Discussion On Gender States, Chiefdoms and Tribes, and Bands and Nomadic Pastoralists

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I have readings and powerpoint to read and understand the materiles  Then on Thursday, I will send the 3 questions (You have like 1 hour to give me the answer) it will be about :  Gender,  (States, Chiefdoms and Tribes,  and Bands and Nomadic Pastoralists) as well as the corresponding readings. if you are intreasted just contact me. Thank you so much ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006 3

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This article deals with an outstanding example of a gen
eral phenomenon: the resurgence of indigenous peoples
as political actors and as vital and innovative cultural
communities, not only at local but at national and global
levels. The recent surge of indigenous struggles for greater
political, economic and cultural autonomy has coincided
with the latest stage of global centralization of capital that
began in the late 1960s. It must thus be understood in the
context of the transformations of nation-states and their
internal social relations associated with what has come to
be called ‘globalization’. Among these transformations
have been changes in the relations of state regimes to rela
tively marginal and formerly stigmatized identity groups,
ethnic and cultural minorities in their populations, among
whom indigenous peoples are invariably numbered.
For reasons not yet fully understood, these changes have
created new opportunities for indigenous groups to chal
lenge national governments and even political-economic
processes at the heart of the global economic system. The
result has been an inversion of received ideas about the
limited possibilities for resistance by oppressed minorities
and people in marginalized social categories to the condi
tions of their subjugation, as represented for example by
James Scott’s notions of the ‘weapons of the weak’ and
the necessarily covert and secretive forms of resistance he
calls ‘hidden transcripts’ (Scott 1985, 1990). The flagrantly
overt defiance by the Kayapo of the Brazilian Amazon
against threats to their territorial rights and environment
from state and corporate development projects, which we
describe in this article, constitutes a counter-example to
Scott’s views. We shall take up some general implications
of this discrepancy in the conclusion of our paper.
The Kayapo, or Mebengokre as they call themselves,
are an indigenous society with a current population of
about 7000. They occupy a large territory of some 140,000
km
2, with 21 villages scattered over the middle Xingú river
valley and those of its eastern tributaries, in the Brazilian
states of Mato Grosso (MT) and Pará (PA). Most, but not
all, of their traditional territory has been recognized by the
state as reserves under their control, following political
and diplomatic campaigns, including low-intensity armed
struggle, dating back to the early 1970s.
In recent years, however, the Kayapo and many other
Brazilian indigenous peoples have discovered that the
formal recognition of their territories as reserves does
not mean that they are secure from massive intrusions
by development projects directly instigated or fostered
by federal and state governments – projects which would
have, and in some cases have had, devastating effects on
their communities and environments. To combat these
projects the Kayapo have been forced to reach out for sup
port to non-Kayapo indigenous allies and non-indigenous
organizations such as NGOs, some parts of the Brazilian
government, Brazilian settler organizations of the Xingú
valley, foreign governments and anthropologists. As the
pressures have intensified, mutually rivalrous and dis
trustful Kayapo communities have come together in a
common campaign under unified leadership. We begin
our article by describing the meeting through which this
was accomplished.
Political innovation and inter-ethnic alliance
Kayapo resistance to the developmentalist state
terenCe turner
and VaneSSa
FaJanS-turner
Terence Turner is Professor
of Anthropology (Emeritus)
at the University of Chicago,
and recently retired as
Adjunct Professor of
Anthropology at Cornell
University. He continues to
work with the Kayapo and
acted as recording secretary
at the March 2006 meeting
at Piaraçu described in this
article. His email is
[email protected]
Vanessa Fajans-Turner
has done fieldwork with
the Kayapo and wrote her
undergraduate thesis at
Harvard on their struggle
against the Xingú dams. She
currently works for the United
Nations Millennium Goals
Campaign. Her email is
[email protected]
Fig. 1. March 2006:
participants in the Piaraçu
meeting form up for a ritual
dance to inaugurate the
proceedings.

SUE CUNNINGHAM / SUE CUNNINGHAM PHOTOGRAPHIC

4 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

Uniting against the common enemy
Two hundred representatives of 19 of the 21 Kayapo com
munities met for five days in the village of Piaraçu on the
Xingú River between 28 March and 1 April 2006 (the two
absent communities had wanted to attend but were unable
to find the money for travel expenses). The main subject of
discussion was the need to present a common front against
the Brazilian government’s attempts to revive its perennial
project to build hydroelectric dams at Belo Monte and four
other sites on the Xingú River and its main tributary, the
Irirí. The meeting was the culmination of years of organi
zation and alliance-building by the Kayapo, under the
leadership of Megaron Txukarramãe, a Kayapo from the
village of Mentuktire who is also director of the regional
office of FUNAI, the Brazilian agency for Indian affairs
in Mato Grosso. The objective of this protracted Kayapo
campaign has been to put together a united front of all the
peoples of the Xingú Valley, some 25 distinct indigenous
groups and organizations of national Brazilian settlers,
against the proposed Xingú dams and other environmen
tally destructive development projects (Fajans-Turner and
Turner 2005).
The Kayapo and their allies insist that they are not
opposed to development as such, but rather to the approach
to development perennially favoured by Brazilian govern
ment planners. This typically stresses big, capital-intensive
infrastructure projects, such as giant hydroelectric dams
and highways driven through fragile ecosystems in viola
tion of the legal and human rights of local populations,
without regard to the environmental damage and social
disruption they cause. This policy and its associated ide
ology has come to be called ‘developmentalism’ in con
trast to other approaches to development that emphasize
smaller-scale, local labour-intensive inputs and environ
mentally sustainable production.
The first step in the Kayapo campaign to build an effec
tive movement of resistance to the Xingú dams and other
developmentalist projects in their area had been to mend
their relations with the other indigenous groups of the
Xingú valley. Mutual antagonism and distrust had become
particularly intense with the Upper Xinguano indigenous
communities of the National Park of the Xingú. Kayapo
leaders dealt with these tensions by inviting representatives
of these groups to attend a meeting in November 2003, at
the Kayapo village of Piaraçu, located on the east bank
of the Xingú by the northern border of the park. At the
meeting Megaron and other Kayapo speakers successfully
persuaded the representatives of the other groups that the
threat posed by the dams and pollution from encroaching
cattle ranches and soya plantations to the river on which
they all depended made a common struggle to save the
Xingú essential. Even the new president of FUNAI, Dr
Mércio Pereira Gomes, made an appearance at the meeting
to give his blessing to the new era of peaceful relations
among the indigenous peoples of the Xingú, although he
carefully avoided taking the Indians’ side against the dams
and other developmentalist projects that threatened their
home territories (Fajans-Turner 2003, Fajans-Turner and
Turner 2005).
One intractable problem remained: three of the largest
Kayapo villages from the eastern part of Kayapo ter
ritory had boycotted the meeting because of their long
standing rivalry with the western Kayapo communities
under Megaron’s leadership. Before the Kayapo could
hope to lead a united indigenous coalition to save the
Xingú, they had to overcome their own internal divisions.
In December 2005, Megaron made a personal tour of the
Kayapo villages, including those that had not attended the
2003 meeting. The immediate objective of the visits was
to persuade all the communities to send representatives to

SUE CUNNINGHAM / SUE CUNNINGHAM PHOTOGRAPHIC

Fig. 2. The war dance is
performed during an interval
in the speeches at the Piaraçu
meeting in March 2006.
Frequent breaks for collective
dance performances were
an integral part of the
proceedings, serving to
express the solidarity of the
representatives of different
communities and their
support for the speakers.

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OcTObeR 2006 5

another meeting at Piaraçu, this one to be limited exclu
sively to Kayapo and their close neighbours and allies,
the Panara and some Juruna who were currently living at
Piaraçu with the Kayapo.
Megaron’s tour was a complete success, resulting in
the second Piaraçu meeting in March 2006. This meeting
achieved all that Megaron had hoped. The hitherto recal
citrant eastern villages attended and joined with the other
communities in a unanimous consensus to begin organ
izing a movement of all the ‘peoples of the Xingú’ against
the dams. Over 100 speakers at the week-long meeting
rejected construction of the dams, alleging that they would
have catastrophic effects on the riverine ecosystem, and
would flood large areas of indigenous territory. Many
speakers introduced their remarks by singing their personal
‘anger-songs’, customarily sung when going into battle,
and some warned that they would go to war if necessary to
stop construction of the Belo Monte dam, planned as the
first of the series. They also denounced Brazilian President
Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Eletronorte, the government
agency responsible for the dams, for failing to disclose the
true scope of the project. The government has represented
it for public consumption as involving a single dam at Belo
Monte, whereas in fact it envisages four additional dams
which would be essential for Belo Monte to operate with
maximum efficiency (Switkes 2005). Speakers further
denounced Lula and Eletronorte for violating Article 231
of the Brazilian constitution, which requires that devel
opment projects planned for indigenous areas should be
debated by the National Congress, with the participation
of representatives from the affected communities. Neither
Eletronorte nor governmental proponents of the dams had
made any attempt to comply with this requirement.
An independent legal challenge to this constitutional
violation led to a dramatic moment at the Piaraçu meeting.
Under pressure from indigenous activists, the Ministério
Público (the office of the public prosecutor in the Ministry
of Justice, the equivalent of an Attorney General), had
instigated federal court proceedings against Eletronorte
to halt all work on the dams (including planning) while
the government remained in violation of the constitution.
In the midst of the Kayapo meeting, on 30 March, news
arrived that a federal judge in the nearby city of Altamira
had found for the plaintiffs in this suit, and issued an injunc
tion halting all work on the dams. Many at the meeting
felt that the mobilization of the Kayapo for the renewed
struggle against the dams had played a part in influencing
the judge’s verdict. Whether or not this was true, it con
tributed to the general feeling of those at the meeting that
they were on a roll and could win despite the odds. In May
the judge’s decision was sustained on appeal by a federal
judge in Brasília, with the Ministério Público acting for
the plaintiffs. The entire Xingú dam scheme may well now
have to be abandoned.
Forging an alliance with the whites
Immediately following the successful conclusion of the
2006 Piaraçu meeting, Megaron initiated the next and
biggest step in the Kayapo alliance-building process: con
tacting the leaders of regional Brazilian settler organiza
tions to persuade them to join with the Kayapo and their
indigenous allies in the campaign to save the Xingú from
the dams and pollution. He proposed that Indians and set
tlers should jointly organize a great rally in Altamira in
opposition to the dams and other environmentally destruc
tive developments, including logging, mining and river
pollution. Brazilian settlers have historically tended to
be hostile or at best indifferent to Indians, but they have
for their own reasons become opposed to the construc
tion of the proposed dams and the pollution of the river.
Fig. 3. A peaceful
conversation between future
antagonists: Mércio Gomes,
shortly after his appointment
as president of FUNAI, the
Brazilian agency for Indian
Affairs, chats with Kayapo
leaders Ropni and Megaron
at a meeting held at Piaraçu
in 2003. Gomes’ advocacy
of the Lula government’s
environmentally and socially
destructive infrastructure
projects in the Amazon had
not yet become evident to the
Indians.

TeReNce TuRNeR

6 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

The response of the leaders of settler organizations to
Megaron’s overtures was enthusiastically positive.
As Megaron said in the Declaration of Piaraçu, circu
lated to NGOs and the media immediately following the
Piaraçu meeting:
We Mebengokre are aware that the problems that threaten the
lives of our communities in the Xingú Valley also threaten
other peoples, both indigenous and Brazilian, who live in the
valley. The solution of these problems, and thus the effective
protection of our river and our forest, lies in a common struggle,
which we share with all the peoples of the Xingú Valley.
Eighteen months ago, we met together with the other indige
nous peoples of the Upper, Middle and Lower Xingú in Piaraçu
to forge a common front against these threats. Now, following
upon the successful conclusion of the meeting of all of our
own communities, we are entering upon the next stage of our
struggle, contacting organizations of national Brazilian settlers
of the Lower Xingú and the Transamazonica [highway] to form
an alliance of all the peoples of the Valley of the Xingú to save
our river from the dams, pollution, and all kinds of destructive
development, and to promote alternative forms of production
based on the powers of local communities using sustainable
resources.
We call on all the inhabitants of the Xingú Valley to join with
us in a great rally at Altamira against the Belo Monte dam and
the other dams that Eletronorte wants to build throughout our
valley, and for the protection and development of our own pro
ductive powers, our cultures and communities. (Txukarramãe
2006; English translation T. Turner)
Collective effervescence and the creation of
ritual
The March Piaraçu meeting was a historic achievement for
the Kayapo: the first time that all Kayapo communities had
united for a common cause under a common leadership.
There was a feeling of excitement among those present
that they were being part of something new and impor
tant – the emergence of a united Kayapo political commu
nity. This feeling was expressed in Kayapo cultural terms
through the performance of a new ceremony, composed
for the occasion, at the close of the meeting. In this ritual
young, recently proclaimed chiefs (
benhadjuòrò) handed
seedlings from the fruit-bearing piki tree to senior chiefs,
elder statesmen whose pan-communal authority is recog
nized by all Kayapo. The elder chiefs proceeded to plant
the seedlings, and while standing over them, exhorted the
younger chiefs to step into the roles that they, the elders,
were about to vacate, to assure the continuity of Kayapo
culture (
kukràdjà) and social order.
The ritual dramatized the meeting’s call for the collec
tive defence and renewal of Kayapo society as a political
community. Notably, two of the four senior chiefs who
took part in the ritual chose as their partners young chiefs
from villages other than their own, a departure from normal
Kayapo practice in which succession to the chiefly office
is through proclamation by a senior chief of the same
community. This gesture (which surprised some of those
present, including some who had shared in creating the
new ritual during the meeting) expressed the senior chiefs’
understanding that through this meeting, the Kayapo had
constituted themselves as a political community at a level
higher than that of individual villages. At the same time,
the ritual dramatized the dual significance of the Kayapo
resistance to the dams as both protection of their territory
and, more fundamentally, a defence of their way of life.
The wider context: Development at any cost vs.
Amazonian rivers, forests and peoples
The consolidation of a political movement integrating
all the Kayapo communities in alliance with the other
indigenous groups and Brazilian settler movements of the
Xingú valley was both motivated and threatened by omi
nous developments in the policies of the government of
President Lula da Silva and the state government of Mato
Grosso. By the time of the Piaraçu meeting of February
March 2006 it had become clear that the Lula government
had adopted a developmentalist programme of promoting
big capital-intensive infrastructural projects, such as
hydroelectric dams and the paving of interstate roads like
the Cuiabá-Santarem highway (BR-163), at the expense of
environmental, social and human rights concerns.

TERENCE TURNER
Fig. 4. Kayapo men dance
at the meeting of all Kayapo
villages held in March 2006.

