Brazilian Indian leader – Germany must sign international law

Brazilian shaman Davi Yanomami delivered a letter to the German Chancellor’s office this week, urging the German government to sign the key international law on tribal peoples, ILO Convention 169.

Davi’s letter says, ‘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. Now our parliament is debating a bill which could open up our lands to large scale mining.

‘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 German 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.’

Davi also met with the Chancellor’s human rights department, members of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members of Germany’s Green Party. He stressed the huge health problems afflicting the Yanomami and the dangers that large scale mining would bring to their land – the destruction of the rainforest, roads, diseases, alcohol and prostitution. The rainforest is important to the whole world, Davi said, and Indians and ‘whites’ need to work together to protect it.