Brazilian Indians protest against dams

July 1, 2010

A dam in the Amazon rainforest. © Fiona Watson/Survival

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Enawene Nawe Indians in Brazil are demonstrating against a series of hydroelectric dams which are killing the fish they rely on.

Three hundred Indians have gathered in the town of Sapezal in the Amazon state of Mato Grosso, armed with bows and arrows to protest against the dam project.

Survival International is calling for the Enawene Nawe’s rights to their land to be upheld.

Unlike most tribes in the Amazon, the Enawene Nawe do not eat meat, so fish are essential to their diet.

A total of 77 small hydroelectric dams are planned for the Juruena River, upstream of the tribe’s land. Five are already under construction.

The Enawene Nawe were not consulted about the project, and they say that since work started the Juruena and its tributaries have become polluted.

During the protests the Enawene Nawe have met with the Brazilian authorities to reiterate their opposition to the dams. They are also demanding a full, independent environmental impact study.

Every year the Enawene Nawe perform yãkwa, an important ritual in which they build intricate dams across the smaller rivers and trap fish in large baskets.

The fish are smoked and transported back to the village, where some are offered to the yakairiti spirits of the underworld in elaborate ceremonies.

This year and last year the Indians caught almost no fish, a disaster for the tribe, who rely on fish as their main source of protein.

In 2008 the Enawene Nawe occupied one of the dam construction sites and destroyed much of the equipment on the site.

Enawene Nawe