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

These projects are key elements in the federal govern
ment’s IMF-inspired strategy of increasing exports to pay
off Brazil’s foreign debt. In the concrete forms of the Xingú
dam projects and the proposal to pave BR-163 to enable
the transportation of the huge soya, rice and maize crops
of Mato Grosso’s burgeoning agribusiness economy to the
ports of Santarem and Belem, these policies were already
casting long shadows over the Kayapo homeland. In the
months following the Piaraçu meeting, however, a series
of further events served both to highlight and to intensify
the threats from these projects and the collateral effects
of the more general policy orientation of the national and
state governments that gave rise to them.
By 2005 it had become evident that the demarcation of
indigenous territories as reserves by the National Indian
Foundation, opposed by local landholders and develop
mentalist interests alike, had virtually come to a halt (over
200 indigenous territories remained undemarcated). The
Lula government, represented by Mércio Gomes, presi
dent of FUNAI, appeared to have put the protection of
indigenous lands on hold in an effort to accommodate
these interests.
For the Kayapo and most other indigenous groups, not to
mention numerous NGOs, anthropologists and journalists,
Gomes’ leadership of FUNAI had become identified with
Lula’s policy for developing Amazonia without regard
for constitutional and legal safeguards of indigenous
and environmental rights. Stung by criticism from these
sources, Gomes gave an interview to Reuters news agency
in January 2006 defending FUNAI’s general record but
adding the startling assertion, for one in his position, that
the Indians’ demand for the demarcation of their land as
reserves ‘was going beyond acceptable limits’, and sug
gesting that the Supreme Court should consider imposing
a cap on the proportion of the national territory that can be
allotted to Indian reserves (MS 13/01/06;
Estado de São
Paulo
, Section A:4, 13/01/06).
This overt avowal of what many had come to suspect
was the real attitude behind the government’s Indian
policy caused a storm of protest among indigenous
groups and NGOs supporting them. The Kayapo called
a meeting of 23 of their leaders and sent off a fiery pro
test to Lula, which called for a general change of policy
towards Indians and the dismissal of Gomes as president
of FUNAI (MS 30/01/06; Carmen Figueiredo, personal
communication).
The road to Santarem is paved with
questionable intentions
Meanwhile, in what began as a separate dispute over the
social and environmental effects of development projects,
the federal government’s attempt to evade its own law
that calls for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)
as prerequisites for licensing projects such as the paving
of BR-163 led to a renewed crisis with the Kayapo. The
Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of the Environment
began well enough in mid-2005 by holding two legally
prescribed public hearings in the Xingú valley for all
groups who would be affected by the road project. They
were invited to present their views on the measures that
should be taken to protect their rights and interests from
the influx of construction crews, settlers and deforestation
that the road improvement would bring.
Testimony at such hearings is supposed to be taken into
account in the preparation of the EIA, and thus incorpo
rated into the final design and operation of the project.
The Kayapo sent delegations to both hearings that made
detailed submissions. Their statements did not oppose the
paving of the road in itself, but called for it to be accom
panied by policing of the boundaries of the Kayapo and
Panara reserves that lie close to the road, the demarca
tion of still undemarcated territories father to the north,
compensation for environmental damage, and continued
consultation with the Indians on dealing with the social
problems certain to arise from increased road traffic and
the influx of settlers. After these hearings, nothing was
heard about the paving project for several months.
In December 2005, however, the government institute
responsible for the protection of the Amazon, IBAMA,
quietly granted a preliminary licence to the Ministry of
Fig. 5. The piki tree seedling
ceremony celebrated at the
close of the Piaraçu meeting
in March 2006, expressing
the creation of a united
Kayapo political community.
The seedlings (two are
visible, behind the speaker’s
hand and below the video
camera) have been planted by
older chiefs, who exhort the
younger chiefs facing them
to continue their struggle
to defend the whole Kayapo
people. The ceremony is
being recorded by a young
Kayapo video cameraman..

TERENCE TURNER

8 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

Transport to proceed with plans for the paving of BR-
163. This was irregular, since the Environmental Impact
Assessment normally required for such a licence had not
yet been completed. The delay had been caused by disa
greements between the Ministry of the Environment and
its agency, IBAMA, and the Ministry of Transport over the
terms of the EIA.
After six months the dispute was finally ‘solved’ by
the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, who in
early June produced a new ‘Plan for a sustainable BR-
163’ designed to substitute for the legally required EIA
and thus allow the licence granted six months earlier to
be activated (MS 06/06/06; 29/06/06). The plan contained
provisions for protected forest zones beside the road but
took no account of the proposals by the Kayapo for the
demarcation and police protection of indigenous commu
nities located near the road.
This bureaucratic manoeuvre was completed without
consulting the Kayapo or any of the other indigenous
or regional groups who had faithfully attended the hear
ings for the EIA and contributed their critical inputs (MS
06/06/06). The result was triumphantly announced by
Lula in a speech on 6 June, followed a month later by a
short report in the official Gazette of Mato Grosso that the
licence had been issued and paving would proceed without
reference to the legally required EIA (AA 22/12/05; MS
06/06/06, 12/06/06;
A Gazeta de Cuiaba 2006).
The (paved) road shall not pass!
When this came to the notice of the Kayapo, they were
furious. They felt that they had been betrayed by the gov
ernment’s hearings for the EIA, which they now saw as
having been a ruse to distract them while the government
secretly went ahead with its plans to proceed with the
project without regard for the environmental and social
protections, to say nothing of the consultations with them
own laws. Kayapo and Panara leaders from the Xingú
valley met in the second week of July and agreed to take
immediate action. They wrote to Lula denouncing his gov
ernment’s violation of Brazilian law and human rights, and
to the president of the World Bank urging him not to grant
a loan for the road-paving project. A third letter went to the
Attorney General of Brazil, calling upon him to enforce
the law and vowing to prevent the road from being paved
until the government decided to comply with its own laws
covering licensing and EIAs.
Then, making good on their promise, they sent a party
to blockade BR-163. For good measure, they also cut BR-
80, the federal highway that serves as their boundary with
the National Park of the Xingú to the south, by seques
tering the ferry that carries road traffic across the Xingú.
They maintained the closure of both roads for four days,
from 22 to 26 July, which was how long it took the fed
eral government and the state government of Mato Grosso
to agree to the Kayapo’s condition for calling off the
blockade. This was to send high-level representatives to
a meeting with Kayapo leaders to discuss the restitution
of the environmental and social protections demanded by
the Kayapo and others in the public hearings for the EIA
(Megaron Txukarramãe, personal communication; MS
25-27/07/06).
The meeting was held on 26 July at the Kayapo-controlled
FUNAI headquarters in Colider, Mato Grosso. After sit
ting through a day of harangues by Kayapo leaders inter
spersed with periodic eruptions of chanting and dancing by
about 100 or so Kayapo and Indians from other groups that
had participated in the roadblock alongside the Kayapo,
the government representatives promised to produce a
revised version of the road paving project incorporating
the Kayapo demands within 30 days. This was the grace
period granted by the Kayapo before the blockade of the
roads would be renewed if no response were forthcoming
Fig. 6. Kayapo chiefs sign
letters at a meeting at the
FUNAI office in Colider,
Mato Grosso, on 26 July
2006. Front left to right:
Kokoreti of Mekranoti,
Ropni of Mentuktire, and
Megaron Txukarramãe,
regional FUNAI director.
One letter was to President
Lula, protesting against the
illegality of his government’s
attempt to circumvent
Brazilian laws in going
ahead with the road paving
project without the required
environmental impact
evaluation; another was to
the World Bank, urging it not
to lend money to support the
illegal project.

and other indigenous groups of the area, required by its
(Sue Cunningham, personal communication).
TERENCE URNER

