Subject: DAVI YANOMAMI RECEIVES UN GLOBAL 500 AWARD Date: 23-02-89, 16:31:22 To: SURVIVAL-
Subject: DAVI YANOMAMI RECEIVES UN GLOBAL 500 AWARD
Date: 23-02-89, 16:31:22
Cc: TRIBAL-SURVIVAL ENVIRONMENT
DAVI YANOMAMI RECEIVES UN GLOBAL 500 AWARD, AS THE AMAZON BECOMES CENTER OF
As the world was barely recovering from the shock of Chico Mendes brutal
assassination in late December of last year, it became known in the
Brazilian press that the United Nations Environmental Program had awarded
its annual "Global 500" prize - given in recongnition of work done on
behalf of environmental conservation & to the Yanomami leader Davi Kopenawa,
of the Demini Indian Area.
Like his predecessor Chico Mendes, the first Brazilian to receive this
recognition in 1987, Davi has dedicated his life'work to fighting for
the protection of the Amazon rainforest and its native inhabitants, the
Yanomami being the last large indigenous group of the Americas to have been
Like Chico Mendes, Davi has pitted the strength of his conviction and
belief against the powerful forces of capitalist development which have
wreaked destruction on Amazonia for generations - in the Yanomami area,
these forces are represented by more than 40,000 gold-panners who since
last year, have lanched the most massive invasion of this indigenous
territory in history, with numerous deaths from disease and violent conflicts,
pollution of the rivers, and irreversible damage to the environment. Like
Chico Mendes, also, Davi is a target in an openly-declared war, but neither
of them have struggled alone and have had the support of thousands of
individuals and organizations locally, nationally, and worldwide concerned
with the future of the rainforest and its native peoples.
Although the United Nations Environmental Program had selected Davi, and
had communicated its decision to the Brazilian government, in April,
1988, the government chose not to publicize it, nor even to inform Davi, who
is a functionary of FUNAI, until shortly before the official ceremony of
presentation. As if to compound this blatant manipulation, FUNAI
officially dismissed Davi from his position as head of the Demini
Indian Post, a position which he has held since 1985. No amount of
official excuses or confessions of error could hide the fact of the
government's discontent with Davi's world recognition and honor.
Major Brazilian newspaper gave ample coverage to the formal ceremony
of presentation, held in Brasilia on February 1st, as they did to Davi's
demotion by FUNAI, which was later retracted. Davi Kopenawa accepted the prize
with the following speech:
"With this prize from the United Nations, I have become stronger. By helping
me, the whites give me courage to face my fight. I am an Indian happier than
many others. My relatives are many but few speak Portuguese. My tribe, the
Yanomami, we are backwards, we are primitive, everyone there walks around
naked. There are only 10 or 20 who speak Portuguese. Many are afraid of
fighting against the gold-prospectors, the ranchers, the whites. I am not,
I am not afraid. Because I was born to defend my people.
"I wasn't born to stay in the city. I was brought up in the woods, I have
never left my place, where my parents were born and were raised. I don't act
as the whites who go from here to there, go to Roraima, making a lot of noise,
a lot of confusion there, causing problems. The Yanomami don't do that; the
Yanomami act with respect. They may not have studied in schools, but they
"FUNAI for me is already dead. Only the name of FUNAI has stayed. At first
FUNAI had the means to help the Indian; today, it's on the side of the
gold-prospectors. FUNAI has forgotten the Indians because of gold. Many of
my relatives don't know I have won the prize. We are very spread apart...
there is no communication.They will only know when I get back home. But, many
other relatives are worried about me. The shamans who work to protect me are
very worried. Because I am the only one to defend the Yanomami people.
"So, shamans are working to prevent what happened to Chico Mendes from
happening to me. There are warriors also who are on my side, watching. If a
gold-panner attempts to kill me in thewoods, in the village, they won't get
away. They may get away in the city, because the Indians don't go there. But
they won't get away in the villages. They would do well to know that.
"Now, we are quiet. But if prospectors, if whites mess with us, it will be to
kill and die. Then Indians will die, whites will die, everyone will die. They
have to respect the Indians. We respect the whites. I know you, I speak your
language, I am not against the gold-panners. I am against the gold-panning
because it leaves holes, it ruins the rivers and streams. The Yanomami do
not do this, cut up the land, cut down trees, burn the forest. We are not
enemies of nature. We are friends of nature because we live there in the
woods. The forest is what takes care of our health. There, it's not hot
because the trees are high. Here (Brasilia), there are no high trees, so you
have to keep buying fans. Omami (God) gave us the land for us to live on it,
not to sell it. The whites sell it, and then go away. The Indian doesn't do
"I'm not satisfied because the whites gave me this prize. I am and I'm not.
Because my relatives are dying. Before, this didn't happen. The Yanomami
didn't know that the whites would do us wrong. Now, the fish are suffering,
the rivers are being finished off. The whites are also suffering there.
Indians and whites, poor whites and rich whites. Because sickness fears
nothing, it kills anyone, whether rich, fierce, or big.
"The Brazilian government will have to help stop this. If it lets this little
piece of Brazil be invaded, there won't be another equal to this Yanomami
area. My land is the last to be invaded, it's the last invasion. After the
Indian has suffered, the white man will also suffer. Then, war will come
amongst you: Venezuelans and Brazilians will fight, you'll see. My work is for
the future. I don't think only of the present.
"I knew that the prospectors were coming to my area, I knew it all. I knew
that FUNAI would let the prospectors invade. The Indians asked to take the
prospectors out, and FUNAI took no steps. The white man says that Brazil will
get better, but it's
getting worse. The whites are also suffering, the poor. Aren't they
suffering? They have no land to plant, no land to live on. The government
wants everything for itself. It shouldn't be this way. The government should
give to the poor also. Do they think that when they die, they are going to be
able to take everything with them? No, they will have to leave it behind. This
is what I think, this is may work. that's all I wanted to say."
(published in "O Estado de Sao Paulo", 14/2/89, p.2).
The recognition of Davi's work in defense of Yanomami culture and the
environment represents one of the most significant events in the current
national and internationl movement against Amazon rainforest destruction.
The Yanomami case has long served as an example of how the concerns of
native people and environmental issues and social justice are
inextricably linked, as well as being recognized as the most serious and
urgent case of human rights abuses in the world.
We wish to thank the hundreds of supporters from the Rainforest Action
Network for their actions concerning the repeal of decree 250. This
demonstration of solidarity is extremely important, as is the continued
insistence that the government create a Yanomami Park in a continuous area.
Letters of support for Davi Yanomami, whose life is in greater danger now
more than ever before, are also urgently needed. Letters should be sent to
President Jose Sarney.
* Origin: After Catalyst BBS, What's Left? Vancouver, BC (Opus 1:153/108)
SEEN-BY: 107/701 153/108 221/0 71 162 333 520/701 633/366
"Captured on-line from UNITEX BBS. Sysops James Waldron & dorothy Nicklus.
201-795-0733. March, 89.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank