Oil exploration concern Indians in remote villages in the Amazon

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Oil exploration concern Indians in remote villages in the Amazon


In  jammed  Amazon villages, on the border with Peru, the matsés people Indians–already familiar with the exploitation of rubber, wood and minerals–now living with a new “adversary”.

The report is Lucas Bonolo, published by BBC Brazil, 4/22/2013.

“They say that oil gives money, but we do not want money,” says Waki Mayuruna, Chief of the village Lobo, 2 thousand miles west of Manaus. “We must think of our children and grandchildren, and they need to be clean lands.”

For decades, the matsés people, living between Brazil and Peru, heard stories about the activities of oil companies in Ecuador’s tropical valleys and the problems that they have caused.

The water catchment area of the traditional territory of the Javari matsés people and other indigenous peoples, was also the subject of greed of energy industry representatives from various countries. But the on-the-spot prospecting attempts never began.

But years passed, and the scenario has changed.

Consolidated the petroleum activities on the border with Ecuador, the Peruvian Government has granted oil exploration rights on two parcels of land standing on the border with Brazil, that surround and cover Indian territory demarcated.

If find hydrocarbons, a Canadian company will be entitled to 40 years of exploitation of the land in the Peruvian side of a binational River.

“It is our responsibility to oversee the oil work, and that the company complies with what was authorized, generating minimal impacts,” said Maria Elena Díaz, head of Peruvian natural park Area Sierra del Divisor, connected to the Peruvian Ministry of the environment.

“On the other hand, it must be considered that the lots leased by the Peruvian Government also go through other lands, and some mixed-race communities are favorable to the oil extraction,” he pondered.

Borders in the forest

The Lobo village is part of the Javari Valley Indian land, which includes six other people scattered in dozens of villages and brings together approximately 3.6 thousand Indians in Brazil.

The demarcated area is 8.5 million hectares-today the second largest indigenous land area of the country.

To discuss the defense of the territory where they live, about 200 Indians matsés people from several villages gathered in early March, with representatives from Funai, the Public Ministry and the army.

Organs attached to the Peruvian Ministry of the environment, local politicians and researchers also attended the Summit.

There were three days of intense debates and seminars, which have changed the quiet pace of the indigenous community Lobo, during the fourth Binational Meeting Matsés people Brazil-Peru. Little accustomed to the movement, the Indians-including women and children-packed the House to listen to the central committees of the region and the guests.

During the event, a group of cooks served juices and biscuits, as well as hearty meals with rice, beans, bananas, cassava, flour and tasty flesh of a male tapir hunt right there, and I realized the whole Entourage.

Dressed as warriors, the matsés people occupied early leaders great Wolf village maloca, around five in the morning, with microphone in hand by calling name to name people to take coffee and resume work.

The engine of an old electric generator echoed loudly among the trees in the Amazon, but it was not enough to placate the voices coming from maloca, amplified with the help of a microphone.

“The forest does not understand of borders, I am the son of my land and I will stay here to protect it,” said the host of the event, Waki Mayuruna.


The concern about oil exploration is not only environment. Observers fear that the activity threatens a ethno-cultural heritage that few countries have: between Brazil and Peru live isolated Indians never contacted, and who reject relations with the surrounding society.

These groups survive in a delicate situation, which could be affected by possible clashes with the society and any change in the balance.

“The Brazilian society can’t understand that the Indian service provides to defend the territorial limits and watch over nature, which are deeply linked up today,” says Walter Coutinho, expert analyst of Federal prosecutors.

“In addition to the supervisory services, indigenous societies offer to Brazil culture resources, medicine, tradition, art and beauty, resources that do not cost anything,” concludes Chris.



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