10004 - Living in the Forest, Living on the Forest. The case of the Tembé in north-east Pará

The paper deals with environmental changes and how these changes are perceived and acted upon by indigenous communities in the reserve Alto Rio Guamá. In recent history, this region, roughly situated 300 km distant from the state capital Belém, has consolidated its reputation as one with a high level of deforestation. The inhabitants of the indigenous reserve, the vast majority of them being tembé, are divided into two groups, the first is formed by some villages near the Gurupi river – access here is more complicated, the majority of them are still familiar with the tembé language – and the second by some villages just a 30-minute-drive away from the nearest town. Many of the younger generation here have only sparse knowledge of tembé and there is a widespread uneasiness about the loss of the native culture. Complaints about the disappearance of game are common in both parts of the reserve. The main reasons for these changes are encroaching agriculture and the illegal activities of wood cutters. Although there is a latent conflict in the relations with farmers and wood cutters, some indigenous leaders are said to be involved in the illegal commercialization of wood. FUNAI and some NGOs try to defend indigenous claims for the land but here, too, relations are rather complicated, often marked by mistrust on both sides. During the last years, in the aftermath of global conferences on climate change, there appeared a new actor on the local stage: the prospect of gaining economic benefits not by felling the trees but by preserving them. Programmes like REDD have entered the scene – although it is still far from clear how they could be implemented and what that would mean for indigenous communities.

Keywords: environmental change, indigenous representation, power relations, knowledge transfer

Author: Jennerjahn, Sigurd (Universidade Federal do Pará, Brazil / Brasilien)


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