Enawene Nawe Indians win right to fish

Enawene Nawe Indians win right to fish

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April 2, 2008

Survival International reports a Brazilian judge has affirmed the rights of the Enawene Nawe in the Rio Preto, an area of huge economic and spiritual importance to the People.

Each year the Enawene Nawe spend several months there, trapping and smoking fish for the community, while performing an elaborate ritual “called ‘yankwa’ where foods are exchanged to placate the ‘yakairiti’ spirits. Enawene Nawe elder Kawari explains, ‘All this land [the Rio Preto area] belongs to the yakairiti – our ancestral spirits. They own the rivers, the fish and the trees. If you finish these off, the yakairiti will take vengeance and will kill all the Enawene Nawe.’”

Over the last ten years, cattle ranchers have been progressively invading and deforesting the region, even using violent and intimidating tactics to try and force the Enawene Nawe out of the area. In fact, not two weeks ago a group of armed men walked into the ongoing fishing camp and threatened the Enawene Nawe unless they left.

Last year the cattle ranchers obtained an injunction which banned the Enawene Nawe from setting up their camps.

However, the judge’s recent decision revokes that injunction and ensures the Enawene Nawe’s safety.

Survival Continues, “In his ruling, the judge recognised that the Rio Preto in the state of Mato Grosso is, ‘both an area of religious significance and a source of food for all the indigenous community in the Enawene Nawe territory.’ An Enawene Nawe representative told Survival last week that the tribe welcomes the ruling and that all is now peaceful in the area.”

Now if only the same decision could be made about the dams….

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