People of Red Mountain Statement of Opposition to Lithium Nevada Corp.’s Proposed Thacker Pass Open Pit Lithium Mine

People of Red Mountain Statement of Opposition to Lithium Nevada Corp.’s Proposed Thacker Pass Open Pit Lithium Mine

In this statement, Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (the People of Red Mountain), oppose the proposed Lithium open pit mines in Thacker Pass. They describe the cultural and historical significance of Thacker Pass, and also the environmental and social problems the project will bring.

We, Atsa koodakuh wyh Nuwu (the People of Red Mountain) and our native and non-native allies, oppose Lithium Nevada Corp.’s proposed Thacker Pass open pit lithium mine.

This mine will harm the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe, our traditional land, significant cultural sites, water, air, and wildlife including greater sage grouse, Lahontan cutthroat trout, pronghorn antelope, and sacred golden eagles. We also request support as we fight to protect Thacker Pass.

”Lithium Nevada Corp. (“Lithium Nevada”) – a subsidiary of the Canadian corporation Lithium Americas Corp. – proposes to build an open pit lithium mine that begins with a project area of 17,933 acres. When the Mine is fully-operational, it would use 5,200 acre-feet per year (equivalent to an average pumping rate of 3,224 gallons per minute) in one of the driest regions in the nation. This comes at a time when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation fears it might have to make the federal government’s first-ever official water shortage declaration which will prompt water consumption cuts in Nevada. Meanwhile, despite Lithium Nevada’s characterization of the Mine as “green,” the company estimates in the FEIS that, when the Mine is fully-operational, it will produce 152,703 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions every year.

Mines have already harmed the Fort McDermitt tribe.

Several tribal members were diagnosed with cancer after working in the nearby McDermitt and Cordero mercury mines. Some of these tribal members were killed by that cancer.

In addition to environmental concerns, Thacker Pass is sacred to our people. Thacker Pass is a spiritually powerful place blessed by the presence of our ancestors, other spirits, and golden eagles – who we consider to be directly connected to the Creator. Some of our ancestors were massacred in Thacker Pass. The name for Thacker pass in our language is Peehee mu’huh, which in English, translates to “rotten moon.” Pee-hee means “rotten” and mm-huh means “moon.” Peehee mu’huh was named so because our ancestors were massacred there while our hunters were away. When the hunters returned, they found their loved ones murdered, unburied, rotting, and with their entrails spread across the sage brush in a part of the Pass shaped like a moon. To build a lithium mine over this massacre site in Peehee mu’huh would be like building a lithium mine over Pearl Harbor or Arlington National Cemetery. We would never desecrate these places and we ask that our sacred sites be afforded the same respect.

Thacker Pass is essential to the survival of our traditions.

Our traditions are tied to the land. When our land is destroyed, our traditions are destroyed. Thacker Pass is home to many of our traditional foods. Some of our last choke cherry orchards are found in Thacker Pass. We gather choke cherries to make choke cherry pudding, one of our oldest breakfast foods. Thacker Pass is also a rich source of yapa, wild potatoes. We hunt groundhogs and mule deer in Thacker Pass. Mule deer are especially important to us as a source of meat, but we also use every part of the deer for things like clothing and for drumskins in our most sacred ceremonies.

Thacker Pass is one of the last places where we can find our traditional medicines.

We gather ibi, a chalky rock that we use for ulcers and both internal and external bleeding. COVID-19 made Thacker Pass even more important for our ability to gather medicines. Last summer and fall, when the pandemic was at its worst on the reservation, we gathered toza root in Thacker Pass, which is known as one of the world’s best anti-viral medicines. We also gathered good, old-growth sage brush to make our strong Indian tea which we use for respiratory illnesses.

Thacker Pass is also historically significant to our people.

The massacre described above is part of this significance. Additionally, when American soldiers were rounding our people up to force them on to reservations, many of our people hid in Thacker Pass. There are many caves and rocks in Thacker Pass where our people could see the surrounding land for miles. The caves, rocks, and view provided our ancestors with a good place to watch for approaching soldiers. The Fort McDermitt tribe descends from essentially two families who, hiding in Thacker Pass, managed to avoid being sent to reservations farther away from our ancestral lands. It could be said, then, that the Fort McDermitt tribe might not be here if it wasn’t for the shelter provided by Thacker Pass.

We also fear, with the influx of labor the Mine would cause and the likelihood that man camps will form to support this labor force, that the Mine will strain community infrastructure, such as law enforcement and human services. This will lead to an increase in hard drugs, violence, rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking. The connection between man camps and missing and murdered indigenous women is well-established.

Finally, we understand that all of us must be committed to fighting climate change. Fighting climate change, however, cannot be used as yet another excuse to destroy native land. We cannot protect the environment by destroying it.

Sign the petition from People of Red Mountain:


For more on the Protect Thacker Pass campaign

#ProtectThackerPass #NativeLivesMatter #NativeLandsMatter

Brazil: European colonial history exposed in landmark court case

Brazil: European colonial history exposed in landmark court case

Editor’s note: The American Holocaust (a term coined by David Stannard) is the largest genocide in human history. The atrocities are ongoing and being reinforced by fascists like Jair Bolsonaro, providing another example that capitalism and fascism are two sides of the same coin.

Featured image: Indigenous protest, Brazil April 2018. ‘By painting the streets red, we’re showing how much blood has already been shed in the struggle to protect indigenous territories,’ – Sônia Guajajara, a spokeswoman for APIB (Brazilian indigenous organization).
© Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

By Survival International

The land rights of the Xokleng, a tribe that was violently expelled from its territory in the 19th and 20th centuries to make way for European colonists, are now the focus of a landmark court case in Brazil.

The Xokleng were brutally persecuted and evicted by armed militias to make way for European settlers. The Supreme Court hearing into the so-called “Time Limit Trick” could now set the effects of these and subsequent evictions in stone, establishing a precedent which would have far-reaching consequences for indigenous peoples in Brazil.

Other Xokleng communities are also fighting to recover some of their territory. The Xokleng Konglui in Rio Grande do Sul state have launched a 'retomada' (reoccupation) of their land, which is now occupied by a national park. The government wants to make it an 'ecotourism' destination.

Other Xokleng communities are also fighting to recover some of their territory. The Xokleng Konglui in Rio Grande do Sul state have launched a ‘retomada’ (reoccupation) of their land, which is now occupied by a national park. The government wants to make it an ‘ecotourism’ destination. © Iami Gerbase/Survival

The case centers around the demarcation of the “Ibirama La Klãnõ” Indigenous Territory in the state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. If they win, the Xokleng would be able to return to a significant part of their ancestral territory.

However, the official demarcation of the territory has been suspended following a lawsuit filed by non-indigenous residents and a logging company operating in the area. They argue that on October 5, 1988 – the date the Brazilian Constitution was signed – the Xokleng only lived in limited parts of the territory and therefore have no right to most of their original land. If this argument succeeds, it would legitimize centuries of evictions experienced by indigenous peoples throughout Brazil.

The Brazilian government encouraged Europeans to settle on indigenous land, and allocated them large parts of the Xokleng and other indigenous territories at the beginning of the 20th century. It also financed a so-called “Indian-hunting militia”, which accelerated the colonial land grab. This militia specialized in the extermination of indigenous peoples and hunted down the Xokleng.

“The Redskins are interfering with colonization: this interference must be eliminated, and as quickly and thoroughly as possible,” German colonists demanded at the time.

German settlers resented Xokleng attempts to defend their territories, and frequently subjected them to cruel “punitive expeditions.”

The Xokleng territory was continuously reduced over several decades. In the 1970s, a dam was built in the small part that remained.

Map of the current (Ibirama) and planned (Ibirama La Klãnõ) indigenous territory. The expansion of the territory is the cause of the legal dispute.

Map of the current (Ibirama) and planned (Ibirama La Klãnõ) indigenous territory. The expansion of the territory is the cause of the legal dispute. © Marian Ruth Heineberg/Natalia Hanazaki based on data from FUNAI/IBGE/MMA.

If Brazil’s Supreme Court votes in favor of the “Time Limit Trick”, it would have devastating consequences for many other indigenous peoples, and their chances of reclaiming their ancestral territories. It could enable the theft of land that is rightfully owned by hundreds of thousands of tribal and indigenous people. The validity of existing indigenous territories could then also come into question.

Brasílio Priprá, a prominent Xokleng leader, said: “If we didn’t live in a certain part of the territory in 1988, it doesn’t mean it was “no man’s land” or that we didn’t want to be there. The “Time Limit Trick” reinforces the historical violence that continues to leave its mark today.”

Indigenous organizations and their allies, including Survival, began raising fears about the “Time Limit Trick” in 2017, calling it unlawful because it violates the current Brazilian Constitution and international law, which clearly states that indigenous peoples have the right to their ancestral lands.

President Bolsonaro is turning back the clock on indigenous rights, attempting to: erase their right to self-determination; sell off their territories to logging and mining companies; and ‘assimilate’ them against their will. Survival International and tribal peoples are fighting side by side to stop Brazil’s genocide.

Fiona Watson of Survival International said today: “The history of the Xokleng shows just how absurd the “Time Limit Trick” is: Indigenous peoples have been evicted from their lands, hunted down and murdered in Brazil for centuries. Those who demand that in order to have the right to their land now, indigenous lands had to have been inhabited by indigenous communities on October 5, 1988 – after the end of the military dictatorship – are denying this history and perpetuating the genocide in the 21st century.”

Note to the editor:

– More information on the Xokleng and their history can be found here.
– The case before the Court concerns only the Xokleng of Ibirama La Klãnõ indigenous territory. There are many other Xokleng communities.

The Forest People: Life and Death under the Green Revolution

The Forest People: Life and Death under the Green Revolution

This article, originally published on, describes the dangers of the modern, western conception of “untouched wilderness” and its drastic consequences for the last human cultures still inhabiting dense forests. Calling the forests their home for millenia, they are not only threatened by mining and logging companies, but by modern “environmental” NGO’s and their policies of turning forests into national parks devoid of human presence, pushing the eviction of their ancestral human inhabitants.

Featured image: Pygmy houses made with sticks and leaves in northern Republic of the Congo

One of the oldest myths impressed into the minds of modern people is the image of the wild, virgin forest.

The twisted, gnarled and dense trees, complete with ancient ferns, silent deer and patches of sunlight through gaps in the canopy. In this vision there are no people, and this is a striking feature of what we mean by ‘wilderness’. We have decided that humans are no longer a natural part of the wild world. Unfortunately, these ideas have real world consequences for those remaining people who do call rainforests and woodlands their homes. Approximately 1,000 indigenous and tribal cultures live in forests around the world, a population close to 50 million people, including the Desana of Colombia, the Kuku-Yalanji of Australia and the Pygmy peoples of Central Africa and the Congo. This is a story about those people of the Congolese forests, about how their unique way of life is threatened by the very people who should be defending them and how rainforests actually thrive when humans adapt to a different way of life.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has to be amongst modernity’s greatest tragedies.

Almost no-one knows that the ‘Great African War’, fought between 1998 and 2003, saw 5.4 million deaths and 2 million more people displaced. Very few can grasp the bewildering complexity of armed groups, of the ethnic and political relationships between the Congo and Rwanda or the sheer scale of the conflict, which at its height saw 1000 civilians dying every day. And yet this is also a country of staggering beauty, a sanctuary to the greatest levels of species diversity in Africa. It is home to the mountain gorilla, the bonobo, the white rhino, the forest elephant and the okapi. Roughly 60% of the country is forested, much of it under threat by logging and subsistence farming expansions. The Congolese Pygmy peoples have been living here since the Middle Stone Age, heirs to a way of life over 100,000 years old. A note here on naming – the term Pygmy is considered by some to be offensive and the different people grouped under the title prefer to call themselves by their ethnic identities. These include the Aka, the Baka, the Twa and the Mbuti. The Congolese Pygmy people are grouped under the Mbuti – the Asua, the Efe and the Sua. In general these all refer to Central African Foragers who have inherited physical adaptations to life in the rainforest, including shortened height and stature.

The Mbuti people are hunters, trappers and foragers, using nets and bows to drive and catch forest animals. They harvest hundreds of kinds of plants, barks, fruits and roots and are especially obsessed with climbing trees to source wild honey, paying no heed to the stings of the bees. In many ways theirs is an idyllic antediluvian image of carefree hunter-gatherers, expending only what energy they need to find food and make shelters, preferring to spend their lives dancing, laughing and perfecting their ancient polyphonic musical tradition. Of course, this is an edenic view and the reality of their lives is much more complex and far more tragic, but it is worth highlighting the key environmental role they play as stewards and denizens of the forests. The Mbuti have been in the Congolese forests for tens of millennia, living within the carrying capacity of the land and developing sophisticated systems of ecological knowledge, based on their intimate familiarity with the rhythms and changes of the wildlife and the plants. Despite other groups of hunter-gatherers eating their way through large herds of megafauna, the Mbuti can live alongside elephants, rhinos and okapi without destroying their numbers.

In spite of this, the Mbuti and other Pygmy peoples have been attacked and evicted from their forests for decades.

In the 1980’s, the government of Congo sold huge areas of the Kahuzi Biega forest to logging and mining companies, forcibly removing the Batwa people and plunging them into poverty. To this day, many of their descendents live in roadside shanties, refused assistance from the State, denied healthcare and even the right to work. Many have since fled back to the forests. Alongside the mining and logging companies, conservation charities have been targeting the Baka peoples for evictions. In particular the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been lobbying to convert the Messok Dja, a particularly biodiverse area of rainforest in the Republic of Congo, in a National Park, devoid of human presence. This aggressive act of clearance is rooted in the idea that a ‘wilderness’ area should not contain any people, thus rendering the original inhabitants of the forests as intruders, invaders and despoilers of ‘Nature’. The charity Survival – an organisation dedicated to indigenous and tribal rights – has been campaigning for WWF to stop their activities. In particular Survival has successfully documented numerous abuses committed by the Park Rangers, whose activities are funded by WWF and others:

“notwithstanding the fact that Messok Dja is not even officially a national park yet, the rangers have sown terror among the Baka in the region. Rangers have stolen the Baka’s possessions, burnt their camps and clothes and even hit and tortured them. If Baka are found hunting small animals to feed their families they are arrested and beaten”

Outside of the forest, the Baka and other Pygmy peoples face widespread hostility and discrimination from the majority Bantu population.

