The Kayapo Indians of Brazil are a relatively threatened indigenous people. Located deep in the rainforests of Para, Brazil the nearly 5,000 inhabitants survive completely off of the resources found in and around the Xingu River. Unfortunately for the Kayapo, they are facing major issues that could potentially wipe out the tribe or force them to change their way of living completely.
What issues are facing the Kayapo?
Just like everywhere else in the world, industrialization and agriculture are having a major impact on not only the environment but on any remaining people and animals that exist in those areas. In the case of the Kayapo, a huge increase in agriculture has had a significant impact on their lands. Since they are downriver from massive soy bean plantations, the Kayapo are frequently coming in contact with high levels of pesticides and human waste that pours into the Xingu on a daily basis. This has contaminated their main source of drinking water and of course made a majority of the freshwater food dangerous for consumption.
As soy beans fields and livestock grazing has continued to expand, many ranchers are simply making use of the lands of the Kayapo. This has created a checkered relationship between the ranchers and the Kayapo. Since the ranchers often times block off access to portions of the Xingu River, the Kayapo have been forced to modify the areas that they use for hunting and fishing. This has made a situation even worse as the increase in ranching activity in the area means are far greater amount of contaminants in the water that they are consuming. It has also made a much more restricted environment for them to hunt and fish, forcing the Kayapo to become even more productive on the land that they inhabit.
The biggest impact however is posed by the government of Brazil. With a huge push to generate more power for the fast growing country, Brazil is looking to create a good bit of that power by installing several dams along the Xingu. This plan would not only force the Kayapo to completely relocate from many of their villages but would have a substantial impact on the way that they live. With dams in place, the Kayapo would no longer be able to fish in their normal manner as the rivers would be blocked from easy travel. Areas that are downriver from the dams would also be impacted as fish populations would be reduced considerably. This could be absolutely devastating for the Kayapo people that are living in these areas. With the increase in dams, would come people necessary to run the dams. This would also mean that more area would be cleared out around the area of the dams to provide for these people. Altogether this would have a considerable impact on the land that the Kayapo rely on.
There has been continuous debate on the creation of the dams in the indigenous land of the Kayapo with several staged protests. Over the years the Kayapo have won several battles to stop the creation of the dams but with added demand to the power grid of Brazil, the government is now looking to again push for the creation of these dams. It is believed that with the creation of the dams will come the destruction of a substantial portion of the Kayapo indigenous lands. So far the Brazillian government has even refused to offer any form of compensation to the Kayapo for their displacement. This of course has angered the Kayapo people even further. Many Kayapo chiefs are still working to negotiate a reasonable plan that will allow for Brazil’s expansion while still preserving the life and culture of the Kayapo people.