Yanomami leader - Britain must sign international law

October 17, 2007

This page was created in 2007 and may contain language which is now outdated.

Brazilian shaman Davi Yanomami today delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street calling on the UK government to ratify ILO Convention 169, the key international law on tribal peoples.

In the letter Davi says, ‘I have journeyed a long way to come here and to ask you to sign the international law on tribal peoples, ILO Convention 169. My Yanomami people are suffering and our future is threatened. Our land is being invaded by goldminers who pollute the rivers and bring in diseases. Yanomami are starting to die.

'We are very, very worried about this and think you can help. This international law protects us, but needs more support. Our own country has signed it, but we are very unhappy that other countries, like yours, have not. The more countries that sign it, the more strength it will have in international law, and the more we can rely on it to protect our lands and our people.

'I have heard that your government does not want to sign the convention because you have no Indigenous people here in this country. But British businesses and projects funded by your government can still cause problems for Indigenous peoples like us. If you sign this law, they will have to respect it.

'It is very important for the future of the Yanomami and all Indigenous peoples around the world, that your government ratifies ILO 169. I appeal to you as the big chief of this country to support the millions of Indigenous people like us around the world by signing the convention, which is the only international law which recognises our rights.

'We, the Yanomami, are a people of the rainforest. We have always lived there and our shamans have always watched over the forest. We the Indigenous peoples and you the white people have to work together for the future of our forest and our planet. Without our land we cannot survive.'

ILO Convention 169 is the most important international law on tribal peoples. It recognises their land ownership rights and says they should be consulted on developments that affect them. Unlike the recently-adopted UN Declaration on Indigenous peoples, ILO 169 is legally binding on governments that have ratified it.

Read the text of ILO Convention 169

Download Survival's urgent action bulletin on ILO 169 (pdf)

Biographies and background information on the Yanomami are available here

For more information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]