Youth group From Klamath river plan trip to help fight world’s most destructive dam project

Photo: Klamazon Delegation
Photo: Klamazon Delegation

Source: Intercontinental Cry

Orleans, CA – Local youth are making plans to travel to Brazil to lend a hand in the fight against the world’s most destructive dam proposal, Belo Monte. The Belo Monte Dam Resistance Delegation includes indigenous tribes and river activists from Northern California who will travel to Brazil to work with indigenous people in the Xingu basin, the heart of the Amazon, making a strong bond through mutual efforts to preserve and protect inherited cultures and natural resources from short sighted projects like the Belo Monte Dam.

The Belo Monte project, would be the third largest hydroelectric dam ever built. This project would affect 40,000 people and inundate 640 square kilometers of rainforest. Belo Monte Dam is the first step in a larger plan to extract the Amazon’s vast resources through additional dam building.

Belo Monte is one of many dams proposed for the Amazon that would affect hundreds of thousands of indigenous people, including some of the world’s last un-contacted tribes, allowing further destructive mining and deforestation practices. The Amazon Basin, about the size of the continental U.S., is home to 60 percent of the world’s remaining rainforest, and holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.

In Northern California and Southern Oregon a diverse coalition of Native Americans and river activists have campaigned for the removal of four dams on the Klamath River. Currently, dozens of key Klamath Basin stakeholders, including dam owner PacifiCorp, have agreed to remove 4 Klamath River dams pending congressional action.

This project represents the largest dam removal in world history and is poised to restore one of North America’s largest salmon runs, allowing indigenous people to repair broken cultures and communities.

Our delegation will discuss the correlation between the struggles of indigenous people of the Amazon, and the lessons of indigenous struggles in North America, as well as the environmental hazards that dams have caused in the Klamath Basin. Native youth activists that have long fought for their culture will travel to the Amazon to learn about indigenous struggles in the Amazon Basin, engaging lifelong partners for the protection of the Amazon and its indigenous people.

According to Mahlija Florendo, a 16 year old Yurok Tribal member who will be going to the Amazon, “Our River is here to give us life, and we were created to keep the river beautiful and healthy. We need to keep every river alive because we cannot live without them. We cannot destroy life and if we don’t fight to keep them healthy, then we are killing ourselves, and any other life on the planet. The Amazon River is a huge bloodline for life of the Amazon indigenous as the Klamath is ours.”

Amazon Watch’s Brazil Program Coordinator, who knows the area, issues, and people, will accompany the delegation, providing guidance and on the ground support. Along with documenting the early stages of dam construction, the group plans to meet with several local tribes such as the Arara, Juruna, and the Xikrin, learning how they can best support efforts to preserve their homeland and way of life.

The Klamath group will connect Native Americans and grassroots activists from North America with tribes and organizations working in the Amazon to help them maintain their unique, rare and endemic cultures. They hope to return to the U.S. with information and firsthand knowledge to hold fundraising and advocacy events. These efforts will raise money for existing Belo Monte resistance groups and local tribes to travel and deliver their message to venues like the upcoming World Cup in Brazil in June and July 2014.

In the words of Zé Carlos Arara, a leader of the Arara people, “For us the river means many things. For everything we do, we depend on the river. For us to go out, to take our parents around, to get medical attention, we need the river for all these things. If a dam is constructed on the river, how will we pass through it? We don’t want to see the river closed off, our parents dying in inactivity. For us the river is useful and we don’t want it to wither away – that we not have a story to tell, that it become a legend for our children and grandchildren. We want them to see it with their own eyes.”

30,000 year old Brazilian artifacts throw wrench in theory humans first arrived in Americas 12,000 years ago



By Agence France-Presse
October 9, 2013

It’s no secret humans have been having sex for millennia — but recently discovered cave art suggests they were doing it in the Americas much earlier than many archeologists believed.

A new exhibit in Brazil showcases artifacts dating as far back as 30,000 years ago — throwing a wrench in the commonly held theory humans first crossed to the Americas from Asia a mere 12,000 years ago.

