Amazon Tribes Stand Up for Their Survival

THE PINK DOLPHIN 06/07/2017

“The Pink Dolphin” is the official blog of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

The world’s fourth-largest dam will flood some of the land that indigenous tribes have lived on for centuries.

By Daniel Stone

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A group of boys climb a tree on the Xingu river by the city of Altamira, Brazil. A large portion of the city was flooded when the dam’s reservoirs were filled at the end of 2015, completely destroying a number of mostly poor neighbourhoods near the river’s edge. PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

The story of the tropics has always been the story of fragility. And the rainforests are the lungs of the Earth. The way they breathe affects the climate, the weather, and every human alive.

So what happens when development comes to the Amazon? When trees are cut and roads are paved and dams are built? Photographer Aaron Vincent Elkaim has spent a career telling the stories of indigenous people and ancient places threatened by development. In 2014, he made his first trip to the northern Brazilian state of Pará to witness how the Belo Monte dam being built on the Xingu River would affect the more than 25,000 indigenous people whose lives depend on the land.

The Brazilian government has plans for as many as 40 more dams in the area to speed development and accelerate the country’s economy. But Elkaim sees the barriers to the Xingu river as disruptions to the people who have spent centuries living off the land and protecting it for future generations. “We’ve made a lot of headway in terms of reducing deforestation in the area,” says Elkaim. “But for me, building this dam is a symbol not of protecting the future, but of destroying it.”

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Juruna from the Paquiçamba Indigenous Reserve are seen at a public audience where riverine communities were able to voice their grievances to the Public Ministry and Notre Energia, the consortium in charge of building the Belo Monte Dam.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Lucicleide Kurap of the Munduruku village of Dacé Watpu has a moment with a pet parakeet after washing dishes in the Tapajos River in Para State, Brazil.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A Mundurku chief during The ‘Caravan of Resistance’ protest to resist government plans to construct the Saõ Luiz Do Tapajos mega dam that would flood much of their territory on the Tapajos river. In 2016 the environmental licensing for the project was cancelled due the constitutionality of flooding indigenous lands.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A Munduruku family watch Brazilian telenovelas in the village of Sawre Muybu. Although living self-sufficiently off the land, their villages have generators, refrigerators, and televisions. Many indigenous communities are provided with these goods by government and industry hoping to win their support for the proposed development projects, Elkhaim says.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Munduruku youth from the village of Dacé Watpu on the Tapajos River collect Açai berries from the forest.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Munduruku from Praia Do Indios, L’Aranjao, and Praia Do Mangue play an evening match of Foot Ball in the village of Praia Do Mangue near the city of Itaituba.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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An alligator skin hangs from a tree on a fisherman’s land on the banks of the Belo Monte Reservoir. The fisherman was paid by Norte Energia to relocate here.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A Munduruku girl holds her baby brother in a hammock in the village of Praia Do Mangue near the city of Itaituba.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A Munduruku girl with her pet monkey in the village of Sawre Muybu is seen in traditional paint for a ceremony the day after a protest of plans to construct a series of hydroelectric dams on their river.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Lawyers working with the Federal Public Ministry stop to look at the Pimental dam, the main dam blocking the Xingu river in the Belo Monte dam complex.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Munduruku warriors hang a sign notifying outsiders to respect their territory on the Tapajos River. After years of fighting, the Munduruku were successful in lobbying the government to officially recognise their traditional territory.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A child from the Xikrin village of Pot Crô stands for a photo on the banks of the Rio Bacaja. The name of the river translates to “the water that runs in river is the same as the blood that flows through our veins.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A young woman at a nightclub in the city of Altamira. In the heart of the Amazon on the Xingu River, Altamira has been through a number of economic booms, the most recent being from the construction of the Belo Monte dam.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A spider monkey is hunted for food by the Munduruku indigenous people of the village of Sawre Muybu on the Tapajos River. While the Munduruku have been in peaceful contact with the colonialists since the early 1800’s they still live traditionally, surviving off the river and land.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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A member of the Munduruku indigenous tribe carries rocks on a sandbar on the Tapajos River in protest. The tribe members used the rocks to write ‘Tapajos Livre’ (Free Tapajos) in a large message in the sand in an action in coordination with Greenpeace.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Mutton birds are seen at Rio Novo an outpost on the Iriri Extractavist Reserve. Excractavists are the riverine descendants of the Rubber Tappers and have lived in the forests for generations harvesting sustainable natural products.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

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Veia balances her child in their home on the Extractavist Reserve of Riozinho do Anfrísio.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

Since the Belo Monte dam was proposed in 1975, sixteen indigenous Amazon tribes have protested it, claiming that it would flood the land they live on. Only after the project was amended to leave undisturbed some living areas and only affect hunting grounds did the project proceed in 2011. When opened in 2019, the dam is expected to produce 11,233 megawatts, making it the fourth largest hydroelectric dam in the world. The energy, in turn, will likely fuel more development in the region.

How the dam will compensate indigenous communities has been the subject of several lawsuits, one of which last year fined the dam’s owner, Norte Energia, and the government $275,000 for providing inadequate safety measures for people who live nearby. Other lawsuits have led to further concessions, including a promise to not run the dam’s hydroelectric power planet at full capacity so the area wouldn’t need to be flooded as much.

The people who live nearby have already seen more water on land that once was dry. During Elkaim’s several trips to the dam site and the wider river basin, he met members of the Munduruku indigenous tribe who laid rocks to spell messages of protest. He and how people are already adapting to changes in the watershed. He watched as men washed their car on flooded land, and he watched a group of boys climb a dead tree that once stood on dry ground.

The government plans to move forward on the series of dams, offering regular concessions to the protesters so long as the plans for the dam aren’t entirely derailed. Some land has been designated culturally significant, which has required developers to alter their plans. The dam company Norte Energia has paid to relocate some members of the various indigenous tribes to new housing developments in the nearby city of Altamira. But the facilities offer little in the way of employment and community, and Elkaim was told that crime and alcoholism are often fixtures in relocation centres.

In this struggle over the past vs. the future, of culture vs. growth, government officials have argued both are possible. But water has a way of washing things away. Elkaim keeps returning to the region to photograph what’s at stake and the people at risk. And he hopes his images invoke a worldwide nostalgia for the Amazon and the people who have lived in it for centuries. “The idea is to show myth and imagination that exists within it,” he says. The best hope for people who live there is that, through a lens, they are seen.

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Members of the Munduruku tribe walk on a sandbar on the Tapajos River as they prepare for a protest. After years of fighting, the Munduruku were successful in lobbying the government to officially recognise their traditional territory. This recognition forced Brazil’s environmental agency to suspend the environmental licensing process for the 12,000-megawatt Tapajós hydroelectric complex but the fight continues as 40 more dams are still planned for the river basin.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AARON VINCENT ELKAIM, THE ALEXIA FOUNDATION

Source: The National Geographic

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EDITORIAL COMMITTEE:

Arno Ambrosius
Mariana Almeida
David Dunham
Gustavo López Ospina
Gertjan Storm
Editor: Pieter Jan Brouwer

All Title photographs of the Amazon Pink fresh water Dolphin are the creation of Kevin Schafer.

 

 

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~ by SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras on 6 July, 2017.

One Response to “Amazon Tribes Stand Up for Their Survival”

  1. Un mundo que debe ser conservado!!!!

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