Collaborative archival work and analysis of Munduruku resistance to gold mining in the Upper Tapajós River of the Brazilian Amazon


Our project set out to focus on the creation of an ongoing digital and physical archive registering a series of interviews previously conducted alongside prominent elders, whose rich stories serve as grounds for ongoing Munduruku efforts against the advancement of illegal gold mining and other extractive activities on their ancestral territory within the central Brazilian Amazon. We specifically focused on systematizing, transcribing, and translating hours of traditional Munduruku cânticos, or chants, and stories as told and recited by the late Lídio Karo, who passed away in February 2021 due to complications with Covid-19 and malaria (linked to the recent “gold boom” in the Amazon). Seu Lídio was highly regarded as “one who knows how to tell stories” and a key figure in political organizations. The interviews were collected via video and audio recordings by Rosamaria Loures (anthropologist, University of Brasilia) and Ailén Vega (geographer, UC Berkeley) during summer 2019 and translated by Honesio Dace Munduruku (linguist, Federal University of Pará) during the summer of 2021. While much analysis of struggles against extractivism in Latin America focus on visible actions of resistance– protests, manifestations, public letters– , our collaborative work demonstrates the importance of documentation and translation: the former, predominantly for internal use and the latter, not just between indigenous and portuguese languages, but also between older and newer forms of munduruku language itself. Our work therefore serves to augment the careful and laborious work that the maintenance of stories and chants has within larger land struggles in the Brazilian Amazon while also providing the financial and logistical support to preserve narratives and songs that will no longer be “lost” with the passing of elders during times of heightened destruction and disease.

Ailen Vega
Publication date: 
November 19, 2021
Publication type: 
Student Research