Many are enslaved, sometimes for generations, and are viewed as pets or forest animals. The situation is no better within the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the endless cycles of violence have seen the most shocking abuses against the Mbuti populations. Even in the most peaceful areas, park rangers regularly harass and abuse Mbuti hunters and villagers, illegally cutting down trees for charcoal or shooting animals for meat. In some places the Batwa people have formed militias, often armed with little more than axes and arrows, to defend themselves against slaving raids by the neighbouring Luba people.

The worst events for the Mbuti people in recent years began during the Rwandan genocide, where the Hutu Interahamwe paramilitaries murdered over 10,000 Pygmies and drove a further 10,000 out of the country, many of whom fled into the forests of the DRC. Later, between 2002 and 2003, a systematic campaign of extermination was waged against the Bambutis of the North Kivu province of DRC. The Movement for the Liberation of Congo embarked on a mission, dubbed Effacer le tableau – ‘cleaning the slate’, which saw them kill over 60,000 Pygmies. In part this was motivated by the belief that the Bambuti are subhumans, whose flesh possesses magical powers to cure AIDS and other diseases. Many of the victims were also killed, traded and eaten as bushmeat. Cannibalism against the Pygmy peoples has been reported throughout the Congolese Civil Wars, with almost all sides engaging in the act.

Unsurprisingly under these pressures, the Mbuti and other groups have been displaced, broken up and scattered throughout Central Africa. In part this has always been the intention of these campaigns, for the Congo region is not an isolated backwater of the modern world, but an integral part of the material economy of advanced modernity. In particular Central Africa has been cursed with an abundance of precious and important metals and minerals, including: tin, copper, gold, tantalum, diamonds, lithium and, crucially, over 70% of the world’s cobalt. The intensive push for electric vehicles (EVs) by the EU and the USA has seen prices for battery components skyrocket. Cobalt in particular reached $100,000 per tonne in 2018. Tantalum is also heavily prized, as a crucial element for nearly all advanced electronics and is found in a natural ore called coltan. Coltan has become synonymous with slavery, child labour, dangerous mining conditions and violence. Almost every actor in the endless conflicts in DRC have been involved in illegally mining and smuggling coltan onto the world market, including the Rwandan Army, who set up a shell company to process the ore obtained across the border. Miners, far from food sources, turn to bushmeat, especially large primates like gorillas. An estimated 3-5 million tonnes of bushmeat is harvested every year in DRC, underlining the central role that modern electronic consumption has on the most fragile ecosystems. In this toxic mix of violent warlordism, mineral extraction, logging, bushmeat hunting and genoicide, the Mbuti people have struggled to maintain their way of life. Their women and children end up pounding lumps of ore, breathing in metal dusts, they end up as prostitutes and slaves, surviving on the margins of an already desperate society.

In Mbuti mythology, their pantheon of gods are directly weaved into the life of the rainforest.

The god Tore is the Master of Animals and supplies them for the people. He hides in rainbows or storms and sometimes appears as a leopard to young men undergoing initiation rites deep in the trees. The god of the hunt is Khonvoum, who wields a bow made of two snakes and ensures the sun rises every morning. Other animals appear as messengers, such as the chameleon or the dwarf who disguises himself as a reptile. These are the cultural beliefs of a people who became human in the rainforest, adapted down the bone to its tempos and seasons. They are a part of the ecosystem, as much as the gorilla or the forest hog. Their taboos recognise the evil of hunting in an animal’s birthing grounds, or the importance of never placing traps near fresh water. Breaking these results in a metaphysical ostracism known as ‘muzombo’, a kind of spiritual death and sometimes accompanied by physical exile from the village. As far as their voice has counted for anything under the deluge of horror that modernity has unleashed upon them, they want to be left alone, to hunt and fish in their forests, to live close to their ancestors and to raise their children in peace and safety.

The expansion of the ‘Green New Deal’ and the rise of ‘renewable’ industrial technologies may be the death knell for these archaic and peaceful people.

Make no mistake, these green initiatives – electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar batteries – these are actively destroying the last remaining strongholds of biodiversity on the planet. The future designs on the DRC include vast hydroelectric dams and intensive agriculture, stripping away the final refuges of the world. Now, more than ever, the Mbuti and other Pygmy peoples need our solidarity, an act which can be as simple as not buying that next iPhone.

Editor’s note on the last sentence of this otherwise well-written article: Personal consumer choices are no means of political action and will not save the planet. If you don’t buy the next iPhone someone else will. The whole globalized industrial system of exploitation which makes iPhones possible in the first place has to be stopped.