The 100 items on display in Brasilia, including cave paintings and ceramic art, depict animals, ceremonies, hunting expeditions — and even scenes from the sex lives of this ancient group of early Americans.

The artifacts come from the Serra da Capivara national park in Brazil’s northeastern Piaui state, on the border of the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, which attracted the hunter-gatherer civilization that left behind this hoard of local art.

Since the 1970s, Franco-Brazilian archaeologist Niede Guidon has headed a mission to carry out large-scale excavation of Piaui’s interior.

“It’s difficult to think there exists a site anywhere with a higher concentration of cave art,” the 80-year-old Guidon told AFP.

Many paths led to Americas

Other traces of the civilization include charcoal remains of structured fires, explained Guidon, who hails from Sao Paulo.

“To date, these are the oldest traces” of human existence in the Americas, she emphasized.

The widely held theory has suggested human beings only reached the Americas some 12,000 years ago from Asia, crossing the Bering Strait to reach Alaska.

Some archeologists contend flaked pebbles at the Brazilian sites are not evidence of a crude, human-made fire hearth made some 40 millennia ago, but are rather geofacts — a natural stone formation, not a man-made one.

But Guidon said she believes the Serra dwellers may have come originally from Africa, and she said the cave art provides compelling evidence of early human activity.

The paintings are estimated to date back some 29,000 years, she said, noting: “When it began in Europe and Africa, it did here too.”

Other sites, including Valsequillo in Mexico and Monte Verde in Chile, also indicate the presence of communities tens of thousands of years ago.

These sites have led archeologists to speculate that peoples traveled various routes to reach the Americas and at different stages, archeologist Gisele Daltrini Felice told AFP.

In search of tourists

UNESCO conferred World Heritage status on the Serra da Capivara in 1991, but tourists remain thin on the ground, which frustrates Guidon.

“After putting in a great amount of effort (to promote the site) we are up to 20,000 visitors a year,” the archeologist said.

But “World Heritage sites get millions, and we are prepared to receive millions,” she added.

The interior of the Piaui region is marked by widespread poverty, which has much to gain from tourism, Guidon stressed.

But resources are lacking to promote the attractions in a remote corner of the giant nation, she said. The nearest city is the modest town of Sao Raimundo Nonato, which has spent years trying to have an airport built.

The EU is promoting both the new exhibit as well as a swath of conferences on the area under the auspices of UNESCO, Brazil’s Institute of Parks and the country’s Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage.

“The idea is to promote cultural, historic and nature-based tourism in order to aid the development of areas adjoining Brazil’s major parks — and especially the Serra da Capivara, which has the most modern infrastructure,” with 172 sites to visit, said Jerome Poussielgue, European Union cooperation and development officer for Brazil.

And the foundation behind research into the park is backing development projects — including a ceramics factory that reproduces images of the cave art, a program aimed at giving local women work experience.

“We would like to help in the development of a region where women suffer hugely from violence,” says Guidon.

Pope Francis Defends Amazon And Environment In Brazil

By Bradley Brooks, Huffington Post

RIO DE JANEIRO — Pope Francis took on the defense of the Amazon and the environment near the end of his weeklong trip to Brazil, as he donned a colorful Indian headdress Saturday and urged that the rainforest be treated as a garden.

The pontiff met with a few thousand of Brazil’s political, business and cultural elite in Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Theater, where he also shook hands with Indians who said they were from a tribe that has been battling ranchers and farmers trying to invade their land in northeastern Bahia state.

In a separate speech to bishops, the pope called for “respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it be indiscriminately exploited but rather made into a garden.”

He also urged attention to a 2007 document by Latin American and Caribbean bishops that he was in charge of drafting, which underscored dangers facing the Amazon environment and the native people living there. The document also called for new evangelization efforts to halt a steep decline in Catholics leaving for other faiths or secularism.

“The traditional communities have been practically excluded from decisions on the wealth of biodiversity and nature. Nature has been, and continues to be, assaulted,” the document reads.

