Monday, July 7, 2008

Amazon tribes fight to keep the Xingu River alive

Global Politician: For five days in May, hundreds of tribal people from the far reaches of the Amazon Basin came together to protest plans for huge dams on the Xingu River, the largest tributary of the Amazon. It was like being at a United Nations of indigenous peoples. Representatives from the Kayapó, Parakanã, Assurini and other indigenous groups arrived ceremonially dressed with genipapo (black) and urucum (red) bodypaint, and feather adornments. Some traveled as far as 1,000 miles to attend the meeting.

The indigenous peoples of the region viewed the meeting with officials in Altamira as a critical moment to present their position on the government's plans to flood their territories, and to describe the importance of the Xingu River system to their ways of life.

The emotionally charged encounter was filled with powerful moments. Every day, the indigenous groups entered and left with a dance and chant. Warriors armed with clubs and bows and arrows carried out rituals not usually seen outside their village ceremonies. A Kayapó chief told a federal public attorney, "We want you as an authority of the government to tell President Lula that there will be world war in the Amazon if they try to build these dams."

…The crystalline waters of the Xingu River flow from central Brazil, through plateaus stripped for soy farms, into the native savannas and finally empty into the majesty of still-pristine rainforests. The forest still stands because this is indigenous territory, and indigenous warriors have repelled invaders for centuries….

….Despite the environmental and social impacts, there are clear signs that the government intends to ram through its projects to dam the Amazon, no matter what the cost….

Photo of the Xingu River by "Matanya," Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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