The Peruvian Government has blocked Oil operations in the Amazon

July 14, 2007 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment


The Spanish oil company REPSOL was denied the “go ahead” for its operations in an area where uncontacted indigenous groups still live. Uncontacted groups are those who live in voluntary isolation. These groups are extremelly vulnarable to white man’s diseases. See whole story at

See below some intersting reading material on uncontacted indigenous peoples in Brazil. Posted by Ximena Warnaars

In Amazonia, Defending the Hidden Tribes

By Monte ReelWashington Post Foreign ServiceSunday, July 8, 2007; A01

COLIDER, Brazil — At first, few believed the story that two brothers toldabout four unknown Indians who suddenly appeared to them one afternoon on theoutskirts of their village.Like most Kayapo Indians, the brothers — named Bepro and Beprytire — live ina government-demarcated reserve, wear modern clothing and get energy fromsolar-powered generators. But the four unclothed visitors were a different kindof Kayapo.They spoke in an antiquated tongue that seemed a precursor to the languagespoken in the village, located in the Capoto-Jarina Indian Reserve in centralBrazil. The four men had come from a tribe that had remained in the forest, thebrothers said, untouched by the modern world.Over the next seven days, the doubt expressed by the villagers evaporated whenthey saw more than 60 of the Indians emerge from the forest, sleeping in hutson the edge of the village.Then as quickly as they had come, the Indians disappeared. They haven’t beenseen since.The Indians’ brief appearance this spring was enough to put them into thecenter of a debate that is increasingly challenging governments throughout theAmazon region: How should the rights and territories of isolated populations beprotected when the locations of those groups remain largely unknown?In recent months, Brazil and Peru have set aside protected areas for so-calleduncontacted groups, which have never been spoken to and rarely — if ever –glimpsed. Brazil is believed to have more uncontacted tribes than any countryin the world, and the government this year announced that as many as 67 tribescould be living in complete isolation — considerably more than the 40estimated earlier.Previously uncontacted tribes have been discovered periodically since deepAmazon exploration began in the late 1800s. In the 1970s, for example, suchtribes as the Panara were found as construction crews built roads into theforest, and periodic discoveries of small tribes continued in the followingdecades.Today, because the Amazon region is shrinking by thousands of square miles ayear, the chances of unintentional encounters involving such groups grow. Theissue has become a significant focus for the Federal Indian Bureau, or Funai,the government agency that oversees indigenous groups.Indigenous rights advocates have issued calls to protect largely unexploredareas of the forest from logging and mining. But the renewed focus onuncontacted groups has also sparked suspicions among skeptics, who believe thegroups could be more mythical than real and suspect the numbers are exaggeratedby special interest groups seeking to block exploration projects.”It is like the Loch Ness monster,” said Cecilia Quiroz, legal counsel forPerupetro, the Peruvian state agency in charge of doling out prospecting rightsto energy companies eager to explore the country’s vast interior. “Everyoneseems to have seen or heard about uncontacted peoples, but there is noevidence.”‘Why Now and Why There?’Megaron Txucarramae grew up in the village where the uncontacted Indiansapproached the two brothers in late May. He was 2 years old whenanthropologists first made contact with his own branch of the Kayapo tribe inthe 1950s. He regularly heard his elders tell the story of how one part of thetribe had fled the anthropologists’ advances to remain alone in the woods,never to be seen again.Now Megaron is the regional representative for Funai in Colider, the nearestcity to Capoto and two nearby reserves. The land, set aside for the Indians andprotected from development, is a sprawling green expanse of dense jungle.Together, the three Kayapo reservations in the area are roughly the size of theCzech Republic.When he heard of the isolated tribe’s recent appearance, Megaron quickly flewto the village of Kapot to collect evidence. He took a miniature tape recorderwith him, giving it to one of the brothers to slip into the pocket of hisshorts while he spoke to the Indians. Taking pictures, he concluded, was out ofthe question.”No one had a camera, and even if someone had had one, they were afraid ofmachines,” Megaron explained later. “If anyone pointed a camera at them, thesituation could have been very dangerous.”The group remained highly suspicious of the villagers, agreeing to talk onlywith the two brothers whom they had initially approached. They accepted bananasand cassava offered by the brothers but rejected rice because it wasn’t part oftheir traditional diet, Megaron said. One of the old men in the group had ascar on his side, a wound that the villagers attributed to a run-in withillegal loggers, who occasionally were involved in bloody confrontations withIndians in the region in the 1990s.”The man told Beprytire he had been hurt by a ‘strong sound,’ ” Megaron said.”So we are guessing that he had been shot.”Most of the Indians were unclothed, though some of the men wore penis sheathsand most were partially covered by body paint. Some of the men also had platesinserted in their