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006 9

Standoff
After the Brazilian representatives left, the Kayapo leaders
themselves departed for Brasilia, where on or about 5
August they proceeded to picket the FUNAI head offices,
demanding the immediate dismissal of president Gomes
and his replacement with an Indian (MS 18/08/06). The
Kayapo were joined by the equally militant Xavante
nation, and the Amazonian Indian Federation COIAB
issued a fresh manifesto calling for Gomes’ dismissal. The
COIAB text was largely based on the Kayapo letter to Lula
sent from the Colider meeting a few weeks earlier, and
was clearly intended to support the Kayapo action (MS
11/08/06, 18/08/06)
Gomes succeeded in avoiding a showdown with the
Kayapo and kept his job, but his authority was weakened
by the public defiance and criticism of the Kayapo and
the other indigenous groups who supported them. As for
BR-163, the Ministry of Transportation waited until the
end of the 30-day period the Kayapo had set for them to
produce their revision of the paving project. Warned that
the Kayapo were preparing to renew their roadblock, how
ever, the Ministry called in Carmen Figueiredo, an expert
from FUNAI who had been working closely with the
Kayapo on the road situation, and invited her to rewrite
the relevant provisions of the project, incorporating the
Kayapo demands.
As of this writing, it thus appears that the Kayapo have
won their battle to make the state fulfil its legal obligations
to protect their social and environmental rights in carrying
out its BR-163 project. In the process they have performed
an important service for all Amazonian peoples by publi
cizing the prevailing pattern of government malfeasance
and evasion of legally mandated environmental protec
tions in the construction and improvement of roads in the
region (Carmen Figueiredo, personal communication).
As if to emphasize further the interdependence of these
gram, on 15 August, some 10 days after the start of the
Kayapo picketing of FUNAI, Lula made a speech vowing
that the Belo Monte dam, as well as others on the Rio
Madeira, would be built. He made no mention of the judi
cial injunction now in effect against all further work on
Belo Monte, or the views and rights of the indigenous and
Brazilian settler communities of the Xingú valley, or the
numerous expert warnings of the environmental and eco
nomic devastation the dams would cause (AM 16/08/06,
Switkes 2005).
The sources of Kayapo powers of resistance
It is against this developmentalist climate of opinion in
the Lula government and its disregard for Brazilian law,
as well as human rights and environmental values, that the
Kayapo have taken their stand. Although few in number
and only marginally integrated into the national society,
culture and economy, they have been able to make them
selves the centre of a wide and ethnically diverse network
of alliances with Amazonian peoples, including both indig
enous and national Brazilian communities, and to attract
support from an equally diverse assortment of groups from
national and international civil society. They have been
able to build this network by evoking the common inter
ests of all these groups in preserving the human and envi
ronmental values which Brazilian governments, in their
pursuit of developmentalist policies, have been prepared
to sacrifice.
Behind the national and state governments’ obsessive
advocacy of environmentally destructive mega-projects,
of course, has been the relentless pressure of the global
economy and its organs the IMF, international develop
ment banks and the WTO, which utilize Brazil’s large
foreign debt as leverage to compel adoption of capital
intensive developmentalist economic policies.
While boldly and effectively organizing resistance to
o
k,
Fig. 7. Chief Ropni harangues
Brazilian federal and state
government representatives
at a meeting on 26 July, over
the Brazilian government’s
failure to comply with
environmental laws relating
to the paving of the Cuiaba
Santarem highway.
AA (Amazon Alliance) 2006.
Website of the Amazon
Alliance for indigenous
and traditional peoples of
the Amazon basin. http://
www.amazonalliance.org;
consulted 10 August 2006.
A Gazeta de Cuiaba 2006.
Gazette of the state of Mat
Grosso, 4 July.
AM (Amazonia) 2006. http://
www.amazonia.org.br;
consulted 10 June.
Fajans-Turner, Vanessa 2004.
‘Developing alternatives
to “development”: The
interethnic resistance
movement of the peoples
of the Xingú’. BA thesis
presented to the Harvard
Committee on the Degree
in Social Studies. Harvard
University, Cambridge,
Mass.
— and Turner, Terence 2005.
Interethnic alliances among
indigenous and Brazilian
peoples of the Xingú.
Anthropology News 46(3):
27, 31.
Keck, Margaret E. and Sikkin
Kathryn 1998.
Activists
beyond borders: Advocacy
networks in international
politics
. Ithaca: Cornell

issues with the Lula government’s developmentalist progovernment projects, however, the Kayapo have cannily
TERENCE TURNER
University Press.
10 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

managed to present themselves as defenders of Brazilian
law against Brazilian national and state governments with
rogue developmentalist agendas that flagrantly violate
standing Brazilian legislation for the protection of indig
enous peoples’ territorial and human rights and environ
mental values. In the process they have managed to gain the
support of significant sectors of Brazilian political opinion
and state apparatuses, including important elements of the
legal and judicial establishments, some government min
istries and elected members of Congress, including agents
of FUNAI itself.
Kayapo leaders like Megaron have even been able to
gain appointments to strategic regional posts within the
administrative structure of FUNAI. In contrast to Scott’s
scenario of ‘weapons of the weak’ to which we alluded
at the beginning of this article, in short, the state does
not confront the Kayapo as a monolithic entity with an
effective monopoly of political- economic and ideological
hegemony. On the contrary, it is a heterogeneous collec
tion of actors and agencies, many with programmes of
their own that are to varying degrees opposed to the devel
opmentalist policies of the head of state. The Kayapo, as
we have seen, have been able to co-opt some of these dis
cordant state powers as ‘weapons’ in their own struggles
with federal and state governments.
In a similar way, the Kayapo have managed to attract
significant support from new domestic and international
social movements (NSMs) and non-governmental organi
zations (NGOs). The growth of these essentially middle
class movements committed to universal values and
causes such as human rights and environmentalism, often
opposed to the interests and projects of globalized capital,
has been a prominent feature of the social dynamics of
globalization.
The Kayapo, with some help from anthropologists and
NGO representatives, quickly understood that their strug
gles for territorial and cultural rights and protection of their
environment converged in important, if not all, respects
with the causes being fostered by these movements. A
crucial part of that understanding was the importance of
overtly representing themselves as a group of distinctive
identity capable of acting independently in defence of their
cultures, lands and environment. In contrast to the covert
forms of resistance or ‘hidden transcripts’ that James Scott
has suggested are the essential ‘weapons of the weak’, in
other words, the Kayapo have developed a flamboyantly
‘open transcript’, consisting of their own overt represen
tations and public acts of opposition to Brazilian state
policies and powers (cf. Scott 1985, 1990; Turner 1991,
1992).
An important aspect of this ‘open transcript’ has been
the Kayapo’s development of new forms and techniques
of representation, including the creative use of new media
such as video but also adaptations of their traditional cul
tural forms such as ritual choreography and self-decora
tion, employed in staging demonstrations and political
confrontations. These innovative forms of representation,
and the support from national and international civil society
they have helped to win, in sum, have also been important
‘weapons’ in the Kayapo struggle (Fajans-Turner 2004,
Turner 1991, Keck and Sikkink 1998).
The Kayapo have been able to co-opt and employ the
powers derived from these extraneous sources by drawing
upon the political qualities and cultural resources devel
oped in their traditional system. These qualities were
epitomized by their creation of the inter-ethnic alliance
of ‘peoples of the Xingú’ at the Piaraçu meeting of 2003
(Fajans-Turner and Turner 2005) and the new level of ritu
ally grounded political unity for their own people at the
2006 Piaraçu meeting described at the beginning of this
article. If the peoples and ecosystem of the Amazon are to
be saved from the ravages of the Brazilian regime’s devel
opmentalist policies, they will owe much to the Kayapo’s
ability to exploit the conflicting currents of global civil
society and discordant elements of modern state regimes
as sources of new powers of resistance and adaptation.
l

Fig. 8. Kayapo blockade of
Cuiaba-Santarem highway,
22-26 July 2006. A warrior
guards a barricade across the
Cuiaba-Santarem highway. Th
banner across the barricade
bears the message, ‘Why won’
you listen to us? Kayapo,
Panara, Terena, Kayabi
and Apiaca Indians demand
their rights!’. Note stalled
traffic behind the barrier. The
Kayapo provisionally lifted
the blockade when federal
and state governments agreed
to send representatives to
meet with them and receive
their demands that legal
measures designed to limit
the environmental and social
impact of development on loca
populations be enforced.
e
t
l
MS (Manchetes
Socioambientais) 2006.
Website of the Instituto
Socio-Ambiental, São Paul
http://www.socioambiental
org; consulted July-August
2006.
Scott, J. 1985.
Weapons of
resistance: Everyday forms
of peasant resistance
. New
Haven: Yale University
Press.
— 1990.
Domination and the
arts of resistance: Hidden
transcripts
. New Haven: Ya
University Press.
Switkes, G. (ed.) 2005.
Tenotã-mõ: Alertas sobre a
consequencias dos projetos
hidrelétricos no rio Xingú
.
São Paulo: International
Rivers Network.
Turner, T. 1991. Representing,
resisting, rethinking:
Historical transformations
of Kayapo culture
and anthropological
consciousness. In: Stocking
G. (ed.)
Post-colonial
situations: The history of
anthropology
, vol. 7, pp.
285-313. Madison, WI:
University of Wisconsin
Press.
— 1992. Defiant images: The
Kayapo appropriation of
video.
Anthropology Today
8(6): 5-15.
— 2003. Class projects,
social consciousness,
and the contradictions of
‘globalization’. In Friedma
J. (ed.)
Violence, the state
and globalization
, pp. 35-6
New York: Altamira.
— 2004. Anthropological
activism, indigenous peopl
and globalization. In:
Nagengast, C. and Velez
Ibañez, C. (eds)
Human
rights, power and differenc
The scholar as activist
,
pp. 193-207.Oklahoma
City: Society for Applied
Anthropology.
Txukarramãe, M. 2006.
‘Declaração da reunião do
povo Mebengokre Kayapo,
Piaraçu, MT 28 Março-
1 Avril 2006’ (English
translation by T. Turner:
‘Declaration of the meeting
of the Mebengokre Kayapo
at Piaraçu, Mato Grosso,
o.
.
le
s
,
n,
6.
es
e:

