By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Since the early hours of Sunday (July 16th), two hundred members of the Munduruku native indigenous tribe in Brazil have occupied the construction site of the São Manoel Hydroelectric Power Plant, in the Amazon region.
The group demands that plant administrators respect the cultural and spiritual sites of the tribe, which they claim lie within the construction site.
“Our sacred places [such as the Sete Quedas waterfall and burial grounds] were violated and destroyed,” says a note released by the tribe.
“Our ancestors are crying… The Teles Pires and Tapajós Rivers are dying. Our rights, guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, which came to exist after much indigenous blood was spilled, are being violated.”
According to protesters they will continue to halt construction work at the hydroelectric plant until the formal demarcation of their indigenous land is completed and burial urns that they said disappeared during the construction work are returned.
The group says that the urns with the bones of their ancestors were stolen from soil considered sacred and demand that the companies involved in the construction bury the urns in indigenous territory where non-Indians do not have access, and in the presence of shamans.
“I am deeply saddened to be witnessing the destruction of our sacred sites. We women need to have great strength to cure the pains we are feeling here,” Maria Leusa Kabá Munduruku, one of the principal leaders of the occupation was quoted as saying by NGO Amazon Watch.
According to Greenpeace the project is expected to flood part of Sawré Muybu region, where four villages and other sacred sites for the Munduruku people are located.
“Considering that hydroelectric dams are currently on the list of the main vectors of threat to indigenous territories in the Amazon, the action articulated by the affected tribe is undoubtedly an important contribution for a transparent environmental licensing process and the conservation of ecosystems and respect for human rights,” says Danicley de Aguiar of the Greenpeace Amazon campaign.