Jacareacanga, Para (Brazil)

By Lunaé Parracho

“We’re asking you not to go,” one of the Munduruku Indians said to me while standing in a circle of ten other warriors.

They feared that I would slow them down if I accompanied them on another six-hour hike through the forest to a wildcat gold mine operated by intruders in their territory. This was to be the fifth mine dismantled by the Mundurukus, who live in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest in the western state of Para. This region is rich in natural resources and has been called the country’s new frontier of economic expansion.

Another warrior, sensing my reaction at being considered a drag on the group, approached me and tried to allay my disappointment. “We will photograph for you,” he said, pointing to two young Indians holding compact cameras. “If you want you can give them your camera.”

I thought about telling him that my camera is like the bow and arrow he was holding – I could never give it up. Instead I decided not to say anything and I bowed my head to wish them a good trip. At that moment, they could see the lesions on my feet and my appearance didn’t exactly inspire confidence. I had just spent the last ten days hiking with them through the jungle, as they went to dismantle other wildcat mines.

The Munduruku traveled to Brazil’s capital last year to ask the government to expel non-indigenous miners from their territory. But rather than waiting for a legal decision that could take years, they are now taking the situation into their own hands by removing all non-Indians engaged in illegal gold mining themselves. The decision was taken during an assembly in the presence of more than 400 warriors and caciques. They have demanded the support of Brazil’s National Indian Foundation, FUNAI, and the bureau granted help in the form of boats and fuel.