Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Eye-to-eye with Alvaro Tukano

[Correction: In an earlier version of this post Alvaro Tukano was mistakenly identified as Pajé Santxiê. Sorry for the confusion. See a Pajé Santxîe photo at the end of this post.]

On a recent trip to Brasilia, I made a friend. It was an "Indian sort of thing" of looking into each others eyes and "just knowing." What happened is that I asked Alvaro Tukano if I could take his picture. He surprised me by grabbing my camera and giving it to someone else to take our picture. He looked into my eyes and said, "You are a warrior of the forest. You have friends. We need more friends." It was a done deal. Perhaps the "indigenous eye" already saw this post in the mind but I'm only now becoming aware of the story as I write this post.

"It's complicated", as they love to say in Brazil,  but Alvaro Tukano knows that friendship can cut through the complexities. Here's the short version of the problem and how you can help:

There's a very special area within the Federal District of Brasilia that remains as a remnant wildland cerrado and sits on top of natural clear water springs that feed into the city's water supply. The area's status was never completely clarified under the general plan for Brasilia and for the last 40 years Indians of various ethnic lines have been occupying it with a dream of creating a Shamans Sanctuary. The Indian agency had been petitioned based on the standard unit of 50 hectares (125 acres) which is designated for protected settlements. In response, the Indian agency proposed a 4 hectare site which is unacceptable. Pajé Santxiê and his colleagues have been leading forces insisting that Santuário Não Se Move (Sanctuary Does Not Move).

The slow and difficult negotiations have gone on for years until recently when everything changed. The newly-elected governor of the Federal District in collusion with a billionaire developer decided that this would be the perfect place for an up-scale eco-smart pricey residential development that could be ready as a green showcase for the coming World Cup soccer games and the Olympics. As the pressure mounted the Indians were harassed and finally attacked by a force of hundreds of police, private security personnel using pepper spray and the current range of tactics used against "occupation" people and demonstrators.

Now the location has become a gathering place for sustainable development activists who are struggling against Brazil running roughshod over nature and indigenous peoples at many locations across Brazil including the Belo Monte Monster Dam, the devastating revisions of the national Forest Code, and the continuing murder of Indigenous activists.


In the nation's capital the battle lines have been drawn at the proposed Shamans Sanctuary. You can read more about it (in Google translation from Portuguese) and view videos at here and here and here and here.


PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION (Google translation from Portuguese). International support is critical because Brazil is trying to polish it's green image before the court of world opinion.

Here is the sign-on in Portuguese but only the first three lines are required as follows: #1 - Your Name; #2 - Your email; #3 -- Your city.

Please share this post widely. It's an easy way for you to make friends with Alvaro Tukano, Pajé Santxiê and their fellow warriors at a critical moment in their struggles.

Here is a picture of Pajé Santxiê addressing Oregon's Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim at the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers held in Brasilia in late October.

Pajé Santxîe addressing the Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers in Brasilia

View more photos at the Sanctury's Facebook page.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lou! I signed the petition, but was a bit unsure where City was( I don't read Portugese). Would you please translate to English when you have a moment, just the three lines. Thanks for taking good care as always, and for sharing this.

Lou Gold said...

The third line of the sign-on says, "cidade" which is "city" in English

Unknown said...

this shamans sanctuary is located in Brasilia, the very capital of Brazil.