TERENCE URNER
March 28-April 1, 2006’). ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006 3

This article deals with an outstanding example of a gen
eral phenomenon: the resurgence of indigenous peoples
as political actors and as vital and innovative cultural
communities, not only at local but at national and global
levels. The recent surge of indigenous struggles for greater
political, economic and cultural autonomy has coincided
with the latest stage of global centralization of capital that
began in the late 1960s. It must thus be understood in the
context of the transformations of nation-states and their
internal social relations associated with what has come to
be called ‘globalization’. Among these transformations
have been changes in the relations of state regimes to rela
tively marginal and formerly stigmatized identity groups,
ethnic and cultural minorities in their populations, among
whom indigenous peoples are invariably numbered.
For reasons not yet fully understood, these changes have
created new opportunities for indigenous groups to chal
lenge national governments and even political-economic
processes at the heart of the global economic system. The
result has been an inversion of received ideas about the
limited possibilities for resistance by oppressed minorities
and people in marginalized social categories to the condi
tions of their subjugation, as represented for example by
James Scott’s notions of the ‘weapons of the weak’ and
the necessarily covert and secretive forms of resistance he
calls ‘hidden transcripts’ (Scott 1985, 1990). The flagrantly
overt defiance by the Kayapo of the Brazilian Amazon
against threats to their territorial rights and environment
from state and corporate development projects, which we
describe in this article, constitutes a counter-example to
Scott’s views. We shall take up some general implications
of this discrepancy in the conclusion of our paper.
The Kayapo, or Mebengokre as they call themselves,
are an indigenous society with a current population of
about 7000. They occupy a large territory of some 140,000
km
2, with 21 villages scattered over the middle Xingú river
valley and those of its eastern tributaries, in the Brazilian
states of Mato Grosso (MT) and Pará (PA). Most, but not
all, of their traditional territory has been recognized by the
state as reserves under their control, following political
and diplomatic campaigns, including low-intensity armed
struggle, dating back to the early 1970s.
In recent years, however, the Kayapo and many other
Brazilian indigenous peoples have discovered that the
formal recognition of their territories as reserves does
not mean that they are secure from massive intrusions
by development projects directly instigated or fostered
by federal and state governments – projects which would
have, and in some cases have had, devastating effects on
their communities and environments. To combat these
projects the Kayapo have been forced to reach out for sup
port to non-Kayapo indigenous allies and non-indigenous
organizations such as NGOs, some parts of the Brazilian
government, Brazilian settler organizations of the Xingú
valley, foreign governments and anthropologists. As the
pressures have intensified, mutually rivalrous and dis
trustful Kayapo communities have come together in a
common campaign under unified leadership. We begin
our article by describing the meeting through which this
was accomplished.
Political innovation and inter-ethnic alliance
Kayapo resistance to the developmentalist state
terenCe turner
and VaneSSa
FaJanS-turner
Terence Turner is Professor
of Anthropology (Emeritus)
at the University of Chicago,
and recently retired as
Adjunct Professor of
Anthropology at Cornell
University. He continues to
work with the Kayapo and
acted as recording secretary
at the March 2006 meeting
at Piaraçu described in this
article. His email is
[email protected]
Vanessa Fajans-Turner
has done fieldwork with
the Kayapo and wrote her
undergraduate thesis at
Harvard on their struggle
against the Xingú dams. She
currently works for the United
Nations Millennium Goals
Campaign. Her email is
[email protected]
Fig. 1. March 2006:
participants in the Piaraçu
meeting form up for a ritual
dance to inaugurate the
proceedings.

SUE CUNNINGHAM / SUE CUNNINGHAM PHOTOGRAPHIC

4 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

Uniting against the common enemy
Two hundred representatives of 19 of the 21 Kayapo com
munities met for five days in the village of Piaraçu on the
Xingú River between 28 March and 1 April 2006 (the two
absent communities had wanted to attend but were unable
to find the money for travel expenses). The main subject of
discussion was the need to present a common front against
the Brazilian government’s attempts to revive its perennial
project to build hydroelectric dams at Belo Monte and four
other sites on the Xingú River and its main tributary, the
Irirí. The meeting was the culmination of years of organi
zation and alliance-building by the Kayapo, under the
leadership of Megaron Txukarramãe, a Kayapo from the
village of Mentuktire who is also director of the regional
office of FUNAI, the Brazilian agency for Indian affairs
in Mato Grosso. The objective of this protracted Kayapo
campaign has been to put together a united front of all the
peoples of the Xingú Valley, some 25 distinct indigenous
groups and organizations of national Brazilian settlers,
against the proposed Xingú dams and other environmen
tally destructive development projects (Fajans-Turner and
Turner 2005).
The Kayapo and their allies insist that they are not
opposed to development as such, but rather to the approach
to development perennially favoured by Brazilian govern
ment planners. This typically stresses big, capital-intensive
infrastructure projects, such as giant hydroelectric dams
and highways driven through fragile ecosystems in viola
tion of the legal and human rights of local populations,
without regard to the environmental damage and social
disruption they cause. This policy and its associated ide
ology has come to be called ‘developmentalism’ in con
trast to other approaches to development that emphasize
smaller-scale, local labour-intensive inputs and environ
mentally sustainable production.
The first step in the Kayapo campaign to build an effec
tive movement of resistance to the Xingú dams and other
developmentalist projects in their area had been to mend
their relations with the other indigenous groups of the
Xingú valley. Mutual antagonism and distrust had become
particularly intense with the Upper Xinguano indigenous
communities of the National Park of the Xingú. Kayapo
leaders dealt with these tensions by inviting representatives
of these groups to attend a meeting in November 2003, at
the Kayapo village of Piaraçu, located on the east bank
of the Xingú by the northern border of the park. At the
meeting Megaron and other Kayapo speakers successfully
persuaded the representatives of the other groups that the
threat posed by the dams and pollution from encroaching
cattle ranches and soya plantations to the river on which
they all depended made a common struggle to save the
Xingú essential. Even the new president of FUNAI, Dr
Mércio Pereira Gomes, made an appearance at the meeting
to give his blessing to the new era of peaceful relations
among the indigenous peoples of the Xingú, although he
carefully avoided taking the Indians’ side against the dams
and other developmentalist projects that threatened their
home territories (Fajans-Turner 2003, Fajans-Turner and
Turner 2005).
One intractable problem remained: three of the largest
Kayapo villages from the eastern part of Kayapo ter
ritory had boycotted the meeting because of their long
standing rivalry with the western Kayapo communities
under Megaron’s leadership. Before the Kayapo could
hope to lead a united indigenous coalition to save the
Xingú, they had to overcome their own internal divisions.
In December 2005, Megaron made a personal tour of the
Kayapo villages, including those that had not attended the
2003 meeting. The immediate objective of the visits was
to persuade all the communities to send representatives to

SUE CUNNINGHAM / SUE CUNNINGHAM PHOTOGRAPHIC

Fig. 2. The war dance is
performed during an interval
in the speeches at the Piaraçu
meeting in March 2006.
Frequent breaks for collective
dance performances were
an integral part of the
proceedings, serving to
express the solidarity of the
representatives of different
communities and their
support for the speakers.