Several of the indigenous people in the audience hailed from the Amazon and said they hoped the pope would help them protect land designated by the government as indigenous reserves but that farmers and ranchers illegally invade for timber and to graze cattle. In fact, grazing has been the top recent cause of deforestation in Brazil.

“We got credentials for his speech and attended so we could tell the pope what’s happening to our people,” said Levi Xerente, a 22-year-old member of the Xerente tribe in Tocantins state in the Amazon, after he attended the pope’s speech. “We hope that he will help intervene with the government and stop all the big public works projects that are happening in the region.”

Xerente, speaking in broken Portuguese, said the biggest threats to Indians in the region were big agribusiness invading land and the government’s own massive infrastructure projects, including the damming of rivers for hydroelectric power generation and roads being carved out of the forest, often to reach giant mines.

Francis thanked Brazilian bishops for maintaining a church presence in the rugged and vast Amazon, which is about the size of the United States west of the Mississippi River. But he pushed church leaders to refocus energies on the region.

“The church’s work needs to be further encouraged and launched afresh” in the Amazon, the pope said in prepared remarks, urging an “Amazonian face” for the church.

He cited the church’s long history of working in the region.

“The church’s presence in the Amazon basin is not that of someone with bags packed and ready to leave after having exploited everything possible,” he said. “The church has been present in the Amazon basin from the beginning … and is still present and critical to the area’s future.”

Catholic priests and nuns have taken up the causes of Indians and of poor subsistence farmers in the Amazon, often putting themselves in danger. Violent conflicts over land rights are common in the region, where wealthy farmers and ranchers are known to hire gunmen to intimidate people into leaving land the government has often set aside as reserves for their use.

In 2005, U.S. nun and Amazon land-rights defender Dorothy Stang was murdered by one such gunman in the state of Para. Two ranchers were later convicted of ordering her murder so they could control a parcel of land the government had ceded to a subsistence farming group Stang worked with.


Associated Press writer Jenny Barchfield contributed to this report.

Tanks move in around Earth’s most threatened tribe

Brazil's military has moved in to stop illegal logging around the land of Earth's most threatened tribe.

Brazil’s military has moved in to stop illegal logging around the land of Earth’s most threatened tribe.
© Exército Brasileiro

Source: Survival International

Survival International has received reports that Brazil’s military has launched a major ground operation against illegal logging around the land of the Awá, Earth’s most threatened tribe.

Hundreds of soldiers, police officers and Environment Ministry special agents have flooded the area, backed up with tanks, helicopters and close to a hundred other vehicles, to halt the illegal deforestation which has already destroyed more than 30% of one of the Awá’s indigenous territories.

Since the operation reportedly started at the end of June, 2013, at least eight saw mills have been closed and other machinery has been confiscated and destroyed.

Little Butterfly, an Awá girl. The Awá have pleaded for all illegal invaders to be evicted from their forest.

Little Butterfly, an Awá girl. The Awá have pleaded for all illegal invaders to be evicted from their forest.
© Sarah Shenker/Survival


The operation comes at a critical time for the Awá, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes in the Brazilian Amazon, who are at risk of extinction if the destruction of their forest is not stopped as a matter of urgency.

But while the operation is making it more difficult for loggers to enter Awá territory and remove the valuable timber, the forces have not moved onto the Awá’s land itself – where illegal logging is taking place at an alarming rate and where quick action is crucial.

Amiri Awá told Survival, ‘The invaders must be made to leave our forest. We don’t want our forest to disappear. The loggers have already destroyed many areas.’

Tanks, helicopters and close to a hundred vehicles have been deployed to protect the forest.

Tanks, helicopters and close to a hundred vehicles have been deployed to protect the forest.
© Maycon Alves


Tens of thousands of people worldwide, including many celebrities, have joined Survival International’s campaign urging the Brazilian government to send forces into the Awá’s territories to evict the illegal invaders, stop the destruction of the Awá’s forest, prosecute the illegal loggers and prevent them from re-entering the area.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Brazil has taken a promising first step towards saving the world’s most threatened tribe, and it’s thanks to the many thousands of Awá supporters worldwide. This is proof that public opinion can effect change. However, the battle is not yet won: the authorities must not stop until all illegal invaders are gone.’

