing call for a halt to mining projects, that Gaia and a global network of partners will be launching next month – “Yes to Life, No to Mining”.
In light of these challenges, demarcation of Kayapo lands in the Brazilian Amazon is a particular concern for both Raoni and Megaron. Producing a map of their territory the Chiefs pointed out where deforestation has occurred (marked in red) and where the rainforest remains intact (a verdant green). The Kayapo’s demarcated territory remains entirely undiminished, but beyond their borders, and right up to them, the forest has been obliterated.
Recognising the efficacy of Indigenous Territories for protecting the Amazon, Chief Raoni and Megaron’s visit this time around aims to gain support for their campaign to demarcate more Indigenous Territories. The Brazilian Government has failed to respect its own commitments to demarcate Indigenous Territories under the 1988 Constitution. Despite promising to demarcate all Indigenous Territories by 1993, 33% have yet to be demarcated, leaving them relatively unprotected from exploitation. Not one territory has been ‘approved’ since April 2013.
Describing one area of Kayapo territory that is yet to be demarcated, where a river forms the border between Indigenous and non-indigenous land, Chief Megaron told us that fishermen cross the river and hunt on Kayapo land, and that settlers take pot shots at the Kayapo across the river’s width. He and Chief Raoni asked for support in pressuring the Brazilian government to demarcate the land on the other side of the river, and in other areas, to protect Brazil’s Indigenous People and rainforest territory.
The Brazilian Government’s ongoing failure to respect Indigenous Rights sparked major unrest before the world cup, when five hundred Indigenous Peoples marched on Brasilia to protest their marginalisation. Chiefs Raoni and Megaron were present at that protest, and on the rest of their tour- from Monaco to Norway- they hope to win over many more supporters for their cause, including Prince Charles, Prince Albert of Monaco and King Harald of Norway. Together, they hope we can bring about lasting change that protects both the culture of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil and the forest they were both born from and defend.
Gaia was closely involved in securing Constitutional Rights for Indigenous Peoples through various allies in Amazon countries in the late 1980s. Through our Microprojects Fund we were able to channel funds for the demarcation of Indigenous Territories in Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela. We continue to support the work of our allies, of Chief Raoni and Megaron.
The work continues!
Take action to support the Indigenous People of the Amazon and the living, breathing rainforest:
Support Tribes Alive in their work to demarcate Indigenous Territories and protect Indigenous Rights
UK press and information from Chief Raoni and Megaron’s tour: