Indigenous activists shut down construction of a massive dam project in Brazil for four days in July and received assurances from officials that their demands for halting construction of the dam, prior consultation, land rights and return of sacred funerary urns would be met.
The Munduruku activists had occupied the São Manoel hydroelectric dam site on the Teles Pires River that borders the states of Pará and Mato Grosso in the Brazilian Amazon. The São Manoel project is part of a larger effort to create a complex of five hydroelectric facilities in Brazil.
Lead by women warriors, a group of 200 Munduku men, women and children occupied the site on Sunday, July 16. The Munduruku and their allies stated that the project had already destroyed sites sacred to the Munduruku and other Indigenous Peoples. They chose to occupy the site to halt construction after previous protests and outreach failed to stop the project or cause the officials to return funerary urns which had been stolen during the building process.
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The activists agreed to leave after a meeting with representatives from FUNAI, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (MPF), and the São Manoel and Teles Pires dam consortiums on July 19. The officials agreed to meet the demands presented by the Munduruku.
On July 21, Munduruku leaders announced that they would leave. “We Munduruku are returning to our villages, with the protection of the spirits of our ancestors. FUNAI [Brazil’s federal agency for Indigenous issues] has heard our demands and the companies made a commitment to our agenda. We will continue our movement. If they do not fulfill the commitment they made, FUNAI and the company can expect our return,” according to the Munduruku press statement titled We Are Made of the Sacred.
The list of demands that the government and corporate officials acceded to include the following:
- The completion of land titling for the Munduruku territories of Sawre Muybu, Pontal dos Isolados, Sawre Jaybu and Sawre Apompu.
- Independent studies on the socio-environmental and cultural impacts of dams on the Teles Pires River, with active participation of indigenous communities and experts indicated by them.
- That any approval of the São Manoel dam be based on the rule of law and independent technical evaluations of impacts on rivers, fish and the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples.
- That the mitigation and compensation plans for the Teles Pires and São Manoel hydroelectric dam projects be revised to guarantee transparency and full participation of Indigenous Peoples.
- That future projects protect the collective historical and cultural heritage of Indigenous Peoples of the Teles Pires, and that funeral urns be returned to a sacred site, determined by the Munduruku people, for permanent storage and protection.
- Guarantee of Free, Prior and Informed Consent, in accordance with the Munduruku consultation protocol, for future proposed projects that directly or indirectly impact upon Indigenous Peoples.