Belo Monte | World's Third Largest Dam Construction Threatens Kayapó

Semana Dos Povos Indiangenas, Photo by Governopara

Semana Dos Povos Indiangenas, Photo by Governopara

PARÁ, Brazil -- Despite environmental and humanitarian protests, the Brazillian government plans to build five hydroelectric dams on the Tapajos River. The river is an important tributary to the Amazon and if built, the dams will flood the area displacing both people and animals and destroying land considered sacred.

"The first Indian Park in Brazil was created in the river basin by the Brazilian government in the early 1960s. This park marks the first indigenous territory recognized by the Brazilian government and it was the world's largest indigenous reserve on the date of its creation.

Currently, fourteen tribes live on the reserve surviving with natural resources and extracting from the river most of what they need for food and water." (Source: Wikipedia)

Over the past few months, 13,000 people from the Munduruko tribe have protested the project which would threaten their land, livelihood and culture.

Their fight involves battling through new laws and ordinances saying indigenous people don't have a right to control what happens on their own land. It is disturbingly reminiscent to what happened to American Indians in the 1800s.

The government's claim is that the Amazon has enormous untapped hydroelectric potential which would provide needed clean energy for the country. To this end, the government is trying to circumvent the constitutional clause protecting native people and their land.

In terms of cost, hydro-power is Brazil's top alternative energy solution. Other viable options include wind, solar and fuel made from sugarcane.

Disputes over the Amazon are nothing new. Since the 1890s, loggers, ranchers, miners and more have been trying for a share of the Amazon's resources. In the past, warriors fought back with organized and sometimes violent protests, including forcible eviction from the territory.

Official governmental red tape is hard to handle, but this isn't the first time an Amazon tribe has fought the dam fight.  In 1989, with international support and the help of conservationist groups, the neighboring Kayapo tribe successfully prevented the building of the Kararao dam, which would have flooded the Xingu River.

They weren't as successful with the Belo Monte reservoir, also chosen to be built on the Xingu River, and slated to be finished by year 2015.

While some predict Belo Monte will lead to needed jobs and ease the nation's energy burden, others foretell the drying of the forest caused by the diverted water, the displacement of thousands of people whose homes are now underwater and the pollution and inevitable destructive influence roads and workers will have on the previously undisturbed forest.

Chiefs from over 60 villages have submitted a letter demanding the government consult and receive permission from native people before constructing the new dams. However, it is still unclear whether the campaign will be successful or if the Tapajos dams will become the next Belo Monte.

Redskins' Trademark Cancelled by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

image-from-anti-redskin-trademark-campaign-photo-courtesy-of-mark-williams.jpg

Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 05:37 p.m. DST, 18 June 2014

"Washington Redskins helmet"  Photo by: Keith AllisonALEXANDRIA, Virginia -- The US Patent and Trademark Office came down hard on the Washington Redskins organization today, 18 June 2014, canceling the National Football League franchise's exclusive rights to the logo and name. Now, the Redskins trademarks will not belong solely to the team, and may be used by a host of marketing and equipment businesses, pending future bargaining.

Several Native American tribes and advocacy groups are hoping that this could be the incentive that owner Dan Snyder needs in order to change the name of the organization. This decision is part of a larger movement in US professional sports to encourage players, owners and coaches to act with common decency.

The decision follows the high-profile controversy surrounding Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the racist statements he made about black people, and the NBA executive decision to pressure Sterling to sell the Clippers franchise. Another recent media blitz centered around Twitter postings made by Miami Dolphins player Don Jones, who made derogatory comments about NFL newcomer Michael Sam, after Sam and his partner were shown kissing during the 2014 NFL Draft.

Washington owner Dan Snyder has made inflammatory comments about the Redskins name being a "badge of honor" for Native Americans. Hold on, Snyder. How can the title "Redskin" be an honorary title, when it is simply an antiquated way of describing an ethnic group by their complexion? While you, Mr. Snyder, see the name as such a privileged distinction, several American Indian tribes and organizations do not. And 26 of these groups are demonstrating today on behalf of the name change.

Snyder has stated his allegiance to the name many times, once saying: "we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage." The words Snyder uses to describe his so-called obligation to the franchise leave me with an uncomfortable feeling, as they do many people. Why he would bring up the "heritage" of a group of sports fans, obviously indicating that this imaginary heritage trumps actual tribal heritage? Why he would choose the word "heritage" in  the first place is beyond me.

To Mr. Snyder, and other people who believe that their interpretation of the Redskins insignia is more important than the Native American people who are a living representation of the Redskins organization: why does the "heritage" of corporatized sports team eclipse the heritage of hundreds of various tribal communities living throughout the United States?

For Snyder, the Redskins logo may be a "badge of honor", but to me that term is far from a compliment or a term of respect, since that title has been denounced by countless American Indians as a badge of hatred and racism.

The comments by Snyder are just one aspect in which Native Americans are treated as if they are not living, breathing people, as important and valuable as any human living today. Snyder continues to paint native cultures as a caricature, a simple icon, something bound to the past. All the while, he acts as if the Natives Americans living in the shadow of this logo benefit in any way by their representation. From the merchandise worth millions of dollars, plastered all over various pieces of apparel and jerseys, to the face of the iconic Redskin on the drink koozies of intoxicated ticket holders, I see no way in which this so-called "badge of honor" actually honors the American Indians.

Snyder's obligations to the "heritage" of the Redskins organization are insensitive and wrong. Everybody knows that Snyder's main concern is his revenue and the bottom line. His "heritage" comments seem to me to be a misplaced acknowledgment of his failed responsibility to protect the wishes of the people behind the logo.

Here's hoping that the Patent and Trademark Office's decision today will provide Snyder with enough of an economic incentive to make the proper, principled decision, even if the impetus for the name change comes only in consideration of dollars and cents.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom