Lackadaisical Lexi Wrote:
I wrote a paper on the Kayapo for an Anthropology class back in 2008. I had hoped that this hydroelectronic dam would not be built. They are wiping out an entire indigenous group's way of life. One would think they would learn after an environmental impact study showed the devastation that would occur when considering building one of these dams at another location.
Eh, here is the paper as I wrote my opinions in it, and it gives references:
The Kayapo people of Brazil are one of the indigenous people who inhabit the rainforest. Their political system is a segmentary model that allows various groups to function separately under the leadership of a chief, or more than one depending on the size of the group. When faced with adversity as a whole, the various chiefs join together to fight the problem. Once this problem is resolved, they split back to their individual groups (Miller, 2007). This system was put into action very successfully in 1989 when the Brazilian government began making plans to build a hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River. Groups of indigenous people, including other tribes, banned together to bring their plight to the world’s attention. They succeeded in halting the building of the dam (Goodale, 2004).
Fourteen years later the Brazilian government decided to try to build the dam again. I am strongly opposed to the construction of this dam for many reasons. The indigenous Kayapo people and other tribes in the Amazon were granted lands by the very government that now is threatening to take half of it away. A one hundred million hectare range has been declared protected (Zimmerman, Peres, Malcolm & Turner, 2001). The people would not only lose their lands, they would not be compensated for their loss (Goodale, 2004).
Though the Kayapos have managed to keep outsiders from destroying their way of life, the building of this dam would essentially wipe out whatever traditional lifestyle they still maintain. Losing the land they live on would not only displace those Indians living along the Xingu River but also destroy the traditionally spiritual areas.
There are many plants and animals that are endangered living in the rainforest, some we do not even know about. In 2003 the Barra Grande hydroelectric dam project along the Pelotas River in southeastern Brazil was almost complete. Before the hydroelectric dam could come on line a glitch was discovered in the environmental impact study conducted by the Brazilian government. Eight square miles of endangered Brazilian pine fell to deforestation after various court battles were fought. The president of the company who built this dam admitted, “"If we had known about these species of trees at the initial stage of the licensing [six years ago], probably we would not have begun construction," (RESISTANCE MEETS IMMOVABLE DAM, 2005).
The Kayapo engage in replanting various plants throughout the rainforest through a process called “apete”. They create new “islands” of indigenous plant growth that has been studied for its possible impact on reforestation. Though the data seems confused between two reports in exactly how much of this replanting is actually done, the Kayapo do work to conserve their resources in this instance. Losing the land that has been replanted, and the plants that allow this practice would have a harsh environmental effect. (Parker, 1993).
Hydroelectric power has been touted as a clean answer to the energy crisis in many countries but the possible pollutant effects prove otherwise in some studies. There is great debate over exactly how much methane gas the turbines that process the water into hydroelectric energy release. Reports change according to the factors used when the calculations are made. Even taking the differences into account, the effects to the surrounding protected reserved land could be devastating (Fearnside, 2006).
One of the main arguments of conservationists is the loss of the indigenous way of life for the Kayapo. Many Kayapo leaders made a great deal of money from the sale of illegal logging and mining contracts. They do not live in the villages. They built houses in the towns surrounding the land and purchased airplanes and cars. Not all Kayapo live their daily lives in the traditional ways, yet the face being shown to garner sympathy for the cause is that of the Indians who live in the rainforest and do not have modern conveniences (Zimmerman, et al., 2001).
In regards to nature conservation the same can be said. While the Kayapo cry out against deforestation and danger to indigenous wildlife, allowing these miners and loggers to cull the land has already begun the process (Zimmerman, et al., 2001). In my opinion, when it lines the pockets of some of the indigenous people, the voices crying out to save their way of life are struck silent. The benefit of added energy sources to a larger population of non-indigenous Brazilians seems a righteous argument in the face of these facts until it is one day discovered that the harm done to the Kayapo extends to the entire country of Brazil.
Chernela, J.M. (2005). Brazil's Indians and the Onslaught of Civilization: The Yanomami and the Kayapó. Journal of Latin American Anthropology, 10(1), 227-231. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 882384221).
Fearnside, P.M. (2006). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Hydroelectric Dams: Reply tO Rosa Et al. Climatic Change, 75(1-2), 103-109. Retrieved November 6, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1074399861).
Goodale, A.Y. (January, 2004). The Kayapo Indians’ Struggle in Brazil. Retrieved on November 1, 2008 from
Miller, B. (2007). Cultural Anthropology. (pp. 263, 264). Boston: Pearson
Parker, E., Posey, D, A. (1992). Forest Islands and Kayapo Resource Management in Amazonia: A Reappraisal of the Apete--Comment/Reply. American Anthropologist, 94(2), 406. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1495637).
Parker, E. (1993). Fact and fiction in Amazonia: The case of the Apete. American Anthropologist, 95(3), 715. Retrieved November 6, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1496227).
RESISTANCE MEETS IMMOVABLE DAM. (2005). Environment, 47(2), 6-7. Retrieved November 6, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 798426051).
Zimmerman,B., Peres C.A., Malcolm, J.R., Turner, T. (2001). Conservation and development alliances with the Kayapó of south-eastern Amazonia, a tropical forest indigenous people. Environmental Conservation, 28(1), 10-22. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1410012771).
See our other blog on the post on the Dam and Brazil.