Amid conflicts, Arara tribe from the Cachoeira Seca Indigenous Land keeps up resistance against ruralists and land grabbers
The report “Lives in territories under pressure: the Uru-eu-wau-wau, Paiter Suruí and Arara tribes”, launched recently by Conectas, presents data and information on indigenous resistance through the voice of these three tribes
São Paulo SP 19/09/2023 Conectas Direitos Humanos, Associação Etnoambiental Kanindé, Associação Jupaú, Instituto Maíra e Associação Kowit realizam o lançamento do relatório “Vidas em territórios sob pressão: povos Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, Paiter Suruí e Arara”.
O evento conta com a presença de indígenas e indigenistas que relatam ameaças e estratégias de resistência e proteção desenvolvidas pelas lideranças dos povos Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau, Paiter Suruí e Arara da TI Cachoeira Seca nos últimos anos, principalmente entre 2020-2022. Foto Paulo Pinto/Agência Brasil
Having lived a life of struggle from an early age, Mobu Odo Arara says that “this is how we live day to day in our village: being persecuted”. He is chief of the Arara tribe, from the Cachoeira Seca Indigenous Land, located in the state of Pará. The situation facing this Indigenous Land is told in “Lives in territories under pressure: the Uru-eu-wau-wau, Paiter Suruí and Arara tribes”, a report released last Tuesday, September 19, by Conectas in partnership with the Kanindé Ethno-Environmental Defense Association, the Maíra Institute, the Jupaú Association and the Kowit Association.
Data and information were gathered on public health, education, illegal activities by third parties inside the territory, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the political and social organization of three indigenous lands (Cachoeira Seca, Sete de Setembro and Uru-eu-wau-wau). In addition to exposing the context behind the threats, the report also presents the mechanisms of resistance and forest preservation and the traditional knowledge held by the indigenous groups.
The goal is to strengthen the participating organizations and expose the issues faced by indigenous peoples and indigenists. “Before, we didn’t have the opportunity to disseminate our image, but today we are finding partners,” said Timbektodem Arara, president of Kowit, who participated in the launch of the report alongside the other guests Mborep Uru Eu Wau Wau, Neidinha Suruí and Daniel Faggiano.
Large-scale projects and deforestation
The Cachoeira Seca Indigenous Land is located between the Iriri and Xingu rivers, in western Pará. On this Indigenous Land of 734,000 hectares lives the Arara tribe, which for years has had to contend with intense conflicts with ruralists, farmers and land-grabbers. Approved as an Indigenous Land in April 2016, the government has still not relocated the more than 1,200 non-indigenous families living inside the territory, which has resulted in threats and clashes.
The construction of the Trans-Amazonian highway and the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, respectively in the 1970s and 2010s, illustrates how the Land has suffered territorial violations for years, and even though the environmental and social conditions of the projects required the proper regularization of the territory, this right has not been respected. Now, there is a new threat: the Volta Grande-Belo Sun Project, proposed by a Canadian company, which is projected to be the largest open-pit gold mine in Brazil.
There are already more than twenty requests for gold mining surveys in the area surrounding the Indigenous Land, in addition to the problem of deforestation in the territory. Records from the National Space Research Institute (INPE) show that the rate of loss of the ecosystem in the Cachoeira Seca Indigenous Land is only increasing. Between 2008 and 2020, more than 367 km2 of forest were felled.
Among the illegal activities that result in deforestation and other violations, the leaders highlighted logging and illegal livestock farming. Chief Mobu Odo Arara explained that the lack of adequate resources is one of the main difficulties in dealing with the friction. “We don’t have the means to confront the ruralists, because they have power and money,” he said, referring to the intense lobbying conducted by agribusiness and its representatives.
“Our territory has turned into the world’s business exhibit. Our forest is suffering a lot. Every day that passes we hear more chainsaws chewing up our land. Our river is sadder and weaker every day. This is not normal. […] The Arara people will never abandon their territory. Our warriors will not allow our forest to be destroyed. Together we will protect our river Iriri,” wrote Mobu Odo Arara and Timbektodem Arara in a passage from the report.
Organization in pursuit of rights
The Kowit Association is one of the organizations representing the Arara tribe. It was created in 2017 and speaks for the Iriri and Awey indigenous villages. The organization focuses on guaranteeing territorial rights, because “our territory is our future”, according to Chief Mobu Odo Arara. “We are here to represent our people, to shout out to the world that these people are fighting for rights and for respect. We are here to send our message.”
Recently, in 2022, the Arara tribe published its Protocol for Free, Prior and Informed Consultation. It is a compilation of information, written and organized by the indigenous group, with guidance on how they want to be consulted in cases of projects and/or initiatives that affect their territories. “It is our voice, our speech and our construct that is in there. Today this document says everything, but the white man does not respect this protocol,” lamented Timbektodem Arara.