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indigenous people displaced by Belo Monte Dam

March 5, 2012

When I’m in the North, I like that news of the rest of the world doesn’t always reach me. I wish I’d been paying attention to this story, though. 24,000 indigenous people are to be displaced by the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil, the 3rd biggest dam in the world. Construction began a few months ago, as far as I can piece together from Amazon Watch, Al Jazeera news and blogs from travellers to the area.

Here’s one of those blogs, with photos of people who will be affected if the dam continues.

Xingu River Indigenous leader Sheyla Juruna says, “The government is not open to dialogue, so we will fight with our bodies and souls… to defend our lives and the life of our river.”

People in the Arctic are familiar with what happens when Aboriginal people are displaced from their land. The Canadian government moved some Inuit to the high Arctic, far from the land which was their home, to assert Canadian sovereignty over the land and waterways, splitting up families and (maybe) not thinking about the intimate knowledge of the land and creatures which is required for survival. That knowledge doesn’t just transfer to any cold place; the ice and land and the behaviour and prevalence of animals and plants are different throughout the Arctic.

Why does it matter what is happening in Brazil, or in the Arctic? Because these dynamics of too-bad-for-you, we-have-a-need and you-are-in-the-way or you-are-useful-to-us are happening everywhere, and to one degree or another, they affect all of us. 

What does it mean for those of us who practise health care among Aboriginal people? We have to be involved in issues which affect Aboriginal people, here and elsewhere, or our efforts to treat illness and promote health will not be successful. To be employed by governments with mixed agendas for Aboriginal people and their lands, while being responsible to reduce illness and work towards thriving healthy Aboriginal communities, makes a split in our beings. Non-Aboriginal health care workers can acknowledge our ongoing role as colonisers (sure, lots of our predecessors had good intentions but damaging results) and its conflict with our role as caregivers, or else become blinkered, and less able to work for health. 

Tonight, my heart is breaking. I feel helpless. Tomorrow, I will go to work, with all my fierce and frustrated love.

I will talk about what is happening to the Juruna, Xikrín, Arara, Xipaia, Kuruaya, Parakanã, Araweté, Kayapó and other people of the Xingu River. I will hold governments in Canada to their responsibility to be open to dialogue and to serve people and the earth. I will join the decades-long opposition to the Belo Monte dam. I will open my eyes and ears and spirit more to the experiences of Inuit here, and pay attention to the parts of myself and others which are marginalised and cut off from what sustains life. 

What more can we do but strive to be whole together?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2012 11:13 pm

    Success! Indigenous people opened the dam so water could flow, and the court ordered building to stop. I’m sure the fight is not over yet, but this is incredibly good news!


  1. success for the Xingu! « arcticfoxfire

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