We are the indigenous people of the Amazon
Who are the people living in the Amazon? This article is part of a series dedicated to the people involved in our supported projects, without whom the rainforests would never be possible to protect in the long run.
This article gives a brief introduction to indigenous people of the Amazon, and how we support them in their important struggle.
The full article series can be reached from this site.
Today 2l% of the Brazilian Amazon have been recognized as indigenous territories due to the efforts of the indigenous groups themselves, together with dedicated government civil servants and non-governmental partners. Brazil has recognized over 720 indigenous territories covering over 117 million hectares with the vast majority within the Brazilian Amazon region.
Isolated tribes, or uncontacted peoples are communities or groups of indigenous peoples living without sustained contact to neighbouring communities and the world community, and includes "indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation" (WWF, retrieved Dec 2021). Knowledge of uncontacted peoples comes mostly from encounters with neighbouring indigenous communities and from aerial footage. The United Nations says that approximately 200 indigenous peoples live in voluntary isolation or initial contact in the Americas. Around 60 of them lives in isolation in the Amazon, including in the project area of Ecam/Regnskogsföreningen. These people face several threats, and by protecting the forests where they live they are at least partly protected.
Kaxuyana village in the morning. Bild: Mikael Stenberg, 2016
We initially chose to work with the Kaxuyana, Tunuyana and Kahiyana peoples who returned to their traditional lands from other indigenous territories and only in 2015 gained official recognition of their traditional territory partially through the support of our project.
Currently, Ecam (with support from Regnskogsföreningen) works with four indigenous associations which represent the main indigenous ethnic groups in the area of focus. The indigenous groups represented include the Wai Wai, Kaxuyana, Tunuyana, Kahiyana, and Hixkariyana whose demarcated lands occupy close to 7 million hectares of forest along three main river basins all of which empty into the Amazon River from the north. The project’s work has continued its focus on three main lines of action: the first is the strengthening of their representative organizations which under Brazilian Civil Code are the legal representation of the communities both to the government and to institutional partners. The project supports the Wai Wai and Kaxuyana organizations’ ability to maintain an institutional presence in the neighbouring towns as well as with training of their members.
A second line of work is focused on the recognition of ancestral land rights and the strengthening of territorial management and protection. The project supports the elaboration and implementation of indigenous management and vigilance plans as part of its main objectives with the understanding that local traditional communities are the best possible stewards and protectors of their environments and forests. This work is done in alignment with national indigenous land management policy and the relevant government agencies. The work has been particularly successful in avoiding illegal incursions into their territories and the maintenance of their integrity including and especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic where control over their borders meant the difference between getting through the pandemic untouched or to be devastated by the disease.
A third line of work concerns the livelihood of the communities and their ability to bring alternative income generation through sustainable forest products such as the manioc flour and pepper produced by the Wai Wai and the Brazil nuts harvested by the Hixkariyana. This work also includes a specific gender focused component with support to indigenous women producers and their ability to bring their products to local markets.
A significant impact from the project was reached in 2015 when the Kaxuyana and neighbouring communities obtained tenure rights, as their traditional lands were formally identified by the government, which lead to the demarcation process. This landmark achievement continues to have positive repercussions in the region to this day. For example, the increased support for other territorial recognitions including those of the neighbouring Quilombola who achieved their own titling of their lands in 2018 also facilitated by the project.
List of indigenous organisations included in the projects supported by Regnskogsföreningen:
- APIM is an indigenous association based in Oriximina and represents all of the Wai Wai of Trombetas Mapuera. APIM is the major indigenous institution for the western part of the corridor and has partnered with Ecam since 2008.
- CGPH represents the Hixkariyana in the Nhamunda lndigenous Territory.
- APITIKATXI is an indigenous association based in Macapa in the state of Amapa. It represents the Tiriyo, Kaxuyana and Txiquiana indigenous communities in Tumucumaque lndigenous Reserve. Founded in 2004 it has advanced considerably over the last decade and maintains several projects in the benefit of the communities. Project work is expected to resume with this association.
- APIWA is the indigenous association with an office in Macapa, Amapa. It represents the Wayana and Apalai from Rio Paru D'Este. Project work is expected to resume with APIWA.
- AIKATUK represents the Kaxuyana, Tunuyana and Kahiyana communities of the Kaxuyana and Tunuyana lndigenous territory, but has moved more towards a national representative role, which has made it less able to attend to local community needs. Based on an internal agreement between the communities a new association was created to fill this void:
- APOIRCTRO is the new association built by the communities to help implement the community management plan.
- With the intention of representing all indigenous women in the region, AMIRMO is an all women indigenous organization founded bv indigenous women leaders of the Wai Wai and Kaxuyana with the support of Ecam. The organization shares offices with the umbrella women's organization of Oriximina that includes women from all different sectors of local society.
- ACONTAGS is an association based in Oriximina which represents the riverine communities of the Trombetas basin. In total it represents about 6.000 people from 33 communities.