lower lips, creating the decorative protrusions seen invarious Amazonian tribes.Megaron closed the village to visitors — a lockdown that remains in force.Officials were afraid that the previously uncontacted Indians could easilybecome sick. As has been proved in the past when uncontacted tribes areintroduced to other populations and the microbes they carry, maladies as simpleas the common cold can be deadly. In the 1970s, 185 members of the Panara tribedied within two years of discovery after contracting such diseases as flu andchickenpox, leaving only 69 survivors.Antonio Sergio Iole, head of health services for Funai in Colider, quicklyassembled a team of doctors and Kayapo assistants ready to travel to thevillage on a moment’s notice. The team immediately realized how many difficultquestions the tribe’s appearance had raised for local authorities.”Even the simple things are complicated,” said Iole, who said his team remainson call to travel to the village should the tribe reappear. “How should we actin the first moment we approach them? Would they accept vaccine? Would they letus inspect their mouths? Listen to their hearts? Would they allow a doctor totreat the women? How would they physically react to treatment? Some vaccineshave side effects — how would they interpret a fever? And how would they reactif we had to take someone away, even if it was for their own good?”After the tribe left the village, Iole — still in Colider — began to noticethat some other people around town were asking different questions:Why couldn’t anyone get a picture? Why was no one except the Kayapo allowedinto the village? How could a group of people remain uncontacted in the 21stcentury? Could someone be making this whole story up for some sort of personalor political gain?”I don’t believe it — this is an area with lots of loggers and farmers who arealways going out into the forest, making studies,” said Albeni de Souza, 22, auniversity student who works in a hotel in Colider. “Even the Indians from thetribes on reservations walk around the forest all the time. Someone would haveseen them before.”That kind of doubt spreads easily in towns such as Colider, where loggingcompanies and farmers have cleared most of the surrounding area and smallplanes regularly fly overhead. From the air here, the land looks much like theAmerican Midwest — a patchwork of farms. The picture is much different lessthan 250 miles away in Kapot — unreachable by car and boat — on the edge ofan Amazon forest that is almost as big as the continental United States.But even some officials have expressed doubt. In Peru, the representatives ofPerupetro have questioned the timing of the appearance, which came weeks beforethe country plans to auction 19 oil and gas exploration licenses. Some of theconcessions are located near the border with Brazil, where some nongovernmentalorganizations argue that uncontacted tribes reside.Last month, the Peruvian government rejected oil exploration plans by BarrettResources, a U.S. company, and by Spain’s Repsol YPF, in part over concernabout uncontacted tribes.While not denying the existence of some isolated groups, Quiroz — Perupetro’slegal counsel — was skeptical about the recent appearance of the Kayapo tribe.”In this age of globalization,” Quiroz said, “you have to wonder why now andwhy there.”Vanishing Without a WordSeveral years ago, Brazil’s government changed its policy regarding isolatedtribes: Instead of taking the initiative to try to contact them, it now aimsonly to protect them. Contact is made only if the Indians themselves initiateit or the tribe is in imminent danger.Funai officials plan to fly over the forest in the coming weeks to try tolocate the area where the tribe is based, Megaron said. The plan after that isto build a small field station in the forest — not to contact them but toprotect the area and make sure loggers and farmers do not come near them.That plan, of course, would be unnecessary if the Indians chose to make contactagain — a possibility that many of the local Kayapo hope happens.”Everybody wants to see them, because we love to compare them with ourselves,”said Bepko, 26, a Kayapo who lives in the village of Kubenkokre in a nearbyreserve. “We just want to hear their stories and learn about what their liveshave been like.”According to the stealth tape recording made by the brothers, there is evidencethat at least some in the tribe would like to return.Megaron said he was able to decipher the language sufficiently enough todetermine that a young member of the tribe was trying to convince his eldersthat the contact was a good thing.”The son told his father not to be afraid, that they would protect each other,”Megaron recounted. “He then talked to his mother and tried to tell her thateverything was okay and that the other group of Kayapo was their relatives.”It was later, Funai said, that a tribal leader emerged from the forest andpersuaded everyone to leave the village.”They might have been scared of the sound of airplanes,” said Luis Sampaio, abiologist who for 12 years has worked with the Kayapo in the reserve, whichfeatures a small landing strip. “Or they could have been scared by the clothesthey saw people wearing — we are not sure.”Megaron said they left without explanation or warning.”Uncontacted Indians,” he said, “don’t say goodbye when they leave.”Special correspondent Lucien Chauvin in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.


Entry filed under: Big Oil & The State, Uncontacted Indigenous Groups.


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