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April 26, 2023

Alessandra Korap Munduruku, Leader at KOEF Grant Partner, Awarded the 2023 Goldman Environmental Prize

Cultural Survival congratulates Alessandra Korap Munduruku (Munduruku) and her community on winning the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2023 for her tireless efforts to defend her community and territory against extractive industries.  

Munduruku is a member of the Munduruku Peoples of Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, located in northern Brazil. This area covers 439,000 acres of Amazon rainforest along the Tapajós River and is home to several Indigenous communities. As this land is not formally demarcated by the Brazilian government, communities are facing constant threats to their livelihoods and cultures. Without recognizing the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, the Brazilian government is enabling hydroelectric projects, mining, and land dispossession efforts, which has already increased contamination of the Tapajós River, poisoning local wildlife and people, and illegal mining.

In light of this context and after learning that British-owned Anglo American, one of the world’s biggest mining companies, had filed 13 copper mining research applications in Indigenous territory without regard to the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. In 2020, Munduruku co-organized an assembly of 45 chiefs and around 200 participants, who in collaboration drafted an official declaration against further mining activity and deforestation of the Amazon. In collaboration with other NGOs, Munduruku also drafted an open letter to Anglo American, demanding a withdrawal of their permits, albeit the company claimed to have no exploratory permits in Indigenous territories. 

Munduruku expanded the media campaign, partnered with several NGOs, and served as a spokeswoman drawing attention to this issue on social media and during conferences and international forums. Locally, she initiated an Indigenous patrol group whose purpose is to measure levels of deforestation, videotape illegal mining and enforce self-demarcation, including installing signs marking territorial boundaries. 

Eventually, Anglo American informed the Brazilian government that they would withdraw 27 mining research permits on Indigenous Territory, including the 13 permits on Sawré Muybu territory, as a result of the increased pressure from Munduruku and her supporters. The company stated that its decision to withdraw its permits was due to the concerns raised by Indigenous communities and organizations. 

Cultural Survival has supported Associação Indígena Pariri with Keepers of the Earth Fund (KOEF) grants over the past few years. In 2018, a KOEF grant funded a project related to defending their lands through a demarcation process of three Munduruku communities to reach formal government recognition of their land rights. In 2023, a KOEF grant funded a project to promote surveillance and protection of Munduruku territories and those in the demarcation process through the strengthening and education of young people as a response to the expansion of State megaprojects in Brazil.

“For us at KOEF, working with Alessandra through Associação Indígena Pariri to support the resistance of the Munduruku Peoples has been very important. We recognize her leadership at Associação Indígena Pariri which is made up of the 10 Mudurunku communities in the territory. Cultural Survival is proud to support their efforts and urges the Brazilian government to recognize and secure Munduruku Peoples’ rights to their lands and territories,” said Bia'ni Madsa' Juárez López, Keepers of the Earth Fund Program Manager.

Munduruku is President of the Pariri Indigenous Association, which supports communities in the Tapajós River region. After working as a teacher, she became increasingly involved in fighting against extractivism in her territory. Despite resistance from being a woman, she became the first female coordinator of the Pariri Indigenous Association and began studying law to better learn how to protect Munduruku communities and territory from encroaching extractive industries. Follow her fight and help amplify her voice here:

Photo courtesy of Goldman Environmental Prize.