Amazonian Tribes Affected by the Belo Monte Dam

Project Date: March-August 2013

Book Release Date: December 2013

The Amazon plays host to one of the largest and most diverse indigenous populations in the world. These different cultures practice a variety of ways of life, from nomadic hunting and gathering to settled agricultural villages along the riverside.

But the Brazilian government is planning to build the third-largest dam in the world, the Belo Monte Dam, on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon. The environmental and social harm of the planned Belo Monte Mega-Dam has brought widespread protest from both local indigenous communities and people around the world. According to Amazon Watch, an environmental group, the Belo Monte is estimated to divert 80% of the Xingu’s water, cause a “permanent drought” in several indigenous territories, and flood 668 square kilometers of land, which will displace over 20,000 indigenous people. The dam will indirectly affecting many thousands more who depend on the Amazon River for their livelihood.

Numerous tribes will be affected and potentially displaced by the Belo Monte Dam. The Kayapó, Arara, Juruna, Araweté, Xikrin, Asurini, and Parakanã are just some of the tribes whose traditional lifestyles and land rights are at risk. In 2013, the Vanishing Cultures Project will travel to the Amazon to document the struggles of one of these tribes and strive to help protect crucial elements of their heritage.

Photo: Brazilian chiefs of the Kayapo tribe during a collective interview.
Left to right: Raony (state of Mato Grosso), Kaye, Kadjor, Panara (Pará). Courtesy of Valter Campanato, Agência Brasil (ABr), via WikiMedia Commons.