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OcTObeR 2006 5

another meeting at Piaraçu, this one to be limited exclu
sively to Kayapo and their close neighbours and allies,
the Panara and some Juruna who were currently living at
Piaraçu with the Kayapo.
Megaron’s tour was a complete success, resulting in
the second Piaraçu meeting in March 2006. This meeting
achieved all that Megaron had hoped. The hitherto recal
citrant eastern villages attended and joined with the other
communities in a unanimous consensus to begin organ
izing a movement of all the ‘peoples of the Xingú’ against
the dams. Over 100 speakers at the week-long meeting
rejected construction of the dams, alleging that they would
have catastrophic effects on the riverine ecosystem, and
would flood large areas of indigenous territory. Many
speakers introduced their remarks by singing their personal
‘anger-songs’, customarily sung when going into battle,
and some warned that they would go to war if necessary to
stop construction of the Belo Monte dam, planned as the
first of the series. They also denounced Brazilian President
Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Eletronorte, the government
agency responsible for the dams, for failing to disclose the
true scope of the project. The government has represented
it for public consumption as involving a single dam at Belo
Monte, whereas in fact it envisages four additional dams
which would be essential for Belo Monte to operate with
maximum efficiency (Switkes 2005). Speakers further
denounced Lula and Eletronorte for violating Article 231
of the Brazilian constitution, which requires that devel
opment projects planned for indigenous areas should be
debated by the National Congress, with the participation
of representatives from the affected communities. Neither
Eletronorte nor governmental proponents of the dams had
made any attempt to comply with this requirement.
An independent legal challenge to this constitutional
violation led to a dramatic moment at the Piaraçu meeting.
Under pressure from indigenous activists, the Ministério
Público (the office of the public prosecutor in the Ministry
of Justice, the equivalent of an Attorney General), had
instigated federal court proceedings against Eletronorte
to halt all work on the dams (including planning) while
the government remained in violation of the constitution.
In the midst of the Kayapo meeting, on 30 March, news
arrived that a federal judge in the nearby city of Altamira
had found for the plaintiffs in this suit, and issued an injunc
tion halting all work on the dams. Many at the meeting
felt that the mobilization of the Kayapo for the renewed
struggle against the dams had played a part in influencing
the judge’s verdict. Whether or not this was true, it con
tributed to the general feeling of those at the meeting that
they were on a roll and could win despite the odds. In May
the judge’s decision was sustained on appeal by a federal
judge in Brasília, with the Ministério Público acting for
the plaintiffs. The entire Xingú dam scheme may well now
have to be abandoned.
Forging an alliance with the whites
Immediately following the successful conclusion of the
2006 Piaraçu meeting, Megaron initiated the next and
biggest step in the Kayapo alliance-building process: con
tacting the leaders of regional Brazilian settler organiza
tions to persuade them to join with the Kayapo and their
indigenous allies in the campaign to save the Xingú from
the dams and pollution. He proposed that Indians and set
tlers should jointly organize a great rally in Altamira in
opposition to the dams and other environmentally destruc
tive developments, including logging, mining and river
pollution. Brazilian settlers have historically tended to
be hostile or at best indifferent to Indians, but they have
for their own reasons become opposed to the construc
tion of the proposed dams and the pollution of the river.
Fig. 3. A peaceful
conversation between future
antagonists: Mércio Gomes,
shortly after his appointment
as president of FUNAI, the
Brazilian agency for Indian
Affairs, chats with Kayapo
leaders Ropni and Megaron
at a meeting held at Piaraçu
in 2003. Gomes’ advocacy
of the Lula government’s
environmentally and socially
destructive infrastructure
projects in the Amazon had
not yet become evident to the
Indians.

TeReNce TuRNeR

6 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

The response of the leaders of settler organizations to
Megaron’s overtures was enthusiastically positive.
As Megaron said in the Declaration of Piaraçu, circu
lated to NGOs and the media immediately following the
Piaraçu meeting:
We Mebengokre are aware that the problems that threaten the
lives of our communities in the Xingú Valley also threaten
other peoples, both indigenous and Brazilian, who live in the
valley. The solution of these problems, and thus the effective
protection of our river and our forest, lies in a common struggle,
which we share with all the peoples of the Xingú Valley.
Eighteen months ago, we met together with the other indige
nous peoples of the Upper, Middle and Lower Xingú in Piaraçu
to forge a common front against these threats. Now, following
upon the successful conclusion of the meeting of all of our
own communities, we are entering upon the next stage of our
struggle, contacting organizations of national Brazilian settlers
of the Lower Xingú and the Transamazonica [highway] to form
an alliance of all the peoples of the Valley of the Xingú to save
our river from the dams, pollution, and all kinds of destructive
development, and to promote alternative forms of production
based on the powers of local communities using sustainable
resources.
We call on all the inhabitants of the Xingú Valley to join with
us in a great rally at Altamira against the Belo Monte dam and
the other dams that Eletronorte wants to build throughout our
valley, and for the protection and development of our own pro
ductive powers, our cultures and communities. (Txukarramãe
2006; English translation T. Turner)
Collective effervescence and the creation of
ritual
The March Piaraçu meeting was a historic achievement for
the Kayapo: the first time that all Kayapo communities had
united for a common cause under a common leadership.
There was a feeling of excitement among those present
that they were being part of something new and impor
tant – the emergence of a united Kayapo political commu
nity. This feeling was expressed in Kayapo cultural terms
through the performance of a new ceremony, composed
for the occasion, at the close of the meeting. In this ritual
young, recently proclaimed chiefs (
benhadjuòrò) handed
seedlings from the fruit-bearing piki tree to senior chiefs,
elder statesmen whose pan-communal authority is recog
nized by all Kayapo. The elder chiefs proceeded to plant
the seedlings, and while standing over them, exhorted the
younger chiefs to step into the roles that they, the elders,
were about to vacate, to assure the continuity of Kayapo
culture (
kukràdjà) and social order.
The ritual dramatized the meeting’s call for the collec
tive defence and renewal of Kayapo society as a political
community. Notably, two of the four senior chiefs who
took part in the ritual chose as their partners young chiefs
from villages other than their own, a departure from normal
Kayapo practice in which succession to the chiefly office
is through proclamation by a senior chief of the same
community. This gesture (which surprised some of those
present, including some who had shared in creating the
new ritual during the meeting) expressed the senior chiefs’
understanding that through this meeting, the Kayapo had
constituted themselves as a political community at a level
higher than that of individual villages. At the same time,
the ritual dramatized the dual significance of the Kayapo
resistance to the dams as both protection of their territory
and, more fundamentally, a defence of their way of life.
The wider context: Development at any cost vs.
Amazonian rivers, forests and peoples
The consolidation of a political movement integrating
all the Kayapo communities in alliance with the other
indigenous groups and Brazilian settler movements of the
Xingú valley was both motivated and threatened by omi
nous developments in the policies of the government of
President Lula da Silva and the state government of Mato
Grosso. By the time of the Piaraçu meeting of February
March 2006 it had become clear that the Lula government
had adopted a developmentalist programme of promoting
big capital-intensive infrastructural projects, such as
hydroelectric dams and the paving of interstate roads like
the Cuiabá-Santarem highway (BR-163), at the expense of
environmental, social and human rights concerns.

TERENCE TURNER
Fig. 4. Kayapo men dance
at the meeting of all Kayapo
villages held in March 2006.

