Saturday, September 14, 2019

Amazon Adversaries Unite

The Kayapó and Panará, once foes, have united against the policies of the Brazilian government. Image credit: Lucas Landau/Rede Xingu+

Last month, in one remote part of Brazil Amazon, rival tribes have now buried the hatchet so that they can join forces to fight the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro (left) who poses a bigger threat to their very existence. 

Former sworn enemies, the Kayapó and the Panará were at war for decades, raiding each other's hamlets in tit-for-tat attacks. The warring in the northern part of Brazil came to a brutal end in 1968, when an attack by the former, who came armed with guns, left 26 of the latter, who only had arrows to defend themselves, dead. 

Tensions remained high for years but according to BBC News Brasil's João Fellet, the two sides have now overcome their animosity for a greater goal.

"Today, we have only one enemy, the government of Brazil, the president of Brazil, and those invading (indigenous territories)", Kayapó leader Mudjire explained. 

"We have internal fights but we've come together to fight this government". 

His words were echoed by Panará leader Sinku: "We've killed the Kayapó and the Kayapó have killed us, we've reconciled and will no longer fight". 

"We've got a shared interest to stand together so the non-indigenous people don't kill all of us", he said, referring to the threats posed by the arrival of miners and loggers carrying out illegal activities on their turfs.

Indigenous groups performed traditional dances and songs during the meeting. Image credit: Lucas Landau/Rede Xingu+

More than 800,000 indigenous people live in 450 demarcated indigenous territories across Brazil, about 12% of Brazil's total territory. Most are located in the Amazon region and some groups still live completely isolated and without outside contact.

Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has repeatedly questioned whether these enclaves – which are enshrined in Brazil's constitution – should continue to exist, arguing that their size is disproportionate to the number of indigenous people living there.

His plans to open up their lands for mining, logging and agriculture are controversial, and any change to their status would need to be passed by the Brazilian Congress.

And it alarms the indigenous leaders gathered in the Amazon village of Kubenkokre.

Panará leader Sinku reiterated: "Other presidents had more concern for our land. (Bolsonaro) isn't concerned about this, he wants to put an end to what our people have and to how we live".

Indigenous leader Bepto Xikrin told the assembly how some 400 miners and loggers had illegally entered the Bacajá territory since the start of the year. He said that members of his indigenous group were scared and did not know what to do.

And according to a network of 24 environmental and indigenous groups, Rede Xingu+, an area equivalent to 69,000 football fields was destroyed between January and June of this year alone in the Xingu river region.

Heavy machinery has caused major damage and the Fresco and Branco rivers that run through the terrain have been contaminated with mercury.

Doto Takakire shows some of the destroyed areas in the Xingu basin. Image credit: Lucas Landau/Rede Xingu+

Kayapó leader Doto Takakire said illegal mining had been further encouraged by the fact that their trespassing often goes unpunished. 

The fires which have been burning across the Amazon were not a huge topic of debate at the said gathering – in part because they have mainly happened outside protected indigenous reserves but also because those gathered consider illegal mining and logging as more pressing threats. 

Another Kayapó leader Kadkure concluded: "We won't repeat the past. From now on, we'll be united".

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