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Paulinho Paiakan is an indigenous leader of Amazonian political movements, and a member of the Kayapo a group native to central Brazil.

Background

The Kayapo’s total population is currently around 2,500 divided among 14 mutually independent communities. The largest is Gorotire, which is located in the Xingu River Basin, has 800 inhabitants. They speak Mebengokre; the Kayapo_language language has linguistic relation to Gê_people . A very small portion of the population speaks Portuguese. The total area covered by Kayapo communities and their associated land-use patterns is about the size of Scotland[6].

The Kayapo are known for being fearsome warriors, and also for their extensive botanical knowledge. They use swidden agriculture and create gardens that attract desirable faunal species and plants. The Kayapo also have a composting system that enriches their soil making Amazonian dark earths, or Terra_preta. In a 1989 case study it was shown that many tropical ecosystems usually considered “natural” may have been profoundly altered by indigenous populations like the Kayapo in the past [6].

Paulinho was hired by the Brazilian government in 1971 to facilitate the construction of a major road called the Trans-Amazonian_highway system. Its purpose was to transport settlers, and industry workers through the previously impenetrable amazon. They hired indigenous men to work ahead of the production to contact resistant and violent indigenous groups so that they could be pacified. Paulinho participated in this initiative.[5]

After witnessing the destruction of indigenous villages himself he decided to try and move his own village away from the construction. He formed a splinter group of those who agreed to move in 1983. They settled their own village called Aukre.

Paulinho Paikan taught himself Portuguese in Belém, Brazil. He also taught himself how to use a video camera. With it he documented the destruction of the rainforest and also Kayapo traditions.[5]

Political Life

Paulinho was known for influencing international public opinion and generating press attention through public appearances and speaking engagements. He embarked on a speaking tour of seven European and North American Countries sponsored and coordinated by Friends of the Earth, The World Wildlife Federation, and the Kayapo Suppot Group of Chicago in November of 1988 to publicize the protest that would stop the Altamira dam project.

He gave this speech at the University_of_chicago :

“The forest is one big thing; it has people, animals, and plants. There is no point saving the animals if the forest is burned down; there is no point saving the forest if the people and animals who live in it are killed or driven away. The groups trying to save the races of animals cannot win if the people trying to save the forest lose; the people trying to save the Indians cannot win if either of the others lose; the Indians cannot win without the support of these groups; but the groups cannot win wither without the support of the Indians, who know the forest and the animals and can tell what is happening to them. No one of us is strong enough to win alone; together, we can be strong enough to win.”[7]

The World_bank announced that it would not grant Brazil a loan for the project after this campeightn and the protest at altemeria that followed. 

Protest of the Altamira Dam Project

In 1989, Paulinho Paiakan played a key role in the political organization and opposition to encroachment on indigenous rights, human rights, and environmental health in Altamira, Brazil; more specifically Paiakan represented his maternal tribe, the Kayapo. The protest was in response to the planned construction of numerous hydroelectric dams along the Xingu River, one of the most important tributaries of the Amazon. Plans for construction of the Xingu Hydroelectric Complex [3] were enacted by the Brazilian government. The next planned dam, Kararo, is included in expenditures of the next installment of World Bank loans to the Brazil’s national energy sector.

This protest, led in large part by Paiakan, received international media attention and set new precedents for indigenous human rights issues and environmentalism in the Amazon region. This hydroelectric dam project threatened to flood the lands of numerous indigenous peoples surrounding Altamira. Representatives of 24 indigenous groups, government officials, 300 environmentalists, members of nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s), the Catholic Church, anthropologists, and other pro-Indian people flocked into Altamira. In all, about three thousand people attended the gigantic rally on the outskirts of town [4].

Media Coverage of Altamira Protest

The media highlighted the Altamira protest as a clash of traditional indigenous exoticism and cultural production with non indigenous consumer society [4]. The media’s portrayal of the Altamira protest highlighted the phenomenon of an international market of exoticism playing on the rift between non indigenous consumers and indigenous producers of cultural resources as commodities [4]. This provocative display of indigenous protest for recognition of rights garnished support from the international community through the idea that indigenous cultural productions are something with a potential value; a marketable product.