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

These projects are key elements in the federal govern
ment’s IMF-inspired strategy of increasing exports to pay
off Brazil’s foreign debt. In the concrete forms of the Xingú
dam projects and the proposal to pave BR-163 to enable
the transportation of the huge soya, rice and maize crops
of Mato Grosso’s burgeoning agribusiness economy to the
ports of Santarem and Belem, these policies were already
casting long shadows over the Kayapo homeland. In the
months following the Piaraçu meeting, however, a series
of further events served both to highlight and to intensify
the threats from these projects and the collateral effects
of the more general policy orientation of the national and
state governments that gave rise to them.
By 2005 it had become evident that the demarcation of
indigenous territories as reserves by the National Indian
Foundation, opposed by local landholders and develop
mentalist interests alike, had virtually come to a halt (over
200 indigenous territories remained undemarcated). The
Lula government, represented by Mércio Gomes, presi
dent of FUNAI, appeared to have put the protection of
indigenous lands on hold in an effort to accommodate
these interests.
For the Kayapo and most other indigenous groups, not to
mention numerous NGOs, anthropologists and journalists,
Gomes’ leadership of FUNAI had become identified with
Lula’s policy for developing Amazonia without regard
for constitutional and legal safeguards of indigenous
and environmental rights. Stung by criticism from these
sources, Gomes gave an interview to Reuters news agency
in January 2006 defending FUNAI’s general record but
adding the startling assertion, for one in his position, that
the Indians’ demand for the demarcation of their land as
reserves ‘was going beyond acceptable limits’, and sug
gesting that the Supreme Court should consider imposing
a cap on the proportion of the national territory that can be
allotted to Indian reserves (MS 13/01/06;
Estado de São
Paulo
, Section A:4, 13/01/06).
This overt avowal of what many had come to suspect
was the real attitude behind the government’s Indian
policy caused a storm of protest among indigenous
groups and NGOs supporting them. The Kayapo called
a meeting of 23 of their leaders and sent off a fiery pro
test to Lula, which called for a general change of policy
towards Indians and the dismissal of Gomes as president
of FUNAI (MS 30/01/06; Carmen Figueiredo, personal
communication).
The road to Santarem is paved with
questionable intentions
Meanwhile, in what began as a separate dispute over the
social and environmental effects of development projects,
the federal government’s attempt to evade its own law
that calls for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)
as prerequisites for licensing projects such as the paving
of BR-163 led to a renewed crisis with the Kayapo. The
Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of the Environment
began well enough in mid-2005 by holding two legally
prescribed public hearings in the Xingú valley for all
groups who would be affected by the road project. They
were invited to present their views on the measures that
should be taken to protect their rights and interests from
the influx of construction crews, settlers and deforestation
that the road improvement would bring.
Testimony at such hearings is supposed to be taken into
account in the preparation of the EIA, and thus incorpo
rated into the final design and operation of the project.
The Kayapo sent delegations to both hearings that made
detailed submissions. Their statements did not oppose the
paving of the road in itself, but called for it to be accom
panied by policing of the boundaries of the Kayapo and
Panara reserves that lie close to the road, the demarca
tion of still undemarcated territories father to the north,
compensation for environmental damage, and continued
consultation with the Indians on dealing with the social
problems certain to arise from increased road traffic and
the influx of settlers. After these hearings, nothing was
heard about the paving project for several months.
In December 2005, however, the government institute
responsible for the protection of the Amazon, IBAMA,
quietly granted a preliminary licence to the Ministry of
Fig. 5. The piki tree seedling
ceremony celebrated at the
close of the Piaraçu meeting
in March 2006, expressing
the creation of a united
Kayapo political community.
The seedlings (two are
visible, behind the speaker’s
hand and below the video
camera) have been planted by
older chiefs, who exhort the
younger chiefs facing them
to continue their struggle
to defend the whole Kayapo
people. The ceremony is
being recorded by a young
Kayapo video cameraman..

TERENCE TURNER

8 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

Transport to proceed with plans for the paving of BR-
163. This was irregular, since the Environmental Impact
Assessment normally required for such a licence had not
yet been completed. The delay had been caused by disa
greements between the Ministry of the Environment and
its agency, IBAMA, and the Ministry of Transport over the
terms of the EIA.
After six months the dispute was finally ‘solved’ by
the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, who in
early June produced a new ‘Plan for a sustainable BR-
163’ designed to substitute for the legally required EIA
and thus allow the licence granted six months earlier to
be activated (MS 06/06/06; 29/06/06). The plan contained
provisions for protected forest zones beside the road but
took no account of the proposals by the Kayapo for the
demarcation and police protection of indigenous commu
nities located near the road.
This bureaucratic manoeuvre was completed without
consulting the Kayapo or any of the other indigenous
or regional groups who had faithfully attended the hear
ings for the EIA and contributed their critical inputs (MS
06/06/06). The result was triumphantly announced by
Lula in a speech on 6 June, followed a month later by a
short report in the official Gazette of Mato Grosso that the
licence had been issued and paving would proceed without
reference to the legally required EIA (AA 22/12/05; MS
06/06/06, 12/06/06;
A Gazeta de Cuiaba 2006).
The (paved) road shall not pass!
When this came to the notice of the Kayapo, they were
furious. They felt that they had been betrayed by the gov
ernment’s hearings for the EIA, which they now saw as
having been a ruse to distract them while the government
secretly went ahead with its plans to proceed with the
project without regard for the environmental and social
protections, to say nothing of the consultations with them
own laws. Kayapo and Panara leaders from the Xingú
valley met in the second week of July and agreed to take
immediate action. They wrote to Lula denouncing his gov
ernment’s violation of Brazilian law and human rights, and
to the president of the World Bank urging him not to grant
a loan for the road-paving project. A third letter went to the
Attorney General of Brazil, calling upon him to enforce
the law and vowing to prevent the road from being paved
until the government decided to comply with its own laws
covering licensing and EIAs.
Then, making good on their promise, they sent a party
to blockade BR-163. For good measure, they also cut BR-
80, the federal highway that serves as their boundary with
the National Park of the Xingú to the south, by seques
tering the ferry that carries road traffic across the Xingú.
They maintained the closure of both roads for four days,
from 22 to 26 July, which was how long it took the fed
eral government and the state government of Mato Grosso
to agree to the Kayapo’s condition for calling off the
blockade. This was to send high-level representatives to
a meeting with Kayapo leaders to discuss the restitution
of the environmental and social protections demanded by
the Kayapo and others in the public hearings for the EIA
(Megaron Txukarramãe, personal communication; MS
25-27/07/06).
The meeting was held on 26 July at the Kayapo-controlled
FUNAI headquarters in Colider, Mato Grosso. After sit
ting through a day of harangues by Kayapo leaders inter
spersed with periodic eruptions of chanting and dancing by
about 100 or so Kayapo and Indians from other groups that
had participated in the roadblock alongside the Kayapo,
the government representatives promised to produce a
revised version of the road paving project incorporating
the Kayapo demands within 30 days. This was the grace
period granted by the Kayapo before the blockade of the
roads would be renewed if no response were forthcoming
Fig. 6. Kayapo chiefs sign
letters at a meeting at the
FUNAI office in Colider,
Mato Grosso, on 26 July
2006. Front left to right:
Kokoreti of Mekranoti,
Ropni of Mentuktire, and
Megaron Txukarramãe,
regional FUNAI director.
One letter was to President
Lula, protesting against the
illegality of his government’s
attempt to circumvent
Brazilian laws in going
ahead with the road paving
project without the required
environmental impact
evaluation; another was to
the World Bank, urging it not
to lend money to support the
illegal project.

and other indigenous groups of the area, required by its
(Sue Cunningham, personal communication).
TERENCE URNER

ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006 9

Standoff
After the Brazilian representatives left, the Kayapo leaders
themselves departed for Brasilia, where on or about 5
August they proceeded to picket the FUNAI head offices,
demanding the immediate dismissal of president Gomes
and his replacement with an Indian (MS 18/08/06). The
Kayapo were joined by the equally militant Xavante
nation, and the Amazonian Indian Federation COIAB
issued a fresh manifesto calling for Gomes’ dismissal. The
COIAB text was largely based on the Kayapo letter to Lula
sent from the Colider meeting a few weeks earlier, and
was clearly intended to support the Kayapo action (MS
11/08/06, 18/08/06)
Gomes succeeded in avoiding a showdown with the
Kayapo and kept his job, but his authority was weakened
by the public defiance and criticism of the Kayapo and
the other indigenous groups who supported them. As for
BR-163, the Ministry of Transportation waited until the
end of the 30-day period the Kayapo had set for them to
produce their revision of the paving project. Warned that
the Kayapo were preparing to renew their roadblock, how
ever, the Ministry called in Carmen Figueiredo, an expert
from FUNAI who had been working closely with the
Kayapo on the road situation, and invited her to rewrite
the relevant provisions of the project, incorporating the
Kayapo demands.
As of this writing, it thus appears that the Kayapo have
won their battle to make the state fulfil its legal obligations
to protect their social and environmental rights in carrying
out its BR-163 project. In the process they have performed
an important service for all Amazonian peoples by publi
cizing the prevailing pattern of government malfeasance
and evasion of legally mandated environmental protec
tions in the construction and improvement of roads in the
region (Carmen Figueiredo, personal communication).
As if to emphasize further the interdependence of these
gram, on 15 August, some 10 days after the start of the
Kayapo picketing of FUNAI, Lula made a speech vowing
that the Belo Monte dam, as well as others on the Rio
Madeira, would be built. He made no mention of the judi
cial injunction now in effect against all further work on
Belo Monte, or the views and rights of the indigenous and
Brazilian settler communities of the Xingú valley, or the
numerous expert warnings of the environmental and eco
nomic devastation the dams would cause (AM 16/08/06,
Switkes 2005).
The sources of Kayapo powers of resistance
It is against this developmentalist climate of opinion in
the Lula government and its disregard for Brazilian law,
as well as human rights and environmental values, that the
Kayapo have taken their stand. Although few in number
and only marginally integrated into the national society,
culture and economy, they have been able to make them
selves the centre of a wide and ethnically diverse network
of alliances with Amazonian peoples, including both indig
enous and national Brazilian communities, and to attract
support from an equally diverse assortment of groups from
national and international civil society. They have been
able to build this network by evoking the common inter
ests of all these groups in preserving the human and envi
ronmental values which Brazilian governments, in their
pursuit of developmentalist policies, have been prepared
to sacrifice.
Behind the national and state governments’ obsessive
advocacy of environmentally destructive mega-projects,
of course, has been the relentless pressure of the global
economy and its organs the IMF, international develop
ment banks and the WTO, which utilize Brazil’s large
foreign debt as leverage to compel adoption of capital
intensive developmentalist economic policies.
While boldly and effectively organizing resistance to
o
k,
Fig. 7. Chief Ropni harangues
Brazilian federal and state
government representatives
at a meeting on 26 July, over
the Brazilian government’s
failure to comply with
environmental laws relating
to the paving of the Cuiaba
Santarem highway.
AA (Amazon Alliance) 2006.
Website of the Amazon
Alliance for indigenous
and traditional peoples of
the Amazon basin. http://
www.amazonalliance.org;
consulted 10 August 2006.
A Gazeta de Cuiaba 2006.
Gazette of the state of Mat
Grosso, 4 July.
AM (Amazonia) 2006. http://
www.amazonia.org.br;
consulted 10 June.
Fajans-Turner, Vanessa 2004.
‘Developing alternatives
to “development”: The
interethnic resistance
movement of the peoples
of the Xingú’. BA thesis
presented to the Harvard
Committee on the Degree
in Social Studies. Harvard
University, Cambridge,
Mass.
— and Turner, Terence 2005.
Interethnic alliances among
indigenous and Brazilian
peoples of the Xingú.
Anthropology News 46(3):
27, 31.
Keck, Margaret E. and Sikkin
Kathryn 1998.
Activists
beyond borders: Advocacy
networks in international
politics
. Ithaca: Cornell