Uprising in Brazil: An extraordinary moment for change

0-1-0-protest-nc2Nayanda Fernandez, Upside Down World

Emerging as a complete surprise, the wave of massive demonstrations Brazil has been experiencing is undoubtedly the most serious movement of popular protests in the country since the dictatorship years. On June 10th, 2013, the first peaceful demonstration took place in São Paulo, near one of the main business streets, Avenida Paulista.  After mobile phone videos spread across the internet, showing clear evidence of the violent repression of the protest by the military police, masses of people hit the streets of São Paulo in a cry for their right to demonstrate.

For the first time, young Brazilians saw the military police, renowned for violent actions around the poorer or isolated areas, attacking and arresting hundreds of economically privileged citizens. Despite the efforts from the largely conservative national media to play down the violent actions, a number of key videos were recorded in different areas of the city on the 13th of June and virally spread through social media. These videos showed how groups of protesters chanting for “no violence” were indiscriminately attacked by the extensive use of tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and pepper spray. Victims of the repression included journalists shot at head level and in their eyes.

The acts were mainly organized by ‘Movimento Passe Livre’ (Free Fare Movement), a group campaigning against public transport fare rises since 2005 and struggling for the right to ‘free fares’ for all citizens to travel on public transport in Brazil. A similar measure was first proposed in 1990 by the former São Paulo PT mayor, Luiza Erundina, who had to face the so-called ‘bus mafia’ as well as a chain of reactions from big businessmen from the construction and retail sectors in the city.

The first protests, in São Paulo, marked the beginning of what Marilena Chauí, philosopher and retired lecturer at University of São Paulo (USP) affirms to be a ‘very important political moment’ for the development of Brazilian democracy.  On June 18th, the streets of various cities were taken over by crowds, and that same evening the National Congress building in Brasilia was surrounded by protesters, taking a combination of artistic and political action.

“Oscar Niemeyer [a well-known Brazilian architect and socialist] would have been so proud last night! The unity of art and political action! His beautiful congress building decorated and enhanced by a new generation of radicals on the roof, demanding change, an end to corruption and no more collaboration with the greedy FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Mafia,” wrote Andrew Jennings in A Pública.

The images of the police repression in São Paulo seem to have represented the last straw for the over one million people that have taken to the streets and mobilized around the country. However, at the same time, protesters have been similarly repressed in Brasilia, Fortaleza and Minas Gerais outside the football stadiums where the Confederation Cup matches have taken place.

The protesters’ indignation around the stadiums are based in part on the exorbitant ticket prices – which means that ordinary Brazilians will not be able to attend the events. People are also outraged at the use of the billions of public funds for the cost of stadiums and facilities. According to one calculation, this cost is the equivalent of the R$38 million federal education budget and, to a lesser extent, the countless cases of human rights violations against populations living near the stadiums or other sports facilities, who have been evicted, often violently, to make away for the ‘improvements.’

Natalia Viana, director of A Pública, the main center for investigation and independent journalism in Brazil, declared in a recent interview with the Chilean outlet America Economía that around 170,000 people have been at some point under risk of losing their homes because they are in the way of the World Cup or the Olympic projects, stadiums, and highways. “The city [mainly Rio de Janeiro, but other areas have also been affected] is being changed in a very authoritarian way, without competent and democratic consultation or negotiation with all communities,” Viana explained. In addition, the economic abuses related to those projects have also spread around the country. Rio’s Maracanã stadium alone has gone through three sets of major refurbishment works in the last 15 years, at a total cost of around US$700 million, and the Brasilia stadium is costing about US$ 270 million, one of the most expensive of the six being built ahead of the World Cup warm-up tournament.

Even though both the Governor of São Paulo state, Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), and the Mayor of São Paulo city, Fernando Haddad (PT), announced on June 19th the reduction of the public transport fares, the next day activists in 322 cities and 22 capitals were mobilized around the country.

