Indigenous organisations from Brazil sound the alert at US conference
Threats to the rights of Brazil’s indigenous peoples were revealed at the Frontline Oil & Gas Conference, hosted from May 16-18 by the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma in the United States. Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo, a coordinator of Kanindé Association, presented a letter signed by Brazilian indigenous leaders* and addressed to representatives of traditional peoples, social movements and civil society organisations in the US, Mexico and Canada.
The letter reveals the increasing scale of the problems faced by indigenous people across Brazil, including governmental decrees, executive orders and bills that threaten their constitutional rights. It also reports a rise in invasions of indigenous land, and highlights the importance of this in the fight against the conversion of natural habitats.
“We are bringing to the world’s attention a warning of the rollbacks to indigenous and environmental rights taking place in Brazil. We also communicated our grave concerns in relation to the invasion of traditional people’s land and the safety of community leaders, who are being threatened, attacked and killed,” explained Ivaneide Cardozo.
The letter emphasises that in addition to the serious social impact associated with these invasions, the environmental costs are incalculable. It also details the benefits of indigenous communities to the world’s population: “Indigenous peoples are the principal guardians of the forests and ensure the maintenance of biodiversity, air quality, water supplies and steady rainfall patterns.”
The letter ends with an appeal: “Indigenous communities, activists, civil society organisations, the press, academia and decision makers across the planet need to be aware of the seriousness of the injustices faced by indigenous peoples across Brazil”.
According to activist Jen Castro from the organisation Digital Democracy, which participated in the conference, the letter provides concrete examples of threats and violations that need to be brought to the international community’s attention. “These reports demonstrate the urgent need for worldwide support for the leaders of social movements in Brazil,” she stated.
Frontline Oil & Gas Conference
Some of the main problems faced by Native American communities were addressed at the event, including infrastructure projects affecting indigenous territories, especially oil and gas pipelines, mining and hydrocarbon extraction plants. The conference debated ways in which traditional peoples across the continent have organised in response to these threats, through raising awareness, demonstrations, direct action, legal action and campaigning.
Some indigenous communities have enjoyed success, such as the movement to block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to transport oil from Canada to the Mexican Gulf, which cuts through various indigenous reserves along its course. According to Philemon Two Eagle, leader of the Lakota Sioux, legal action by his people managed to stall construction of the pipeline, which is planned to cut across their land, the Rosebud Reserve in the state of South Dakota.
“We are basing our case on the treaty rights, as well as on serious environmental concerns. Pipeline leaks are commonplace and can jeopardise water quality and supply over a large area. We don’t want this to happen on our land,” commented Two Eagle.
Over the three days of the conference, debates and other activities were carried out to strengthen networks fighting for social and environmental justice in North America. The event was held at the Ponca Nation in the state of Oklahoma, in the American Midwest.
The Ponca originally lived on land that now lies in the state of Nebraska, but they were forced to leave by the US government in 1877, making their way on foot to settle in Oklahoma alongside a further 36 displaced ethnicities. Here, various oil fields, refineries and fracking sites pose a serious threat to natural resources, biodiversity and the well-being of Native American populations.
The conference was coordinated by Ponca Nation leader Casey Camp Horinek, who discussed the massacres, persecution and struggle that mark the history of indigenous peoples across the American continent. “We are the survivors of a holocaust, and we continue to suffer today from this environmental genocide. Historically, indigenous people have always been important guardians of natural resources,” she stated.
*The letter was signed by the following Brazilian leaders:
Almir Narayamoga Suruí – Leader of the Paiter Suruí People
Awapu Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau – Leader of the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau People
Heliton Gavião – Leader of the Gavião People
Ivaneide Bandeira Cardozo – representing the Association for the Ethnic and Environmental Defence of the Kanindé
Kleber Karipuna – representing the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Network
Leonice Tupari – representing the Association of Indigenous Combatants of Rondônia
Val Karitiana – Leader of the Karitiana People
Walelasoetxeige Paiter Bandeira Suruí – representing the Metareilá Association of the Suruí People