“If we allow our territory to be occupied by mining companies, it will create a precedent for them to enter any community. And that would mean death for us.”
Simone is one of the Karipuna people who live in the indigenous territories of Uaçá, Juminã and Galibi, in Oiapoque, Brazil. The territory is located in the extreme north of the state of Amapá and borders on French Guyana. The municipalities of Calçoene, Serra do Navio and Pedra Branca do Amapari lie to the south. To the west lies Laranjal do Jari and to the east the Atlantic Ocean.
Simone was interviewed by “Voice of the Amazon,” a project of the communication team of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, Repam, in collaboration with Verbo Filmes, a Catholic production company linked to the Congregation of the Divine Word Missionaries, and the Jesuit-run UNICAP Humanitas Institute.
Simone insists that, whatever plan or project the government intends developing in the indigenous territories, the local people must be “consulted and listened to.”
A decree that would mean death
According to Simone, and to the Galibi Marworno, Palikur, Galibi Oiapoque and Karipuna people, a recent Federal Government decree authorising mining in the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (RENCA), would mean the death of the local indigenous people. The RENCA covers an area of over 46,000 square kilometres, home to a variety of communities.
“If we let these companies enter a region,” says Simone, “we create a precedent for them to enter any community. For us that would mean death.”
The impact of mining companies
Simone explains how all the people of the region have come together to discuss how to prevent the implementation of the decree. They are concerned about mining companies settling in the region and fear contamination of rivers and streams, as well as the general environmental and social consequences of the project.
Our unity is our defence
Simone is critical of the decisions taken vertically by the government: “When we see such projects arriving so suddenly, from the top down… we, who are guardians of our territories, must simply to take note. So we decided to join forces to defend ourselves: when one of us is affected, we are all affected”. Simone points out how eleven indigenous peoples live in the area covered by the RENCA, in Amapá and in the north of Pará, and others have yet to be recorded. “We want to be consulted and respected”, she says. “The authorities must listen to us before making any decision, before sending any companies onto our land”.
With thanks to Vatican News and Cristiane Murray, where this article originally appeared.