On June 21st, the president Dilma Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was tortured under Brazil’s long military dictatorship, made a televised 10-minute appearance backing the right to peaceful protest but sharply condemning violence, vandalism and looting from the protesters.  In contrast, Rousseff notably ignored the police’s violent action during the first days of protests in São Paulo, or around the stadium in Brasilia and other capitals. She even ignored previous and, unfortunately, common-place conflicts such as the constant clashes in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas or with Indigenous people around the Amazon region, conflicts related to soy production and cattle farms in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states. The giant may have woken with these recent protests, as some have claimed, but those on the margins of Brazilian society have never gone to sleep…

A recent opinion poll indicates that Brazil’s Federal government has considerably lost popularity over the last two weeks. According to Gilberto Maringoni, journalist and PhD in history from the University of São Paulo, those numbers do not attest to anything exceptional. However, he alerts, Brazil is currently on the edge of a crisis; even though the levels of consumption and employment are not falling, he affirms, in macro-economical terms, the Brazilian GDP promises to be ‘mediocre’ by the end of the year.

During the years of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), the previous president, many Brazilians experienced the consumer power for the first time in their family history. Those previously on the edge of the market economy could now buy a TV, a car, a refrigerator, and other basic consumer goods.  However, outside their homes people still find a decaying public service system, high cost and bad quality transport, lack of books, equipment, and motivated teachers at public schools, a very poor health system, and growing levels of violence around the cities.

“Brazil has improved significantly over the last 10 years. However, the environment is still being destroyed, chaos is taking over the cities, there is no sign of agrarian reform, the mainstream media is associated with the Federal government, the financial sector carries on demanding a radical shift towards [neoliberal] economic orthodoxy and Dilma [Rousseff] is wholeheartedly following her creed of privatization,” Gilberto Maringoni wrote recently in Carta Capital.

Many analysts have expressed their hope that this current uprising is a sign of the general public awareness that political change is desperately needed in Brazilian politics. At the same time, people are concerned that 2013 doesn’t end the same way 1968 did in Brazil, when student protests were brutally crushed by the military government. Furthermore,Werneck Vianna, a renowned Brazilian social scientist, said: “If nothing is done in time, this movement could end in a very bad way. […] young people disenchanted with politics, radicalized and who will look for the wrong ways to solve their problems.”

The extraordinary demonstrations in Brazil, which have practically taken over all big cities, and are active in many in rural areas, have been showing to the Brazilians, and to those interested to learn about this Latin American giant, the complexity of its political condition. After numerous days of protesting, many people still did not know exactly why they were protesting.  This lack of focus and political maturity is just a symptom of the distance between the population and Brazilian politics.

In a letter signed by over 30 Brazilian social movements to president Dilma Roussef, these groups analyze the recent mobilizations as a very positive step in a process of political education of the mostly young demonstrators. It is, they affirm, a cry of anger from people who have been historically alienated from the political life of Brazil, and who tend to think of politics as something damaging to society. The letter explains that this movement will likely lead youth to realize the desperate need to confront the powerful in Brazil, demanding economic equality and reforms, and greater access to healthcare, education, land, culture, media and political spaces.  In the letter, the social movement groups also affirm that the conservative sectors of the society are trying to co-opt the demonstrations and spin their meaning to the media.

Connected through the internet and different social media platforms, people around Brazil and abroad have also been protesting in solidarity with Brazil, and tying the protests there to other mobilizations around the world. Both Turkish and Brazilian activists, (who have been attacked by the same brand of tear gas), have been sharing much of their experiences online, such as how to make D.I.Y. masks against tear gas, and sharing images of protests signs in support of their counterparts across the world. Solidarity demonstrations have also been organized in different cities around Europe and the US, where we could see both Turkish and Brazilian flags raised.

Eliane Brum, a Brazilian journalist, writer and documentary maker, has recently recalled the words of the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, recorded on video around two years ago during the widespread protests in Spanish against economic austerity measures. Galeano’s message to the young people who went to the streets of Barcelona, Madrid and other cities in the country was translated into many languages and shared extensively online: “This shitty world is pregnant with another one.” Just like Brum, many people are hoping Galeano is correct, and that we can all exist in another kind of world, where there is space for life.