Yanomami preparing hallucinogenic snuff.
Yanomami preparing hallucinogenic snuff. © Victor Englebert/Survival

Two hundred Yanomami representatives, from Brazil and Venezuela, are meeting this week for the third general assembly of Hutukara, the Yanomami Association.

At the gathering, Indigenous representatives will debate the protection of Yanomami land. Discussions will focus especially on a draft bill on mining which is being discussed in Brazil's congress. If approved, the bill will permit large-scale mining in indigenous territories. This would constitute a serious threat not only to the Yanomami but also to many other tribes in Brazil.

Yanomami health is also on the agenda. Critical medical care is not reaching Yanomami communities because of corruption and incompetence in Brazil’s National Health Foundation (FUNASA).

The assembly’s coordinator, Dário Xiriana, said, ‘It is important that Yanomami discuss this mining bill so that they can understand mining, because minerals and oil have already been found in our land and the white people want to explore those things that are important to them. We worry about Yanomami land, which is sacred to us.’

The Yanomami are one of the largest relatively isolated tribes in South America. They live in the rainforests and mountains of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela.

Read Survival's report on tribal peoples' health, 'Progress can kill'