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COP26: The Role of Indigenous People in Amazon Conservation

Graham Turner

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COP26 Amazon Rainforest
Last week saw MBN Solutions host five delegates representing indigenous peoples of the Amazon Rainforest to discuss the severity of their plight.

Indigenous people represent 5% of the population but account for a staggering 80% when it comes to protecting biodiversity.

And yet, for the pivotal role that indigenous peoples play in conservation, they are being routinely exploited.

It’s one of the oldest dialogues in conservation and yet, things are worse now than ever with a tangible danger of these people being forgotten as the world pushes for a concerted effort to fight against climate change.

Bringing these delegates to Glasgow is Association Jiboiana, who work closely with indigenous tribes in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in a bid to bring their plight to global audiences so that some of the injustices these people face may be addressed.

President Léo Landon opened by painting a stark picture of problems the communities these indigenous leaders represent – deforestation, polluted water, shady business practices forcing these communities away from their ancestral lands.

“Our main goal in Glasgow isn’t to speak to presidents and decision-makers as that has not worked in the past. We wish to address hundreds of thousands of world citizens about the role of indigenous peoples in the preservation of nature,” he said.

“Deforestation, drying rivers and dying animals” is the reality of Val Munduruku, singer and activist of the Munduruku. Val’s people suffer illegal invasions, the root of which comes down to mining. Mercury from these illegal mining operations are polluting the rivers, actively contaminating the people and animals.

Val also opened the dialogue on what would be a recurring theme throughout the evening – a lack of federal government policies to protect indigenous people (or even officially acknowledge them).

Discussing the socio economics around climate change, Val closes by saying, “We have the smallest impact on the global carbon footprint yet we suffer the most”

Twin brothers Siã and Busã Huni Kuin (Damiao & Cosmo) are spiritual leaders of the Huni Kuin people, they travel around the world to carry out projects in aid of the Amazon.

“This is a concern that affects all of us” says Siã before he posits the question, “what is your relationship with nature?”

It’s a difficult question, and not one that he necessarily wants you to answer. It’s more an affirmation that these people are the guardians of some of the world’s most precious natural environments and cultural histories. A guardianship that’s as tenuous as it has ever been.

The brothers’ Huni Kuin community has found itself suffering loss of autonomy and a growing reliance on big industry products where they once wanted for nothing outwith what the land can provide them. While on paper, this may strike some as a natural progression, there’s more pernicious implications, relying on local big industry has left them exposed and vulnerable to exploitation.


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Interestingly, the brothers don’t see technology as a foil to harmonious living with nature in the Amazon.

Conversely, there’s a clear recognition that the role technology has its role to play in preservation – whether its by using advanced GPS to pinpoint and register disparate communities and offer them help as well as using technology as a means of chronicling the incredible histories of indigenous peoples.

“We came from the earth and when we die, we shall return. That’s why we must protect her”, Busã ends.

A member of the Karajá people, Thaline wrote the song “Essa Terra é Minha” (this land is mine), which was the soundtrack for Brazil’s Indigenous Day special on TV Globo’s Falas da Terra (words of the land).

Despite her celebrity, Thaline is completely grounded, clearly emotional as discusses the plight of indigenous women – raped, exploited and forced into prostitution.

The talk ends with Narubia Werreria, who discusses the Amazon’s many indigenous communities with broader strokes. She addresses the fact that the natural resources – of which these people are the protectors – are being turned into billions of dollars, creating a false economy in which the people get nothing, while serving to further aggravate an already fragile climate situation.

On this, Narubia says: “There is so much untapped potential in Brasil to make it an economy that supports indigenous people, creating sustainable products and exposing people to incredible Brazilian culture and products that would never have come across otherwise”.

Narubia also discusses the role of indigenous people in wrestling democracy from the hands of dictatorship in 1988. Now, the Brazilian government is seeking to undo much of that work.

Starting with the basics of democracy – recognition of ones rights. In the case of the indigenous tribes of Brazilian Amazon, this would mean acknowledgement of the right to claim land in an official capacity, a right long earned through generations – the indigenous peoples were on the land long before the conquistadores.

If you would like to contribute to Association Jiboiana’s current project, click here.


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Graham Turner

Sub Editor

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