The indigenous leader Paulinho Paiakan, a life for the Amazon, dies of coronavirus


Nothing and nobody had managed to bend it. Illegal gold diggers, loggers, the police, the government. Not even justice and condemnation for a rape he has always denied. Covid 19 did. After ten days of suffering and illness, he died Paulinho Paiakan, head of the Caiapó Bep’kororoti tribe, charismatic figure in the indigenous Amazon, leader loved and respected by the large community of Native Brazilians, protagonist of a thousand battles, architect of the Constitutional Charter which in 1988 sanctioned the right to land for 900 thousand indigenous peoples 240 tribes present in Brazil.


Svp, rendez hommage à cet immense …

Published by Planète Amazone on Wednesday 17 June 2020

He was 60 years old and died in the Rendençao regional hospital in the south of the state of Pará. Along with names like Mario Juruna, Tuíria Kayapó, Ailton Krenak, Álvaro Tukano is Raoni Metuktire, the chief Paulinho wrote the history of the modern natives, their clashes, their defeats and their conquests. A story that starts from afar. From the early sixties of the last century. Paulinho is still a child. It is brought by the missionaries to Altamira. Become the first Kayaker to discover the world of whites, to learn Portuguese.
In 1972 he was hired by Funai, the national indigenous foundation. They take it because thanks to him they think they can get closer to that large group of indigenous people who resist the construction of the Transamazonica, the great artery that cuts the rainforest in two. The Caiapó leader was not against this disfigurement. But he wondered if it was really necessary, if it would not have opened other roads, those of the illegal miners, of the woodcutters, of all that army of adventurers and criminals attracted by gold, from the wealth that the Amazon hides under its green cloak. What promptly happened.The experience in Funai is important for Paulinho. However, he decides to return to his village, Aukre, to write his first book: he tells what he saw among the Transamazzonica construction sites. It is a success. Notoriety also attributes to him a role that he has shown to be able to cover from an early age: medium between the white and the indigenous world. He got a first result: the expulsion of 5 thousand gold miners piled up in Maria Bonita where it is fabled that there are large veins of precious minerals. It will not be a walk. He must often force his hand, threaten a revolt and then return to dialogue.

During the fight against the former garimpeiros camped around Maria Bonita brings out her warrior soul. He places his men on a hill overlooking the field of seekers: they are few, but they seem to be many more. Seen from below, they tell the chronicles of the time, they make an impression. Paulinho goes down to the police who have been on the scene for days. “We are thousands,” he says to the officer who leads the small squad of agents. “Something must be done or there will be a massacre.” The bluff works, the miners a few days later give up and leave the area.

The second, great battle, also this successful one, sees him engaged against the construction of hydroelectric plants on the Xingu river. With another Kayapó leader, Kube-i, fly to Washington and meet representatives of the World Bank, the White House and Congress. It’s 1988: together with the anthropologist Darrell Posey who accompanies them, denounces that the power plants project was carried out without consulting the indigenous peoples, that their lands risk being flooded due to the deviations imposed on the watercourse. The World Bank freezes the loan and the project is blocked.

The Brazilian government is furious. Posey and the two tribal chiefs are arrested. They are accused of having compromised Brazil’s image abroad. In the country there is a military dictatorship, there is a Statute of foreigners that imposes specific limits. The judiciary applies it to the faces of the three. “Something that has never happened in 500 years of relationships between whites and natives,” he will write Bosey. Paulinho is Kube-i they are judged as foreigners. The international outcry puts the government in difficulty, but insists on the process. They will all be acquitted in 1989 by the Federal Supreme Court. Other successes will follow, conquests of lands that are marked by precise borders and definitively entrusted to indigenous tribes.

Until the trap: in 1992 Paulinho Paiakan is accused of raping a student, Sílvia Léticia Ferreira, 18 years old, in Rendeçao. Magazine Veja shoots the photo of the now famous tribal chief on the cover under the title: “The savage”. The complaint came out during Eco-92, the world conference on the environment. The investigation begins, the trial arrives, with other battles and this time with a conviction: six years of prison in hard regime. They grant him two years and four months of house arrest. In his village. For Paulinho it’s over, his star goes down. But his contribution to the survival of the indigenous people of Brazil remains immortal.

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