Friday, May 7th #Defund Line 3 Global Day of Action

Friday, May 7th #Defund Line 3 Global Day of Action

Original Press Release

Together we are powerful. Since the #DefundLine3 campaign launched in February, bank executives have received more than 700,000 emails, 7,000 calendar invites and 3,000 phone calls, demanding that they stop funding Line 3. There have been protests at bank branches in 16 states. Collectively, we’ve raised more than $70,000 for those on the frontlines.
Now, we’re pulling all of that energy together for one powerful, coordinated day of action.
There are already actions confirmed in more than 40 US cities ― in New York, DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and more ― as well as in the UK, France, Holland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Canada and Sierra Leone.
If there isn’t an action near you, organize one! Actions can be small. Going to a local bank branch with your friend to deliver a letter or petition can be a powerful action. Actions can be large. Think hundreds of people shutting down the streets outside of a bank’s headquarters.
Whatever type of action you plan, Stop the Money Pipeline organizers will be here to support you every step of the way. To organize your own action, please fill out this form and an organizer will be in touch.
On the frontlines, more than 240 people have now been arrested for taking bold direct action to stop the construction of Line 3.
Just a few weeks ago, Indigenous Water Protectors sang and prayed inside of a waaginogaaning, the traditional structure of Anishinaabe peoples, as allies locked to each other around the lodge, blocking Line 3 construction for hours.

After they were arrested, the Indigenous Water Protectors were strip-searched, shackled and kenneled ― for nonviolent misdemeanors. Meanwhile, Enbridge has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on riot gear, tear gas, and weapons for local militarized police forces that are regularly surveilling and harrassing nonviolent Water Protectors.

The #DefundLine3 Global Day of Action on May 7th is a powerful opportunity for us to stand in solidarity with those who are leading the fight on the frontlines ― and to send a direct, powerful message to Wall Street that funding climate chaos and the violation of Indigenous rights will not be tolerated.
-Simone Senogles
P.S. Want to learn more about the #DefundLine3 campaign? Check out this blog or this blog from Tara Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective.
‘We are made invisible’: Brazil’s Indigenous on prejudice in the city

‘We are made invisible’: Brazil’s Indigenous on prejudice in the city

This article was originally published on Mongabay. Mongabay starts publishing a series of data-driven multimedia stories on Brazil’s Indigenous people living in urban areas, including the metropolitan centers of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Brasília, showing that Indigenous people are much closer to most Brazilians than they realize.
Mongabay Series: Amazon ConservationAmazon Illegal DeforestationIndigenous Peoples and Conservation

Featured image: Michael Oliveira Baré Tikuna lists countless incidents of apparent prejudice he faced for being Indigenous since moving to Rio de Janeiro. “We are made invisible in the university, in social movements, we are made invisible in everything,” he said. This photograph was taken in Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, on November 14, 2020. Image by Mongabay


  • Contrary to popular belief, Brazil’s Indigenous people aren’t confined to the Amazon Rainforest, with more than a third of them, or about 315,000 individuals, living in urban areas.
  • Over the past year, we dived into the census and related databases to produce unique maps and infographics showing not only how the Indigenous residents are distributed in six cities and in Brazil overall, but also showcasing their access to education, sewage and other amenities, and their ethnic diversity.
  • Access to higher education is a milestone: the number of Indigenous people enrolled in universities jumped from 10,000 to about 81,000 between 2010 and 2019, giving them a higher college education rate than the general population.
  • This data-driven reporting project received funding support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s data journalism and property rights grant.

RIO DE JANEIRO — During a presentation for Indigenous People’s Week, celebrated in April in Brazil, at his son’s elementary school in Rio de Janeiro, the first thing sociologist José Carlos Matos Pereira did was to show a photo of several individuals and ask the children, “What do you think, are they Indigenous?” The children immediately answered in unison: “No.” He asked why, and they responded, “They are not naked; they do not have a bow and arrow and they are not in the forest; so, they are not Indigenous.”

The episode, centering on a picture of Indigenous people from the city of Altamira in the Amazonian state of Pará, is just a snapshot of the reality faced by Indigenous people living in urban areas throughout Brazil. “This marks a perception since a child as one thinks of Indigenous people [as being] outside the city and in conditions of, shall we say, ‘natural,’” Pereira, a researcher at the Social Movements Memory Program, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), told Mongabay.

“The Indigenous hunt, fish, live in the forest, have their way of life, their rituals. But he also comes to the city … And when he comes, he brings with him a way of life.”

In fact, contrary to popular belief, Indigenous people are scattered all over Brazil and not just in the Amazon Rainforest and remote rural areas. More than a third of Brazil’s Indigenous population, or about 315,000 individuals, live in urban areas, according to the country’s latest census.

