Indians and the environment


Indians and the environment


Although not “naturally ecologists, indigenous peoples must recognize the historic credit they have handled natural resources so bland. Knew how to apply strategies for using resources that even turning so durable its environment, has not changed the operating principles and not put at risk the conditions of reproduction of this medium.

Different conceptions of “nature”

Many times we are led to think that indigenous societies that live in rainforests are isolated peoples, untouched, and who live “in harmony” with their environments.The difficulty in understanding the concepts and practices related to indigenous “natural world” and the tendency to imprison these extremely complex lifestyles and elaborate in the idealized image of a harmonic relationship man-nature are examples of ethnocentrism.

The vision of the Indians as “natural” men, innate defenders of nature, derives from a conception of nature which is the modern Western world: nature as something that should remain untouched, oblivious to human action. But what indigenous peoples have to say on the subject is quite different.

Indigenous concepts of “nature” vary widely, because each nation has a particular way of conceiving the environment and understand the relationships that lays down with him. However, if something seems common to them all, is the idea that the “natural world” is first and foremost a wide network of interrelationships between agents, be they human or non-human. This means that men are always interacting with the “nature” and that this is not pristine ever. The Yanomami, for example, use the word urihi to refer to “land-forest”: living entity, endowed with a “vital breath” and a “fertility” principle of mythical origin. Urihi is inhabited and animated by various spirits, among them the spirits of yanomami shamans, also their guardians.

The survival of males and the maintenance of life in society, with regard, for example, to obtain the food and protection against diseases, depends on relations fought with these spirits of the forest. In this manner, the nature, to the Yanomami, is a scenario which does not separate the human intervention.


Partners in environmental preservation

Although they are not “naturally ecologists”, the Indians are aware of their dependence on – not just physical, but above all cosmological – in relation to the environment. Because of this, have developed ways of managing natural resources that have been shown to be essential for the preservation of the forest cover in Brazil.

It is a fact visible in regions where deforestation has advanced more rapidly, as in the States of Mato Grosso, Rondônia and South of Pará. In lifting the Inpe (National Institute of space research), for example, indigenous lands appear as true oasis of forests.

It is a fact that many indigenous peoples, such as the Suruí, Cinta Larga and the Kayapo, have actively predatory forms of tow exploitation of natural resources now in force in the Amazon, making alliances especially with logging companies. However, we must recognize that they did so subject to specific pressures, continuous, illegal and smaller such business as partners.

Today and in the future, we need to find mechanisms to enhance the chances of the deal with Indians favourably the extensive lands with low domain demographics. One of these mechanisms are as yet incipient forms of articulation of indigenous projects with non-indigenous strategies of sustainable use of natural resources, whether public or private.


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