Indigenous Tribes Resist Dam Construction By Taking Workers Hostage

As corporations construct hydroelectric dams in the Amazon, one small dam in Mato Grosso, Brazil has generated a large outcry and resistance from the indigenous peoples who live there.

The energy company Aguas da Pedra dynamited what turned out to be a sacred ancestral burial ground for the Arara tribe in order to construct the Dardanelos dam. In response, 11 tribes led by the Arara, Cinta Larga and Rikbaktsa took over the site and held nearly 100 construction workers hostage. They demanded that the construction be halted and that the company pay 10 million reais (5.7 million USD) in compensation for the loss of the burial ground and damage of the Aripuanã river, whose waters have become polluted and fish have almost completely disappeared. If the company did not concede, they would set the dam on fire.

A day after taking the workers hostage, 26 were released in exchange for 5 project engineers and managers. Days later all hostages were released, with a meeting scheduled this week for representatives of the Dardanelos dam and the state’s National Foundation for Indigenous Affairs.

Antonio Carlos Ferreira Aquino, local coordinator of the National Foundation for Indigenous Affairs explained that the money demanded was not for the indigenous peoples’ pockets. “What they want is a sustainable program in the area that will recover the loss they have suffered in this archaeological site.”

Besides losing the burial ground, the Arara and other tribes have been hit hard by the pollution of the Aripuanã river due to construction. According to Survivors International, they have caught almost no fish in the past two years and had to rely on farmed fish brought by the government.

In Mato Grosso alone there are 33 tribes, with an estimated 250,000 people. There are 77 hydroelectric dams planned for upstream of the area, with 5 already in construction.



G M.
Gillian M.2 years ago

This is continuous around the world, companies killing and forcing indigenous people off their lands to grow palm oil or cut timber and, especially in South America, oil companies such as Exxon poisoning the environment with toxic waste and refusing the clear it up despite an international judgement against them. Then the governments want to build dams over protected areas. Let's be fair, Canada are allowing companies into First Nations lands to drill for oil and the US government stole the Black Hills mountains for gold and refuse to give it back to the real owners.

No body cares about real human rights until they are the sufferers. It is time the courts made governments responsible for their actions and the illegal actions of companies. As that is as likely as Santa Claus turning up on my roof all we can do is protest loudly to try to make the governments and the UN hear us. We should also send them hearing aids.

patrica and edw jones

Past Member - wait till they come for you - will there be anyone to help you do you think? If you do not stand up for those who cannot defend themselves or their are not worth of the name 'Human'.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.2 years ago

People do have rights and they stood up for them!

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago

Thanks for this information.

patrica and edw jones

It is the rightful home of these indigenous peoples.....desperate times call for desperate measures. The Government wants a kick up the proverbial for encouraging these greedy conglomerate thugs who want to desecrate in the name of MAMON.

Kenneth D.
Kenneth Davies4 years ago


Mateusz K.

good luck

Catt R.
Catt R.4 years ago

Past Member..... if there was a real threat of violence do you honestly believe the engineers and OWNERS would have traded places with thee workers to negotiate??? if you honestly do then you do not know many rich people..... they would have waited until hired guns could be brought to them and killed everyone....... and would not have cared about the workers but would have used their deaths to justify killing the entire 250k tribal members.

Catt R.
Catt R.4 years ago

Past Member..................... what violence are you talking about???? the violence of destroying the land these 250k humans lived on???? There is NO indication what-so-ever that any violence occurred..... Chances are they 'occupied' the dam and said no-one leaves until we are heard, they then traded the 'workers' for the people who just might be able to address the issues and help solve the problems. ----------------- why would you frame the request that the company stop killing the villagers as the violence being committed and not the killing of the land and the villagers??? The river has belonged to the tribes forever...... and you just assume those destroying the river are in the right because doing so makes them rich???

Richard Zane Smith

though violence is never THE DOES provoke questions not being asked.

there is a place for Radical Feminists, A.I.M.,American Revolutionaries, Black Panthers,etc..
but radical acts of violence are NO final solution. Just as warriors are not ideal leaders to be the heart and soul of a government. (as we STILL have today in patriarchal war-based systems based on competition and conquest) Ideally these warriors (from all countries) would yield to the strength and wisdom of the grandmothers who are powerhouses of wisdom and diplomacy.

Some of you have no understanding of what it is to have a burial ground disturbed from an aboriginal perspective and maybe? because you are being taught scientifically that those who are dead are just physical dust and ashes? or you are being taught the bones are nothing because the soul is in either heaven or hell?

In our ancient wendat traditional societies a cemetery was sacred,if a fire started in a village,more pains were taken to protect the cemetery than the longhouses or palisades which could be rebuilt. Someone interfering with our cemetery could be killed. Because you may be relatively new to this continent You might not understand yet the connection of our bones and our remains with the earth. Maybe you have been misinformed about your own value? alive and after death.