Indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest are increasingly using the internet to share evidence of environmental crimes.
These groups use phones, video cameras, and social media to share information with the public. They want to increase the pressure on officials to respond quickly to their concerns.
Until recently, indigenous Communities often used the radio to broadcast their calls for help. These calls were communicated to the media and the public by environmental and indigenous rights groups.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized these nonprofit groups. Bolsonaro supports the legalization of mining and land leasing in protected indigenous areas.
But videos and photos taken directly from tribal peoples have attracted attention. This is forcing officials and the public to grapple with what is happening.
Nara Baré is the head of the group Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon. She said: “If technology is used correctly, it helps a lot in real time monitoring and denounce.”
The Internet in different areas
Communication connectivity not only helps with reporting information on social media. Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office has set up a website to register and receive reported crimes uploaded visuals.
In the past, people from distant communities had to travel long and costly to the nearest city with a federal prosecutor’s office.
The Xipaia Territory is part of a rainforest area known as Terra do Meio. It has many indigenous and traditional riverine communities. Internet connections were not common until 2020. At the time, several nonprofit groups, including Health in Harmony and the Socio-Environmental Institute, funded the construction of 17 antennas throughout the metropolitan area.
Marcelo Salazar is the coordinator of Health in Harmony’s Brazil program. He said, “The Internet makes health, education and forestry matters easier.” Fighting environmental crime is an added benefit, he said.
Four out of five Xipaia communities are now connected to communications services.
About 1,300 kilometers west, in the Amazon state of Rondonia, an internet service allowed Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people to take classes in photography and video so they could record deforestation. In 2020, a three-day training course on Zoom was held.
This is how the documentary came about the territory. The film won awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival and others. Throughout production, American director Alex Pritz used WhatsApp to communicate with his newly trained cinematographers.
Bolsonaro’s promises to legalize mining and other activities on indigenous lands in the Amazon have prompted more people to move to those areas. Indigenous and environmental groups estimate that there are 20,000 illegal miners in the Yanomami territory. It is an area about the size of Portugal in northern Brazil.
Bolsonaro’s government says there are 3,500 miners there.
Some fear that indigenous groups like the Xipaia won’t be the only ones to benefit from better internet availability in the Amazon. Illegal miners sometimes work with local indigenous leaders and secretly communicate through messaging apps.
The information can help miners hide heavy machinery or alert them to upcoming raids by law enforcement officials.
The state of Roraima is home to most of the Yanomami territory. The AP has contacted an internet provider that offers Wireless Internet access into an illegal gold mine for $2,600 plus $690 a month.
Health in Harmony’s Salazar described increased internet availability as “a double-edged sword,” meaning a situation that has both good and bad effects.
I’m John Russell.
Fabiano Maisonnave covered this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for learning English.
words in this story
indigenous – adj. produced in an area, living or naturally occurring
to rent – v. use (something) for a certain period of time for a fee
monitor – v. to view, observe, listen to or review (something) for a specific purpose over a specific period of time
denounce – v. report (someone) to the police or other authorities for illegal or immoral activities; to criticize (someone or something) harshly and publicly
upload – v. Computer: Moving or copying (a file, a program, etc.) from a computer or device to a usually larger computer or computer network
antenna – n. : a device (such as a wire or metal rod) used to transmit or receive radio, television, or cell phone signals
deforestation – n. the act or result of cutting down or burning all the trees in an area
Wireless Internet access -n. a local area network of wireless communication signals that connect devices within a few meters