Friday, January 1, 2010

The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation

Kayapo shaman in Brazil.

Commentary by: Jeremy Hance
December 22, 2009

Spoiler Alert: article reveals end of the film Avatar.

In James Cameron's newest film Avatar an alien tribe on a distant planet fights to save their forest home from human invaders bent on mining the planet. The mining company has brought in ex-marines for 'security' and will stop at nothing, not even genocide, to secure profits for its shareholders. While Cameron's film takes place on a planet sporting six-legged rhinos and massive flying lizards, the struggle between corporations and indigenous people is hardly science fiction.

For decades real indigenous tribes around the world have faced off with corporations—mining, logging, oil and gas—determined to exploit their land. These corporations, much like the company in the film, usually have support from the government and access to 'security forces', sometimes in the form of ex-military or state police. Yet unlike the film, in which the indigenous group triumphs over the corporate and military invaders, the real-life stories of indigenous tribes rarely end justly: from Peru to Malaysia to Ecuador their struggles continue.

In Avatar the indigenous tribe, called the Na'vi, use poison-tipped arrows to defend themselves against the guns, gas, and explosions used by the human invaders. Art imitates life: in June of this year, violence erupted in Peru as heavily-armed police clashed with indigenous protestors, some carried spears, others were unarmed.

The indigenous tribes were protesting nearly 100 new rules pushed through the Peruvian government—led by President Alan Garcia—that made it easier for foreign companies to exploit oil, gas, timber, and minerals on indigenous land. The violent skirmish that followed led to the deaths of 23 police officers and at least 10 indigenous people—with indigenous groups saying the government went to great lengths to hide/dispose of bodies to make it appear that fewer natives were killed. Bodies were allegedly dumped in rivers.

What is known is that 82 protesters suffered gunshot wounds and 120 in total were injured in the melee. Protesters say tear gas was used; in addition some say machine guns—shown in photos—were fired at them. …

The real Avatar story: indigenous people fight to save their forest homes from corporate exploitation

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