issues with the Lula government’s developmentalist progovernment projects, however, the Kayapo have cannily
TERENCE TURNER
University Press.
10 ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY VOL 22 NO 5, OCTOBER 2006

managed to present themselves as defenders of Brazilian
law against Brazilian national and state governments with
rogue developmentalist agendas that flagrantly violate
standing Brazilian legislation for the protection of indig
enous peoples’ territorial and human rights and environ
mental values. In the process they have managed to gain the
support of significant sectors of Brazilian political opinion
and state apparatuses, including important elements of the
legal and judicial establishments, some government min
istries and elected members of Congress, including agents
of FUNAI itself.
Kayapo leaders like Megaron have even been able to
gain appointments to strategic regional posts within the
administrative structure of FUNAI. In contrast to Scott’s
scenario of ‘weapons of the weak’ to which we alluded
at the beginning of this article, in short, the state does
not confront the Kayapo as a monolithic entity with an
effective monopoly of political- economic and ideological
hegemony. On the contrary, it is a heterogeneous collec
tion of actors and agencies, many with programmes of
their own that are to varying degrees opposed to the devel
opmentalist policies of the head of state. The Kayapo, as
we have seen, have been able to co-opt some of these dis
cordant state powers as ‘weapons’ in their own struggles
with federal and state governments.
In a similar way, the Kayapo have managed to attract
significant support from new domestic and international
social movements (NSMs) and non-governmental organi
zations (NGOs). The growth of these essentially middle
class movements committed to universal values and
causes such as human rights and environmentalism, often
opposed to the interests and projects of globalized capital,
has been a prominent feature of the social dynamics of
globalization.
The Kayapo, with some help from anthropologists and
NGO representatives, quickly understood that their strug
gles for territorial and cultural rights and protection of their
environment converged in important, if not all, respects
with the causes being fostered by these movements. A
crucial part of that understanding was the importance of
overtly representing themselves as a group of distinctive
identity capable of acting independently in defence of their
cultures, lands and environment. In contrast to the covert
forms of resistance or ‘hidden transcripts’ that James Scott
has suggested are the essential ‘weapons of the weak’, in
other words, the Kayapo have developed a flamboyantly
‘open transcript’, consisting of their own overt represen
tations and public acts of opposition to Brazilian state
policies and powers (cf. Scott 1985, 1990; Turner 1991,
1992).
An important aspect of this ‘open transcript’ has been
the Kayapo’s development of new forms and techniques
of representation, including the creative use of new media
such as video but also adaptations of their traditional cul
tural forms such as ritual choreography and self-decora
tion, employed in staging demonstrations and political
confrontations. These innovative forms of representation,
and the support from national and international civil society
they have helped to win, in sum, have also been important
‘weapons’ in the Kayapo struggle (Fajans-Turner 2004,
Turner 1991, Keck and Sikkink 1998).
The Kayapo have been able to co-opt and employ the
powers derived from these extraneous sources by drawing
upon the political qualities and cultural resources devel
oped in their traditional system. These qualities were
epitomized by their creation of the inter-ethnic alliance
of ‘peoples of the Xingú’ at the Piaraçu meeting of 2003
(Fajans-Turner and Turner 2005) and the new level of ritu
ally grounded political unity for their own people at the
2006 Piaraçu meeting described at the beginning of this
article. If the peoples and ecosystem of the Amazon are to
be saved from the ravages of the Brazilian regime’s devel
opmentalist policies, they will owe much to the Kayapo’s
ability to exploit the conflicting currents of global civil
society and discordant elements of modern state regimes
as sources of new powers of resistance and adaptation.
l

Fig. 8. Kayapo blockade of
Cuiaba-Santarem highway,
22-26 July 2006. A warrior
guards a barricade across the
Cuiaba-Santarem highway. Th
banner across the barricade
bears the message, ‘Why won’
you listen to us? Kayapo,
Panara, Terena, Kayabi
and Apiaca Indians demand
their rights!’. Note stalled
traffic behind the barrier. The
Kayapo provisionally lifted
the blockade when federal
and state governments agreed
to send representatives to
meet with them and receive
their demands that legal
measures designed to limit
the environmental and social
impact of development on loca
populations be enforced.
e
t
l
MS (Manchetes
Socioambientais) 2006.
Website of the Instituto
Socio-Ambiental, São Paul
http://www.socioambiental
org; consulted July-August
2006.
Scott, J. 1985.
Weapons of
resistance: Everyday forms
of peasant resistance
. New
Haven: Yale University
Press.
— 1990.
Domination and the
arts of resistance: Hidden
transcripts
. New Haven: Ya
University Press.
Switkes, G. (ed.) 2005.
Tenotã-mõ: Alertas sobre a
consequencias dos projetos
hidrelétricos no rio Xingú
.
São Paulo: International
Rivers Network.
Turner, T. 1991. Representing,
resisting, rethinking:
Historical transformations
of Kayapo culture
and anthropological
consciousness. In: Stocking
G. (ed.)
Post-colonial
situations: The history of
anthropology
, vol. 7, pp.
285-313. Madison, WI:
University of Wisconsin
Press.
— 1992. Defiant images: The
Kayapo appropriation of
video.
Anthropology Today
8(6): 5-15.
— 2003. Class projects,
social consciousness,
and the contradictions of
‘globalization’. In Friedma
J. (ed.)
Violence, the state
and globalization
, pp. 35-6
New York: Altamira.
— 2004. Anthropological
activism, indigenous peopl
and globalization. In:
Nagengast, C. and Velez
Ibañez, C. (eds)
Human
rights, power and differenc
The scholar as activist
,
pp. 193-207.Oklahoma
City: Society for Applied
Anthropology.
Txukarramãe, M. 2006.
‘Declaração da reunião do
povo Mebengokre Kayapo,
Piaraçu, MT 28 Março-
1 Avril 2006’ (English
translation by T. Turner:
‘Declaration of the meeting
of the Mebengokre Kayapo
at Piaraçu, Mato Grosso,
o.
.
le
s
,
n,
6.
es
e:

TERENCE URNER
March 28-April 1, 2006’).

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