But while in rural and remote areas Indigenous people are threatened by land invasions, mining and a wide range of development projects, in the cities they constantly face invisibilization and prejudice.

Having lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years, Michael Oliveira Baré Tikuna can list countless incidents of apparent prejudice that he faced for being Indigenous since moving to the city. These range from the time he used to live on the streets selling his craftworks, through to his time in university. Baré was the first Indigenous person to enter the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) through the quota system.

“A black guy told me that my place wasn’t at the university, that my place was inside the forest,” said Baré, a shiatsu therapist and freelance professor of Indigenous history. “This was the thing that shocked me the most because he was reproducing in me what the white men do to him [when they say] to send him back to Africa.”

Born in Manaus, in the Amazon region, Baré’s Indigenous name in the Nheengatu language — derived from the Tupi-Guarani language — is Anaje Sucurijú Mangará Ibytyra, which means Sucurijú Hawk Mountain Heart. His name on his birth certificate is Michael Júnior Queiroz de Oliveira but he adopted the Indigenous ethnicities Baré and Tikuna from his parents after rescuing his Indigenous roots, he said.

The Tikuna people are the most numerous Indigenous ethnic group in the Brazilian Amazon. The first reference to the Tikuna people dates back to the mid-17th century, in the Solimões River region, in Amazonas state. With history marked by the violent entry of rubber tappers, fishermen and loggers, the Tikuna only achieved official recognition of most of their lands in the 1990s. They speak the Tikuna language.

The Baré people live mainly along the Xié River and the upper Negro River, to where the majority migrated compulsorily due to violence and exploitation of their extractive work by with non-Indigenous. Their first contact with non-Indigenous occurred in the early 18th century, according to documents from that century. Originally from the Arawak linguistic family, today they speak Nheengatu, which was disseminated by the Carmelites in the colonial period.

“We are made invisible in the university, in social movements, we are made invisible in everything. But I realized that this is a historic construction,” he said, one that “I struggle to deconstruct, which I ended up calling … ‘the ideological discourse of the slave colonizer,’ which is the discourse that introjected into the collective unconscious the notion … that miscegenation is not good.”

Historian Ana Paula da Silva, a PhD in social memory, highlights the importance of a revisionism movement of Indigenous history that several researchers are carrying out today, given the lack of a prominent place for Indigenous people in Brazilian history.

“They were part of our history, our culture and they were fundamental in the colonization process and this is something that should be taught in schools, disseminated in the media and, certainly, from the moment that the Brazilian society understands that Indigenous people are part of Brazil, of our history, certainly many prejudices, a lot of discrimination in relation to this population will be deconstructed,” said da Silva, a researcher at the Program of Studies of Indigenous Peoples (Pro Índio), from the Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ).

The intrinsic presence of Indigenous people in Brazilian culture, from words to habits, was also highlighted by the historian, who is also a member of a network of university researchers focused on promoting the Indigenous knowledge at schools throughout Brazil. Called Saberes Indígenas(Indigenous Knowledge), the program is promoted by the Ministry of Education since 2013.

Aerial view of a building besides the Maracanã stadium over which Indigenous people are claiming their ancestral ownership rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. December 1, 2020. Image by Mongabay.

A diaspora of Indigenous people to the cities, da Silva said, is a consequence of their displacement in the past during the colonial period from the places where cities were built. Many of them also come to urban areas seeking better living conditions, she added.

Hidden stories like Baré’s will be framed in a series of data-driven multimedia stories that Mongabay starts publishing today, focused on the six Brazilian municipalities with the highest absolute numbers of Indigenous people living in urban areas, showing that Indigenous people are much closer to other Brazilians than they imagine.

Although some experts argue that the best way to highlight the Indigenous presence in Brazilian cities is by their proportion of the population in each city, Mongabay has decided to focus on the absolute numbers. The figures may come as a surprise to many, as the six cities with the highest number of Indigenous people include the country’s most famous metropoles, where the Indigenous presence is even more invisible.

According to the 2010 census, the latest released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the municipalities with the highest number of Indigenous people living in urban areas are, in descending order: São Paulo, São Gabriel da Cachoeira (in Amazonas state), Salvador (in Bahia state), Rio de Janeiro, Boa Vista (in Roraima state), and Brasília, the national capital — IBGE considered data for the whole Federal District. Only two of these, São Gabriel da Cachoeira and Boa Vista, are in states that comprise part of the Brazilian Amazon.

Over the past year, we dived into the 2010 census (new data only will be available in 2022) and related databases to produce unique maps and infographics showing not only how the Indigenous residents are distributed in the urban areas of these six cities but also showcasing their access to education, sewage and other amenities, as well as their ethnic diversity. Mongabay will publish one story for each city, starting with the biggest cities and followed by the Amazonian ones.

