The Tabajara Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) project will create a 60-square-mile reservoir in Machadinho d’Oeste. In addition to nine indigenous territories, an exclusive joint analysis by InfoAmazonia and Brasil de Fato confirms the influence of the project on seven areas where evidence of uncontacted indigenous groups has been found.

In spite of court decisions and reports of violations, the Tabajara Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) project still stands. It includes a 60-square-mile reservoir on the Machado River, in Machadinho d’Oeste, Rondônia, which, according to exclusive joint analysis by InfoAmazonia and Brasil de Fato, will affect seven areas where evidence of uncontacted indigenous groups has been found.

These uncontacted indigenous people are:

  • The Piripkura from the Piripkura Indigenous Territory (IT);
  • The Kaidjuwa from the Tenharim Marmelos IT;
  • Indigenous people from Cachoeira do Remo;
  • Indigenous people from Igarapé Preto – evidence was found at the Tenharim do Igarapé Preto IT;
  • Indigenous people from Serra da Providência in the Igarapé Lourdes IT;
  • Indigenous people from the Maici River in the Pirahã IT;
  • Indigenous people from Manicorezinho in the Aripuanã National Forest Conservation Unit (CU).

Of these, only the Piripkura had the evidence of their presence confirmed: Confirmed evidence are indications of indigenous groups in isolation whose existence has been proven by the Brazilian State after systematic location work. Confirmation of presence is conducted by the CGIIRC using a thorough methodology, which can combine expeditions and overflights with the analysis of satellite images to identify areas traditionally occupied by uncontacted indigenous peoples. by the National Indigenous People Foundation (Funai) and, therefore, their circulation area is now protected by land use restrictions: An administrative measure used by Funai to protect isolated peoples while they await effective demarcation of their territory.. The Piripkura IT is located in an area of agribusiness activity, between the municipalities of Colniza and Rondolândia, Mato Grosso state, and is inhabited by two indigenous people in voluntary isolation, considered the last representatives of the Piripkura. Since the territory has not been officially demarcated yet, the land use restriction order established in March 2023 by Funai is an instrument to protect the Piripkura from contact with non-indigenous people.

Funai is conducting studies: Several pieces of evidence indicate the presence of an uncontacted indigenous people, although the information collected does not allow the indigenous affairs agency to confirm its existence or precise location. Confirming evidence under study requires continued location and monitoring work, based on systematized documents on sightings and signs as well as ethnological or historiographical studies on the uncontacted indigenous people whose evidence is found. about the Kaidjuwa, and the evidence of their presence remains unconfirmed even though they will suffer most of the impacts of the construction of the dam due to the project’s proximity – around 650 feet – to the Tenharim Marmelos IT, according to this analysis. There is evidence of the presence: Evidence of presence are pieces of information about the presence of an uncontacted indigenous people that are officially recognized by Funai. After an initial assessment for selection and screening, the agency incorporates them into its database for subsequent qualification. This evidence is usually collected by the Ethno-Environmental Protection Fronts (EPF) during location and monitoring work, as well as from indigenous and indigenous advocate organizations operating in Indigenous Territories. of the other five uncontacted groups.

From the beginning, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): Document that must provide all the information for the establishment of a large-scale project. It is a complex study in which the company will indicate potential risks: populations that may be affected; animal and plant species existing in the area, as well as other physical and biological factors.  for the Tabajara dam placed the Tenharim Marmelos IT within the project’s area of influence. However, the region is also close to other ITs and is full of signs of uncontacted indigenous peoples. To show whether the dam would affect these groups, we compared the database of the Observatory of Uncontacted Indigenous Peoples (OPI) — which monitors information about threats and pressure on these groups – with impact delimitated according to court-ordered measures.

For references to Uncontacted indigenous people living in ITs and CUs, the OPI adopts a 25-mile limit around the territory – the same limit provided for in Interministerial Ordinance 60/2015, which establishes areas of influence of dams and roads in the region known as Legal Amazon. Based on this measure, Funai must indicate to the National Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) which indigenous territories will be impacted and therefore must be studied. For Uncontacted groups outside protected areas such as the case of Cachoeira do Remo, with territorial boundaries that are not formally defined, the limit is 31 miles from the reference piece of evidence, for exclusive monitoring purposes.

Recognition of uncontacted peoples by Funai

Funai officially has 114 pieces of evidence of the presence of uncontacted indigenous groups in Brazil. Evidence about twenty-eight of these groups has been confirmed while the others are being investigated by the General Coordination of Uncontacted and Recently Contacted Indigenous People (CGIIRC) through the work of 11 Ethno-Environmental Protection Fronts (EPF), with 29 bases spread across the country. As decentralized units of the CGIIRC, EPFs are responsible for actions to locate, monitor, protect and surveil and, in exceptional contexts, establish contact with those peoples.

The studies to confirm evidence of presence can last for decades in order to produce knowledge about the dynamics of mobility and territoriality, ways of life, recent history and ethnic-linguistic belonging of the indigenous peoples involved. The most recent confirmation of evidence of uncontacted peoples took place in September 2021 in the municipality of Lábrea, Amazonas.

After a series of reports, expert opinions and complaints about the dam (read more in ‘Impact study rejected’), two court decisions are the basis for this analysis:

  • In 2022: the Federal Prosecution Service (MPF) and the Rondônia State Prosecution Service (MPE-RO) filed a public civil action and, based on it, a Federal Court ordered the inclusion of seven indigenous territories in the dam’s impact assessment reports, in addition to Tenharim Marmelos. They are: Jiahui and Pirahã (both with recently contacted peoples); Tenharim Rio Sepoti; Tenharim do Igarapé Preto; and Ipixuna and Nove de Janeiro, where the Parintintim people live; and Igarapé Lourdes, home to the Arara and Gavião.
  • In 2023: a Federal Court examined the matter again and ordered new environmental impact assessment reports covering the eight territories (Tenharim Marmelos + the seven new ones covered by the 2022 court decision). Integrated impact assessment should be conducted by Funai in the southern part of the Tenharim Marmelos IT, due to signs of the presence of uncontacted indigenous peoples – the area is approximately 650 feet away from the reservoir.

While there is no new progress on the licensing procedure, we compared the location of these territories to the impacts already predicted both by court decisions and by the OPI. In addition to eight indigenous territories identified in the 2022 court decision and in a 2023 request for their inclusion in studies – with emphasis on the strong impact on the Tenharim Marmelos IT and Kaidjuwa indigenous groups – the analysis also points to an impact on the Piripkura IT, which was not considered by the project’s assessments or court decisions.

According to the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil database from the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), an estimated 3,000 individuals from the Tenharim, Jiahui, Arara, Gavião, Parintintim, Pirahã and Piripkura indigenous groups live in the nine ITs identified in the project’s area of influence.