Almir Suruí: an Indian leader in France to defend the Amazon

Almir Narayamoga Suruí, the great Indian chief of the Suruí people, whose lands are located in Mato Grosso, in the Amazon, travels to France and Europe to defend threatened biodiversity. He will be present in Paris on May 20, 2022.

The Suruí people of the Amazon

We met Almir Suruí during a reportage on the Amazon in 2018. History:

From Cacoal, the Indian chief runs at high speed the asphalted road, called “estrada das communicações” which gives access to several numbered dirt roads, called the lines by them.

I’m driving fast, because those who want to murder me don’t have time to see me pass! He says jokingly, as he stops by the side of the road.

After the landscapes transformed by the pastures, the Indian territory appears in its forest cocoon, like a majestic vegetal bastion. At the entrance is the tomb of Almir’s father, a great Suruí warrior who participated in the first contact with the FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) in 1969.
After this contact, the Suruí people were reduced from 5000 to 500 individuals, due to two outbreaks of flu and measles, followed by another disease, which rapidly spread the population. However, FUNAI tried to avoid the massacre, in all incompetence, by providing inadequate treatment for diseases.

Territory of Suruí in Mato Grosso
Territory of Suruí in Mato Grosso / Vincent Bosson

The Suruí were once divided into a dozen clans; today only four remain: the Kaban, the Gamir, the Malok and the Gameb. Mopiri’s family is part of Gameb, the name of a terrible black wasp, and his wife comes from the Kaban clan, from which most of the shamans, called “wáwá”, come.

“After the pastor said that the shaman was a thing of the devil, people no longer wanted to talk to me,” explains Perpera Suruí, in Luiz Bolognesi’s documentary The Ex-Shaman. With sound and dream images, the director challenges us to the notion of ethnocide, an elegant way to express the extermination of a people’s culture, instead of its physical body.

The Suruí people created a parliament made up of the council of elders, the caciques of the 25 villages in the area and the grand cacique. The Paiter Suruí parliament aims to protect the Indian culture, language and environment, based on a code that establishes the rights and duties of the people, how to speak the suruí language in the village – Portuguese and suruí are taught in school – do not use pesticides on crops, development of traditional medicine, etc.

Billboard in Mato Grosso
Billboard in Mato Grosso / Vincent Bosson

The struggle of Almir Narayamoga Suruí and his people

To preserve their forest and restore the areas degraded by the settlers who had invaded their territory, the Suruí, thanks to the tenacity of Almir and his relatives, established a safeguard plan for the next 50 years, with a compensation system of the carbon and satellite tracking of timber, in association with Google Earth.

The international media have even called them high-tech Indians. For several years Almir was placed under the protection of a state bodyguard (2012-2014), after having managed to obtain a moratorium on logging in the Suruí territory.

Faced with the surge in the action of loggers and the inertia of the Brazilian state, including its complicity, the Suruí Indians are seeking international support.

With Thomas Pizer and the Aqua Verde association, the Suruí people were able to give life to the Pamine project – “reborn” in Suruí – whose goal is to replant the areas where the forest has been destroyed. Thanks to the tribe’s nursery and tenacity, the Suruí can plan new springs for this fragile green environment. Crenivel, one of Mopiri’s sons, explains that with the trees the animals come back again and, thus, the Suruí can continue to practice hunting, an activity in which the Indians are skilled artists.

In 2008 Almir Surui received the Human Rights Award in Geneva and, with Cacique Matuktire Raoni, in 2021 filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, accused of persecuting indigenous peoples by destroying their habitat and not. respecting their rights. Brazil is a signatory of Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, relating to indigenous peoples. All of Almir’s children and relatives are mobilized to combat deforestation and illegal mining in the area. His daughter, Txai Surui, also joined him in his fight; you gave an important speech in a United Nations forum during COP26.

124, bd de Rochechouart 75018 Paris

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