The project, which received funding support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will close with an in-depth analysis of the Indigenous presence in Brazil’s urban areas as a whole, including the cities with the highest percentage of Indigenous residents and other municipalities that don’t appear in the ranks but are very relevant in representing the Indigenous way of living in the urban areas.


Pereira, the sociologist, who has a postdoctoral degree in social anthropology, highlights the importance of the 2010 census, as it is the first to recognize, through a self-declaration process, the Indigenous presence in population compacts in reserves, rural and urban areas, as well as their 300 ethnicities speaking multiple languages.

“For a long time, the Indigenous people were removed from the population count. They only appeared in the 1990s through the question of color and race. And this was repeated in the early 2000s. Only in 2010 we had Brazil’s first Indigenous census,” Pereira said. “So it is an important fact that you can’t deny anymore: the Indigenous presence in Brazilian cities.”

Aerial view of the Jaraguá Indigenous Reserve in São Paulo’s northeast region. November 21, 2020. Image by Jonne Roriz for Mongabay.

He said the census began during the colonization period, with an aim of counting the population for taxation purposes and army conscription. “So, all the diversity of language, of people, of customs, they were erased because this information did not matter to the metropole; it aimed to standardize and reorder the data according to the interests of the metropolitan power,” Pereira said.

Censuses carried out by the Brazilian government date from the end of the 19th century. But it largely excluded the Indigenous population, Pereira noted; only those who had been evangelized by missionaries appear in the statistics under the race categories of caboclo and pardo, both of which refer to mixed-race individuals.

Aerial view of the Shrine of Shamans, the only demarcated Indigenous reserve in Brazil’s capital, Brasília. Located beside a high-income residential complex, the land was demarcated in 2018, after a decade-long legal dispute to recognize the Indigenous ancestral rights over the area. Image by Fellipe Neiva for Mongabay.

Education as a weapon

One of the highlights of our coverage is how access to higher education has helped Indigenous people fight against this prejudice and has improved their living conditions in urban areas. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of Indigenous people enrolled in universities through the quota system, launched in 2012, spiked from 10,219 to 80,652.

Given that about 81,000 Indigenous people from a population of about 900,000 were attending university in 2019, this gives a much better rate of higher education than the average for Brazilian citizens in general in the same year (9% compared to 5.8%, respectively), said anthropologist João Pacheco de Oliveira, a professor and curator of the ethnographic collections at the National Museum — a member of the Science and Culture Forum of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), which completed 200 years in 2018.

Oliveira pointed to the enormous potential of Indigenous peoples in universities. “From this group, the brains of the movement will be formed: lawyers, anthropologists, doctors, teachers,” he said. “The Indigenous project in relation to being a Brazilian citizen, it is not a project to become simply a repository from the past. It is to have and gain citizenship, to be prominent people, to exercise science, to hold positions.

“Those who go to the city didn’t become white people,” he added. “They continue to be Indigenous, and will be very important for those that are within the villages, and this junction between one thing and the other is essential for the Indigenous project.”

Oliveira added that most of the international public “would take it by surprise to see the real face of the Brazilian Indigenous,” which doesn’t match with the stereotypical image of a person dressed in traditional clothing.

Baré said that entering Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) through the quota system was his biggest achievement in life. “I am the first of my family who entered university, who achieved this feat. And I was very happy and proud to be able to give [this] pride to my mother,” he said.

Michael Oliveira Baré Tikuna poses for a photograph in front of a building at Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ), where he was the first Indigenous enrolled through the quota system. December 1, 2020. Image by Mongabay

Education, he said, has helped him overcome the prejudice he felt against his Indigenous identity, citing the concept of autophobia from Domenico Losurdo, an Italian Marxist philosopher and historian. “Autophobia is when the victims introject the point of view of their oppressor. It’s when one hates oneself. I realized that this happens to all Indigenous people, from South to North America [due to the colonization process],” Baré said.

But from the moment he started gathering academic knowledge of racial democracy and ancestral culture he said, citing Brazilian anthropologists Darcy Ribeiro and Berta Ribeiro, he realized that education is the only effective “weapon” to end the prejudice.

“I realized that education is not only … a shield to defend myself against prejudice and racism,” he said, “it is also a weapon … and the only weapon that we can use, as Indigenous people, that will not generate a genocidal reaction [from non-Indigenous people].

“It was thought of by the Brazilian people that if you were placed in the city, you are no longer an Indigenous,” Baré said. “If you wear shorts, you wear a watch, you wear a cellphone, you wear sneakers, you are no longer an Indigenous. But that’s a big lie, a big mistake.”

He said his dream is to free the Brazilian people from the ideological discourse game of the slave colonizer, which keeps Indigenous people subdued. “My dream … is that Brazilians instead of saying ‘Ah, they are the Indigenous,’ they say, ‘They are our ancestors.’”

Indigenous people are claiming their ancestral ownership rights over this building, located beside the famous Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. December 1, 2020. Image by Mongabay.

