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If it is pop, we must respect the indigenous territory

Agronomist, PhD in Ecology from the University of Stirling (UK). She studies the ecology of the Amazon rainforest. Titular researcher and former director of the Goeldi Museum. Counselor of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC).

Ima Vieira

Translation by Silvia Benchimol, Ewerton Branco, Heydejane Nogueira, Moacir Moraes Filho


On July 7, business organizations of Agriculture, Commerce and Industries of Pará state requested to the Presidency of the Republic that Brazil cease to be a signatory of the ILO Convention 169* agreement, which deals with Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, because this convention would cause conflicts, doubts, juridical insecurities and it would impair national development. The attitude and the document together point to the necessity of facing and reflecting upon the colonial relationships within modernity and the impact of such decision on the population’s view and on the management of territories. This theme is more widely covered by me and my colleague from Goeldi Museum, Roberto Araújo, on the second chapter of the book Amazônia: alternativas à devastação (2021).

The way to think of, classify and name Amazonian peoples and societies is intimately related to the continuity of territory and natural resources expropriation processes, which sustain the developmental and explorer model in the Amazonian region. Moreover, following this logic of land use results in no room for anything and anyone who do not resign to the capital's modes of production.

In the imagery of the colonialism that endures, a prevailing criterion for classifying men and social groups is related to the ability to transform nature into a commodity. This path of reasoning and establishing the relationship with the land and the territory is opposed to how indigenous populations live. As Ailton Krenak explains, the Earth is an intelligent living organism. And in the life perspective of peoples connected to nature, Mankind is not the center of the world, Man is, in fact, in relationship with other living beings, with the landscape and “treads gently, on Earth”. Why threaten other lives and existences? Why deny indigenous peoples their right to participate in the decisions which affect them? Consultation and participation are fundamental principles of a democratic government and inclusive development.

Nowadays, the developmental and exploitation logic has updated its strategy in the Amazon frontier concerning the environmental movement. The current discourse which emerges defends that the mobilizing factor towards the exploitation of a territory associated with a certain originary people is the desire to “set them free” from misery, save them from confrontations and tackle the lack of opportunities for economic integration. Historically, we have seen the slavery of indigenous bodies, the expropriation of territories, disregarding their way of living and their culture.

The consequences of the lack of organization of indigenous peoples’ geographical and cultural territories is spreading all over the Amazon. An emblematic case is the Vale do Javari, the place where last June, the indigenous peoples expert Bruno Pereira and the journalist Dom Philips were assassinated. Consequences encompass:  everyday violence, extermination, territory dominated by crime, instability, insecurity, pressure because of natural resources, suffering, destitute populations, etc.

Ironically, the conservation of biodiversity and the ecosystemic services provided by the Indigenous Lands, such as climate and rainfall regulation, the maintenance of water sources, soil stability and fertility, pest and disease control, among others, are fundamental for the maintenance of Brazilian agribusiness.

Let’s change the route of this story and create another script for the Amazon?

*Click here to see de document in Portuguese 

References: ARAÚJO, R.; VIEIRA, I. C. G. Alternativas a devastação consideradas sobre o prisma de aspectos da colonialidade na Amazônia in RIBEIRO, W.C; JACOBI, P.R. (org.) Amazônia: alternativas à devastação. São Paulo: Instituto de Estudos Avançados da Universidade de São Paulo, 2021.