How illegal diamond mining threatens Brazil’s indigenous communities

Fellipe Abreu and Luiz Felipe Silva – Insight Crime Org, 10/14/2015

The Cinta-Larga indigenous group in Brazil is on the brink of collapse as they struggle to confront illegal mining in one of the world’s largest diamond deposits.

“Our land is our spirit. An indigenous person without his land is an indigenous person without a soul.” This is how one of the leaders of the Cinta-Larga tribe ends his speech at a meeting held in May to discuss new indigenous policies. Believed by the indigenous to be inseparable, the land and the soul of the Cinta-Larga suffer together: the cultural genocide and the violence against their members is the result of violations that occurred on the grounds that they consider sacred.

Beneath the indigenous reserves Roosevelt, Serra Morena, Aripuanã and Aripuanã Park, between the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso where the Cinta-Larga live, hides what may be the world’s largest diamond deposit.

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Amazonian tribes unite to demand Brazil stop hydroelectric dams

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 4/30/2015

Four Amazonian tribes have joined forces to oppose the construction of hydroelectric dams in their territory as the Brazilian government ramps up efforts to exploit the power of rivers in the world’s biggest forest.

The Munduruku, Apiaká, Kayabi and Rikbaktsa released a joint statement on Thursday demanding the halt of construction on a cascade of four dams on the Teles Pires – a tributary of the Tapajós.

They say the work at the main area of concern – the São Manoel dam – threatens water quality and fish stocks. The site has already reportedly expanded almost to the edge of a nearby village, although the local communities say they have not been consulted as they obliged to be under national laws and international standards.

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‘We’re going to resist’: Brazil’s indigenous groups fight to keep their land in face of new law

Claire Rigby – The Guardian, 4/23/2015

From downtown São Paulo, the Pico do Jaraguá – the crest of a mountain ridge on the city’s north-western horizon – looks like a broken tooth, crowned by a towering TV antenna. Just beyond the rocky peak and down a steep, deeply rutted, unmade road, lies the nascent village of Tekoa Itakupe, one of the newest fronts in Brazil’s indigenous people’s struggle for land to call their own.

Once part of a coffee plantation, the idyllic 72-hectare plot is currently occupied by three families from the Guarani community who moved onto the land in July 2014 after it was recognised as traditional Guarani territory by Funai, the federal agency for Indian affairs.

The group had hoped that would be a first step on the road to its eventual official demarcation as indigenous territory, but they now face eviction after a judge granted a court order to the landowner, Antônio ‘Tito’ Costa, a lawyer and former local politician.

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How satellite maps can halt Amazon deforestation

Rachel Huguet – Christian Science Monitor, 6/18/2014

In the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, a group of scientists have become unconventional crusaders in the battle to halt deforestation. They are the engine behind Imazon, one of the most prolific research groups based in the Amazon.

Imazon is now collaborating with the government of the Brazilian state of Pará to combine real-time satellite imagery and advanced mapping techniques with a system of incentives and penalties to embolden indigenous communities, local governments, and farmers to protect the rainforest.

Until recently, Pará was the epicenter of unchecked rainforest devastation. Known locally for its rural corruption and banditry, the region had been losing 6,255 square kilometers of rich biodiversity annually – an area roughly the size of Delaware. The assault threatened the territory of some of the last untouched tribes in the world, and chipped away at the Amazon’s ability to absorb 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, a critical factor in regulating the earth’s climate cycle.

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Brazil’s government program to protect a tribe criticized for its treatment of poor farmers

Dom Phillips – The Washington Post, 3/20/2014

Carlos Reis took photos the day government officials knocked down his house of 20 years and seized his land.

“We lost our things,” said Reis, who now lives in a tent with his wife and two sons. “It is a very sad business.”

Reis and hundreds of other poor farmers in the state of Maranhão in northeast Brazil are among the targets of a government operation to clear a reserve in the Amazon for the Awá, an isolated Indian tribe. Activists say the plan could save the tribe from extinction.

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Brazil land disputes spread as Indians take on wildcat miners

Lunae Parracho & Caroline Stauffer- Reuters, 2/17/2014

As Brazil struggles to solve land disputes between Indians and farmers on the expanding frontier of its agricultural heartland, more tensions over forest and mineral resources are brewing in the remote Amazon.

The government of President Dilma Rousseff gave eviction notices to hundreds of non-Indian families in the Awá-Guajá reserve in Maranhão state in January and plans to relocate them by April, with the help of the army if necessary, Indian affairs agency Funai says.

The court order to clear the Awá territory follows the forced removal of some 7,000 soy farmers and cattle ranchers from the Marãiwatsédé Xavante reservation last year, a process profiled by Reuters that resulted in violent clashes.

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Brazil’s indigenous rights activists hail illegal settlers’ eviction

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 1/7/2014

Indigenous rights campaigners have hailed a rare victory in Brazil as government troops began evicting illegal settlers from an area that belongs to one of the world’s most endangered tribal groups.

The Awá population has been decimated along with the eastern Amazonian forests upon which the nomadic people depend. Disease, murder and the loss of habitat are thought to have reduced their numbers to 450.

Although the Brazilian government demarcated their territory in Maranhão state more than 10 years ago, the Awá reserve has been increasingly occupied by ranchers, loggers and landless farmers.

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