Amazon tribe lays waste to hydro dam site

by October 17, 2008

In an attempt to protect the Juruena river in western Brazil, an estimated 120 members of the Enawene Nawe tribe occupied the construction site of a hydroelectric dam on October 13, and then burned it to the ground.

"They came armed with axes and pieces of wood, banished the employees and later set fire to everything" said Frederico Muller, a coordinator working at the site. At least 12 trucks were destroyed, along with a number of offices and housing units. All told, Muller suggests that there was at least a million dollars in damages.

Reporting on the action, Survival International says that right now, there are 77 dams slated for construction along the river. "The Enawene Nawe say [these dams] will pollute the water and stop the fish [from] reaching their spawning grounds."

The Enawene Nawe see this is a major threat because the relatively isolated tribe depends on fish for survival. They are one a few tribes in the world that do not hunt or eat red meat. Fish also plays a crucial role in their customs and traditions... They say that if the fish get sick and die, then so will they.

Before the Enawene took action, they had been taking part in a "consultation process" (information exchange) with authorities, where they learned the full extent of the development. It exceeded far beyond what they had been told up to now, prompting the Enawene to immediately walk away.

Given the Enawene's loud response, some form of reprisal can unfortunately be expected.

If you would like to support the Enawene Nawe, you can send a letter online that urges the demarcation of their land. For more news and background, visit Survival International's page on the Enawene Nawe. Photo © (More photos available here)

  • jaime ocampo rangel
    October 29, 2008 at 2:51 am




    • tom
      December 12, 2008 at 9:34 pm

      yes. lets strip mine coal in uninhabited areas for electricity. I call shenanigans on any "we don't need electricity" BS b/c you're on one right now.

    • December 13, 2008 at 1:05 am

      Tom, this isn't about coal mining, it's about hydro development -- but, in any case, just because there isn't a starbucks on every corner doesn't mean it's 'uninhabited.'

      The land is indigenous territory, within which the Enawene Nawe have rights that precede the "need" of electricity by "WE who foolishly depend on it for our way of life" -- a group that does not include the Enawene Nawe.

    • tom
      December 13, 2008 at 11:35 am

      please stop being foolish and get off of your computer then. Unless you're living off grid in a place where no one else has ever lived before. If this is the case, please share your method of 100% sustainability whilst living on the moon.

    • December 13, 2008 at 12:16 pm

      This isn't about me either, Tom. It's about the Enawene Nawe -- who, as far as I know, do not use electricity, and even if they did, they most likely would NOT benefit from hydro (or coal) development on their land.

      In this situation, like hundreds of others just like it in the world today, the Enawene Nawe are essentially being told that they have to sacrifice their way of life so "other people" can get some electricity.

      Are you really telling me that this is ok? that the Enawene Nawe should just sell out everything they know for people that probably couldn't care less whether or not they live or die?

      Imagine if your neighbor came to your house, told you to give up your job, your car, your money, your religion, your values, your language, your beliefs, because he thinks he can use it better that you. It's "for the greater good", he says.

      Maybe you're ok with that, I don't know.
      But the Enawene Nawe are not.

      As for sustainable development, there are plenty of alternatives in the world. The question is, do the corporations and governments have the guts to implement them or will they continue to rely on the inferior technologies of coal, hydro, etc.

    • tom
      December 13, 2008 at 10:35 pm

      Is that what's happening to the tribe? What I read mentioned something about disruption of fish and pollution. Neither of which is substantiated. Hydro power is clean energy and most if not all modern dams are build with fish in mind and employ various methods for safe piscine passage. If these dams would destroy their homes, take away their possessions, etc, I'd see reason for concern, but I haven't read anything saying as much.

  • Disgusted
    November 2, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    "Consultation process" my arse. In short, lie to, confuse, and if need be, bribe the tribespeople into not opposing the destruction of their environment and way of life.

    Then, in a few years when the fishing can no longer support their protein needs, they will become dependent on food from outside, exchanging centuries of dignified independence for poverty, ill-health, and all hte coca cola tey can rot hteir teeth and stunt their growth with.


  • Shaun
    November 2, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    If only we all had the guts to pull this shit off. Perhaps the world could be saved in time, then.


  • November 3, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I don't think this is appropriate as a general tactic, but I agree with you Shaun. This is a simple case of the Enawene Nawe breaking the status quo (in other words, refusing to play 'the game' and sit still while their culture is destroyed). That is exceedingly rare among activists in the world's colonial centers.

    It's the difference between indigenous people having their own way of life to protect... and activists having some ideals.


  • zero-kill
    November 6, 2008 at 11:35 am

    We do all have the "guts" as you said, however being either American or part of any sort of democracy it pretty much is frowned upon to pull any sort of anarchist uprising.

    Cheap as it is to display, just look at the many horror films that have been released recently, you know the ones that deal with a super-powered conglomerate or government essentially quarantining an entire people, far-fetched as it looks, this is ultimately the path these actions of over zealous and single minded companies will drive the world to.


  • November 7, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Wow! What surprises me even more is why didn't this make it to the mainstream media? I'm not supporting the violence, but sometimes when people are put in the fight or flight situation, and backed up against a wall...well....then they simply have no choice.


  • stas
    November 9, 2008 at 11:02 am

    great! respect to the Enawene Nawe tribe!


  • Will
    November 20, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    This sets a new standard for Green Anarchists in the Global North to live up to.


  • Jonathan Wurst
    December 25, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    "Nice article! Do you have any photographs of this tribe? Amazonian tribes are so beautiful. I found some wonder pictures of Amazon tribes at Amazon Tribes

    Thanks for the wonder eye-opening article!


  • Jonathan Wurst
    December 25, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Sorry, I made a typo. I meant Amazon Tribes

    This is great info. Thanks again for sharing.



  • brriz
    December 25, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    more power to to you indian dudes! You are never gonna read this though.... sh1t.


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