‘Dalai Lama of the rainforest’ condemns Peruvian violence

Davi Yanomami: The earth has no price. It can’t be bought, or sold or exchanged. ©Fiona Watson/ Survival
Davi Yanomami: The earth has no price. It can’t be bought, or sold or exchanged. ©Fiona Watson/ Survival
© Fiona Watson/Survival

A Yanomami Indian shaman from the Brazilian Amazon, dubbed ‘the Dalai Lama of the rainforest’, today denounced the violence in Peru during his visit to London.

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami said today, ‘This news about my Peruvian brothers and sisters is very bad. It's a crime what the Peruvian government is doing to them. The indigenous peoples in Peru are fighting for their rights and to live in their own lands. They have lived there for many, many years. They were born there, grew up there and have looked after the earth and planted it for their food. I give this message to help. I am far away but as a shaman, my soul and my shamanic spirits know what is happening to my Peruvian brothers and sisters.’

Davi will also tell MPs at the British Houses of Parliament that the world’s rainforests cannot be bought, and can only be saved if indigenous peoples’ land rights are recognized.

•    Press conference: Wednesday 10 June, 10.30 am, Survival International, 6 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7ET (For journalists only – please contact Survival if you wish to attend)
•    Photo opportunity: Wednesday 10 June, 3.00 pm, Westminster Green, Houses of Parliament
•    Royal Commonwealth Society panel discussion on indigenous peoples, Thursday 11 June, 6.15 pm at the Commonwealth Club. Details on www.thercs.org

Davi says, ‘We must listen to the cry of the earth which is asking for help. The earth has no price. It can’t be bought, or sold or exchanged. It is very important that white people, black people and indigenous peoples fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don’t fight together what will our future be? Your children need land and nature alive and standing. We Indians want respect for our rights. You can learn with us and with our shamans. That is important not only for the Yanomami but for the future of the whole world.’

He will also speak at a panel discussion on indigenous rights organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society, together with Survival Director Stephen Corry. He has just arrived from Spain, where he was honoured by the Spanish government’s Bartolomé de las Casas prize, and will travel on to Norway where he will meet with other indigenous representatives at a climate change conference.

Davi led his people, the Yanomami, from the brink of extinction by spearheading the campaign to establish the Yanomami Park, created in 1992. A fifth of the Yanomami died in just seven years due to the invasion of their land by illegal goldminers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1992 their numbers have recovered, but goldminers have returned in recent years, posing new threats to their health and security.

Stephen Corry, director of Survival, says, ‘The German press was right when it called Davi Yanomami the ‘Dalai Lama of the rainforest’. What he has to say goes far beyond national frontiers; it’s for all peoples and all times. Survival has been giving a platform to Davi’s prophetic message for over 20 years. It’s now more urgent than ever that we all listen.’

Dr Mike Edwards, climate change advisor at CAFOD, says, ‘We need to listen to people such as Davi who are warning us that our resource consuming behaviour is destroying the biophysical systems upon which all life depends. Climate change is a clear indication that we in Western industrialised societies are living beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth.  If we choose not to heed Davi's words, then we will be facing a very bleak future.’

Davi Yanomami will be available for interview. For more information, images and footage please contact Miriam Ross at Survival International on (44) (0)20 7687 8734 or (44) (0)7504 543 367 or email [email protected]

Davi’s visit to the UK is sponsored by Survival and CAFOD