The park lobby

  • 14/12/1995

Between 1968 and 1978, anthropologists and missionaries petitioned the Brazilian government 11 times for a protect- ed ayea for the Yanomami, but to no avail. Finally, in 1978, outraged by the ever-worsening situation of the Yanomami people, a group of concerned citizens in Brazil (including anthropologists, ecologists, lawyers, clerics, and pro-lndian activists) founded an independent, non-profit, NGO. This organisation, Commission for the Creation of the Yanomami Park, (CCPY), based in Sao Paulo, presented the!' first of several proposals for a protected indigenous reserve in 1979.

Environmental and human rights groups, in an effort" coordinated by CCPY, have been exposing the Yanomami , tragedy to the international press and governments aroundc the world. In April 1991, Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami leader, travelled to New York to meet the UN Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, who took a personal interest in the situation. He also met World Bank and US officials in Washington, seeking support for the Yanomami Park. In the months preceding the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, the international campaign for the creation of Yanomami Park intensified.

On November 1 S, 1991, President Fernando Collor sur- prised both supporters and opponents by announcing the administrative demarcation of the Yanomami territory. less than six months later, the physical demarcation of an area of 68,000 sq km of Amazon rainforests (an area the size of Washington State) was completed. Despite strong objections from the military and from mining interests, President Collor legally created the Yanomami Indigenous' Reserve on May 1 S, 1992.

Since then, politicians, mining lobbies, and segments of the Brazilian military have been determined to undermine the gains made on behalf of the Yanomami. Yanomami spokesperson Davi Kopenawa says, "The whites don't want the land. They only want the gold, pieces of rock. They don't like the land, they only like the diamonds and the money... that's all. That is why we Yanomami don't want them to keep harassing us, destroying our land and destroying the forest. They need to look at the law and respect it."

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