Contributions to Indigenous Rights, Human Rights and Environmental Issues

Paulinho’s role in the Altamira protest attached an internationally identifiable face to indigenous rights and environmentalism through his media coverage. After Altamira he was awarded the United Nations' Global 500 prize, the prize from the Society for a Better World, and was the subject of a Parade magazine [4]. Paiakan was one of the Kayapo who amassed substantial wealth with the selling of hardwood and royalties from gold miners who operated in their reservation, rather than conceding to resource extraction by outside forces. This accumulation of wealth derived from the environment polarized popular debate and opinion on Paiakan’s real intentions as an indigenous and environmental activist.

Support Groups

The Fundaco Mata Virgem is comprised of Brazilian doctors, anthropologists, and other academics. The FMV works with the Rainforest Foundation to assist the Kaiapo and other indigenous groups to defend their lands, obtain medical and educational services and to develop sustainable alternative sources of income to prevent environmental degradation [2]. Amazon Fund, Amazon Watch, and The WILD Foundation, among others, also support the Kayapo communities.

Paiakan’s Controversial Rape Charge and Subsequent Trial

During the 1992 Rio Summit Paiakan and many other indigenous leaders participated in debates and dialogue about the environment. On the second day of the Summit news broke that Paulinho Paiakan had raped a non-Indian girl on his ranch near the town of Redencao, Brazil. These rape accusations led to the international media’s accusations of Paiakan as a rapist, somewhat tainting his reputation as an environmental and indigenous rights activist [4]. Paulinho Paiakan was declared guilty until proven innocent under Brazilian law. Paiakan was acquitted in 1994 on grounds of insufficient evidence. A new trial in 1999 condemned him to six years in jail, after which his lawyers looked desperately for an anthropological expert willing to report on Paiakan's civil incapacity due to his status as an indigenous person [4]. While Paiakan was legally acquitted of the charges, the extensive media coverage of his accusations circulated negative sentiment towards the breakout indigenous and environmental activist. These events have added a stigma not only to Paiakan, but to indigenous peoples, race, and human rights issues in general [1].


The New York Times, Indian-White Rape Case Splits Brazil, June 2,2012

Rape Case Splits Brazil in 1992.[1]

The New York Times, In Brazil, Indians Start Fighting Back, June 1, 2012

Indians Start Fighting Back In Brazil in 1992.[2]

GeoJournal,Dam the Rivers, Damn the people: Hydroelectric Resistance and Development in Brazil, May 29, 2012

Dam the Rivers, Damn the people: Hydroelectric Resistance and Development in Brazil 1995. [3]

Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference, Pulp Fictions of Indigenism, June 1,2012

Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference in 2003. [4]

‘’Parade Magazine’’, The Man Who Would Save the World, June 2 2012

The Man who Would Save the World 1992. [5]

‘’Advances in Economic Botany’’, Preliminary results on soil management techniques of the Kayapó Indians, June 2 2012</ref>

Preliminary results on soil management techniques of the Kayapó Indians 1989.[6]

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine,The Role of Indigenous Peoples in the Environmental Crisis: The Example of the Kayapó, June 2,2012

The Role of Indigenous Peoples in the Environmental Crisis: The Example of the Kayapó 1993.[7]


Non-Governmental Organization

World Bank

Kayapo

Amazon Watch

Altamira

References[edit]

  1. ^ The New York Times, Indian-White Rape Case Splits Brazil, June 2,2012
  2. ^ The New York Times, In Brazil, Indians Start Fighting Back, June 1, 2012
  3. ^ GeoJournal,Dam the Rivers, Damn the people: Hydroelectric Resistance and Development in Brazil, May 29, 2012
  4. ^ Race, Nature, and the Politics of Difference,Pulp Fictions of Indigenism, June 1, 2012
  5. ^ ‘’Parade Magazine’’, The Man Who Would Save the World, June 2 2012
  6. ^ [ http://orton.catie.ac.cr/cgi-bin/wxis.exe/?IsisScript=UPEB.xis&method=post&formato=2&cantidad=1&expresion=mfn=008460 Advances in Economic Botany, June 2, 2012]
  7. ^ [ http://www.mendeley.com/research/role-indigenous-peoples-environmental-crisis-example-kayapo-brazilian-amazon/ Perspectives in Biology and Medicine,The Role of Indigenous Peoples in the Environmental Crisis: The Example of the Kayapó, June 2,2012