With these ominous words the leaders of the Munduruku indigenous people introduce an open letter to the Brazilian government protesting the planned construction of several hydroelectric dams within their traditional territory and adjacent indigenous lands in the Brazilian state of Pará.
|"Why do they want to destroy us?" (Photo source: ARQUEOTROP).|
The letter, drafted on June 8, presents an overview of Munduruku social norms and shamanic knowledge:
The shamans take care of the functions of the ecosystem of planetary life so that nothing bad happens, they maintain the balance of the perfect functioning of nature We know how the law of nature works through the teachings of the ancients and how we should respect nature.
These traditional values are compared with the invading European worldview, both by way of contrast and as a dire and urgent warning:
There are no rich or poor within our indigenous society, we do not favor some over others and much less discriminate. In our world such things do not exist, just love, respect, peace, humility, sincerity... We, the Munduruku, this is how we are: we value that which is around us...
So much research is being done, involving scientists, intellectuals, people gifted with scientific knowledge, but they discover nothing about themselves and they remain in the dark about the precious things that interest us. Every day nature gets farther away and hides itself from us because we are destroying it. Such a precious treasure, and people want to turn it into business. How far will they go with this destruction?...
Mankind is not just destroying nature, but also destroying its very own human nature, but they don't understand this: they are destroying themselves.
The letter includes a detailed presentation of Munduruku history and mythology as inscribed in geographical landmarks both within and beyond current Munduruku territory. The long and fascinating list includes important episodes from Munduruku myth and legend, battles with Portuguese invaders, sacred places that coincide with proposed dam sites, and even the distant Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro:
For us, Munduruku, the city of Belém is Kabia’ip: A meteorological phenomenon that controls the dry season. It is a scepter planted deep in the ocean, and when someone manages to pull it a few centimeters it reacts and causes a change in climate. It should never be pulled beyond its limit, as it would result in grave problems during that season. We recognize this phenomenon when there is intense drought...
Guanabara Bay [in Rio de Janeiro] is Murekodoybu: The Giant Anaconda, an ancient warrior who taught the arts of war to Karodaybi. His movements are visible in the phenomenon of the tides, when the waves become agitated, and our spiritual leaders, the shamans, are able to hear his voice...
São Luiz do Tapajós [a proposed dam site] is Joropari kõbie: An ancient locality of Munduruku presence, they lived along those rapids... According to the spiritual leaders, the shamans, they warn that absolutely no kind of alteration can be made to that place or it will destroy this sacred locality, which belongs to the mother of fish, or else disgrace will fall unto people's lives: this is a risk for all societies. But this, a non-Indian will never understand...
It is just not possible to list here all the sacred places that exist in Munduruku territory. There are various others...
The letter goes on to note the presence of isolated indigenous populations within remote parts of Munduruku territory.
After this extensive preamble, the letter addresses the Brazilian authorities in the most stringent of terms:
Given the facts related above about our situation, we hereby state that we are outraged by the way the Brazilian government has been treating us. We see the disrespect done to our peoples, the Constitution being torn to shreds, becoming invalid, in order for our rights not to be guaranteed by it. Now, our own territory has become a battleground, where we are being exterminated, assassinated at gunpoint by the government's armed forces...
Why do they want to destroy us, are we not Brazilian citizens? Are we so insignificant?...
May our demands be met with urgency:
- That the armed forces leave our lands
- That research studies be halted
- That dam construction be halted
- That they explain everything that is going to happen on our lands, and that they listen to us and respect our decision
A commission of indigenous peoples traveled to Brasilia last week to present their demands to the Brazilian government. A total of 144 Munduruku made the trip, and a group of representatives entered the presidential palace. Though their demand for a face-to-face meeting with president Dilma Roussef was denied, they did meet with one of the president's top advisers, Gilberto Carvalho.
|Indigenous peoples in Brasilia protest hydroelectric dams (Photo source: Survival International)|
The Munduruku letter was first translated into English for Survival International by archeologist Bruna Rocha.
Below you will find the full text of my own revised translation as reproduced by Cultural Survival in a recent news story.