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A New Alliance Is Defending Traditional Territories in the Amazon

February 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Laurel Sutherlin, AlterNet

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A riverside community fights to protect their traditional lands from outside forces.

One of the biggest challenges facing Indigenous and traditional communities fighting to defend their territories around the world is a lack of recognized maps and physical markers demarcating the boundaries of their rightful land. While no ironclad protection, the production of official maps and clear territorial markers that communities, governments, courts and extractive corporations can agree upon is one of the most important tools outside allies can help provide to curtail destructive encroachment of ancestral lands.

This is a story of direct support from afar facilitating successful efforts of a frontline community in Brazil’s Amazon to demarcate their own traditional lands under siege by outside forces.

Community members hand-painted dozens of plaques, which were then posted for miles along the boundary of their established traditional territory. (image: Ailén Vega)

Montanha-Mangabal is a riverside community made up of 101 families whose territory extends nearly 50 miles along the Tapajós River in the Brazilian Amazon. Originally descended from migrant rubber tappers, the river-dwellers of Montanha-Mangabal have occupied their current territory for eight generations—a total of 140 years. The families of the Montanha-Mangabal community depend on the Tapajós River and the surrounding rainforest as the basis for their subsistence livelihoods and this biologically rich, intact ecosystem, some of the best forest remaining in the region, is central to their identity as traditional occupants of this land.

In 2006, the community was recognized by the federal government as the first “traditional riverine” community in Brazil. This designation extends legal protections and territorial rights to communities with distinct forms of social organization, traditional knowledge and subsistence practices that occupy and rely upon a territory …read more


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