As the UN forum on indigenous issues meets in New York, we, the Munduruku people of Brazil, demand an end to the destruction of our territory



A protest led by leaders of the Munduruku people in Brasilia in 2016, to demand the demarcation of the Sawré Muybu indigenous land on the Tapajós river in the Amazon

We, the Munduruku people, send our thoughts and words to you who live far away. We echo the cry for help from our mother, the forest, and from all the indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Our home of Mundurukânia and all 13,000 of our people are threatened by the Brazilian government’s plans to build more than 40 hydroelectric dams in the Tapajós basin, as well as an industrial waterway and other major projects.

The main dam from the Tapajós complex, besides impacting on the Munduruku living along all the Tapajós river, could flood the Sawré Muybu indigenous land (above) in Pará state.The main dam from the Tapajós complex, besides impacting on the Munduruku living along all the Tapajós river, could flood the Sawré Muybu indigenous land (above) in Pará state. Photograph: Fábio Nascimento/Greenpeace

This would destroy the rapids of the Tapajós river that have long protected us from the pariwat (white people). Construction of the São Luiz, Jatobá and Chacorão dams would also flood our territory and erase the history written in the land.

Such a disaster has already happened on the Teles Pires tributary, where the government and companies blew up our sacred waterfall, Sete Quedas. This left the spirits of our dead without a resting place. What would you say if we destroyed your graveyards, or the Vatican or Jerusalem?

The mining of gold, minerals and precious stones also carries the suffering of our people to distant lands. Diamond extraction in Sawré Muybu threatens another of our most sacred sites, called Os Fechos (Dajekapap), which we see as our origin and the site of the footprint of our god Karosakaybu.

Loggers are entering our lands and destroying our agũkabuk (abandoned villages that are archaeological sites). This is why at the beginning of April, alongside riverine communities, our warriors prevented the government from holding a public hearing that would have advanced plans for timber extraction. We will not accept logging projects in our lands.

Some of the places are said by the government to lie outside our lands. But we have occupied these places, along with the riverine communities, for many generations.

We have our own ways of learning and taking care of the forest. We have been doing this for more than 500 years. Yet we must still remind the white people of their own laws. Brazil’s 1988 constitution has an entire chapter dedicated to indigenous peoples. Brazil also signed the International Labour Organisation’s indigenous and tribal peoples’ convention and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Are these dead words?

An aerial view of the construction site of a hydroelectric dam along the Teles Pires river, a tributary of the Amazon, in Mato Grosso.
An aerial view of the construction site of a hydroelectric dam along the Teles Pires river, a tributary of the Amazon, in Mato Grosso. Photograph: Paulo Pereira/Greenpeace

We demand these laws be respected. On the Teles Pires river, we were never consulted about the hydroelectric dams the Brazilian government has already built, or about the others it is constructing with the help of a Chinese company. We have never been asked about the terminals built in front of our villages by agribusiness companies, disturbing our peace and driving the fish away. These terminals export beans from the soy farms that have devastated the land of indigenous people and traditional communities in Mato Grosso state.

In the spirit of our god Karosakaybu and our greatest warrior Karodaybi, we are defending our land. We self-demarcated our territory after the government failed to fulfil its duty. We have drawn up a consultation protocol to explain to white people how to talk to Munduruku with respect. We demand these be recognised.

This week some of our men and women are in Brasília, where they are rallying alongside indigenous people from across the country at the Terra Livre (Free Earth) camp. Two of our great leaders have also travelled to the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues in New York, where they will meet and share ideas and experiences with our indigenous relatives from many continents.

We denounce the Brazilian government. It is a government of death. It should be protecting our lands and our lives to build a better future for all. But instead, it refuses to accept that part of our territory – Sawré Muybu indigenous land – belongs to the Munduruku. This endangers our lives, our ancestors, our sacred places, our villages and our sources of food.

The government is weakening Funai (the Indian affairs agency) and Sesai (the Indian health service). Politicians are drawing up new laws to stop the demarcation of indigenous land and reduce protected areas. Instead, they will put the territory into the hands of businessmen and looters – miners, loggers and landgrabbers, who intimidate and threaten us.


We ask for the support of people and organisations to help us build a better world. We call on international society to stop consuming Brazilian agricultural products, timber, diamonds, gold and anything else that comes from the plundering of our land and the spilling of our blood. China, Europe, the US, Australia, Canada and others must stop contributing money and machinery that helps the Brazilian government and companies as they try to crush our bodies, our spirits and all forms of life that exist in Amazonia.

The great smoke of Djurupari (the evil spirit) is coming deeper into our lands. Ultimately, it will bring everything to an end – even the pariwat (white people) who brought it. But we indigenous people are strong. Despite all efforts to exterminate us, we have been preparing for many generations to defend our lands and our people, and we will resist to the last Munduruku.