This project received funding support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s data journalism and property rights grant.

Infographics: Ambiental Media/Laura Kurtzberg

Data research and analysis: Yuli Santana, Rafael Dupim and Ambiental Media

Karla Mendes is a staff contributing editor for Mongabay in Brazil. Find her on Twitter: @karlamendes

The Big Green Lie

The Big Green Lie

We in DGR stand in solidarity with Survival International and support them because we believe that their analysis is correct and the organization is doing incredibly important work in standing up for indigenous peoples worldwide. While we encourage everyone to support Survival International and their very well-made campaigns, as an organization DGR pushes for more radical approaches than writing or signing letters and petitions, begging those in power to act in a different way. Those in power have never been on the side of the masses, the poor, the indigenous or the natural world. Asking nicely will not stop them continuing their atrocities.

By Survival International

At the next Convention on Biological Diversity summit, world leaders plan to agree turning 30% of the Earth into “Protected Areas” by 2030.

Big conservation NGOs say this will mitigate climate change, reduce wildlife loss, enhance biodiversity and so save our environment. They are wrong.

Protected Areas will not save our planet. On the contrary, they will increase human suffering and so accelerate the destruction of the spaces they claim to protect because local opposition to them will grow. They have no effect on climate change at all, and have been shown to be generally poor at preventing wildlife loss.

It is vital that real solutions are put forward to address these urgent problems and that the real cause – exploitation of natural resources for profit and growing overconsumption, driven by the Global North – is properly acknowledged and discussed. But this is unlikely to happen because there are too many vested interests that depend on existing consumption patterns continuing.

Who will suffer if 30% of Earth is “protected”? It won’t be those who have overwhelmingly caused the climate crisis, but rather indigenous and other local people in the Global South who play little or no part in the environment’s destruction. Kicking them off their land to create Protected Areas won’t help the climate: Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of the natural world and an essential part of human diversity that is a key to protecting biodiversity.

We must stop the push for 30%.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a protected area. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead.

These Khadia men were thrown off their land after it was turned into a protected area. They lived for months under plastic sheets. Millions more face this fate if the 30% plan goes ahead. © Survival

The truth about Protected areas

In many parts of the world a Protected Area is where the local people who called the land home for generations are no longer allowed to live or use the natural environment to feed their families, gather medicinal plants or visit their sacred sites. This follows the model of the United States’ nineteenth century creation of the world’s first national parks on lands stolen from Native Americans. Many US national parks forced the peoples who had created the wildlife-rich “wilderness” landscapes into landlessness and poverty.

This is still happening to indigenous peoples and other communities in Africa and parts of Asia. Local people are pushed out by force, coercion or bribery. They are beaten, tortured and abused by park rangers when they try to hunt to feed their families or just to access their ancestral lands. The best guardians of the land, once self-sufficient and with the lowest carbon footprint of any of us, are reduced to landless impoverishment and often end up adding to urban overcrowding. Usually these projects are funded and run by big Western conservation NGOs. Once the locals are gone, tourists, extractive industries and others are welcomed in. For these reasons, local opposition to Protected Areas is growing.

“If the jungle is taken away from us, how will we survive?”

Kunni Bai, a Baiga woman, denounces efforts to evict her people in the name of “conservation”.

Why should we oppose it?

Doubling Protected Areas to cover 30% of the globe will ensure these problems become much worse. As the most biodiverse regions are those where indigenous peoples still live, these will be the first areas targeted by the conservation industry. It will be the biggest land grab in world history and it will reduce hundreds of millions of people to landless poverty – all in the name of conservation. Creating Protected Areas has rarely been done with the consent of indigenous communities, or respect for their human rights. There is no sign that it will be any different in the future. More Protected Areas are likely to result in more militarization and human rights abuses.

The idea of “fortress conservation” – that local peoples must be removed from their land in order to protect ‘nature’ – is colonial. It’s environmentally damaging and rooted in racist and ecofascist ideas about which people are worth more, and which are worth less and can be pushed off their land and impoverished, or attacked and killed.

The conservation industry is looking to get $140 billion every year to fund its land grab.

What do we propose?

We must fight against this big green lie.

If we’re serious about putting the brakes on biodiversity loss, the cheapest and best-proven method is to support as much indigenous land as possible. Eighty per cent of the planet’s biodiversity is already found there.

For tribes, for nature, for all humanity. #BigGreenLie

More information on the 30% land grab:

– Mapping For Rights: The ‘Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework’

– ‘New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind’

– #DecolonizeConservation: Tribal Voice videos

– Joint statement by NGOs: concerns over the proposed 30% target

– The Big Green Lie: an infographic explainer

– EU Conference on 2030 Biodiversity Strategy

– 30% by 2030 and Nature-Based Solutions: the new green colonial rule

– Letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson


More information on colonial conservation