Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui – Biocultural Conservation in the Amazon

Chief Almir portrays his people’s struggles to survive by protecting their culture and rainforest since they made First Contact with the Western world in 1969.

“Today, we are 1,300 Surui. Before first contact, we were 5,000. That really woke us up because we knew that if we didn’t do anything, our people could end. We became even more worried when we saw that our forests would go together with us. We had to find a way to create dialogue with the rest of the world to find a way for our future. One of the ways that we found we could communicate is through the Internet and through technology, and in that way reach the rest of the world and make our contribution.”

In this astonishing presentation, Chief Almir Surui of the Amazon’s Surui tribe shares the journey that resulted when the Amazon’s Surui people first encountered the encroachments of Western civilization in 1969. Their chief, Chief Almir’s father, confronted the bulldozers and armed men with his bow and arrow. Over the years, the Surui population dwindled to a fourth of its size at first contact, and the surrounding rainforest was similarly decimated. Chief Almir Surui was sent by the tribe to college in a quest to learn how to save their way of life, where he encountered Google Earth on the Internet. He showed up on the doorstep of the Google-plex seeking help. A team from Google Earth Outreach journeyed to the Amazon, where it trained the Surui and 12 other tribes in how to map their lands and use the Internet to tell their story. The rest is history.

Chief Almir Surui is the chief of the Amazonian Surui tribe who are employing the high technology of Google Earth to attain the conservation of the rainforest and their survival. Led by Chief Almir, the tribe has created the first REDD carbon forest business plan to conduct sustainable ventures from the forest. His opposition to logging, mining, agricultural and other development interests in favor of more sustainable ventures in western Brazil has made him the target of death threats and violence.

(Interpreted live from Portuguese by Vasco Van Roosmalen from Amazon Conservation Team).

This speech was given at the 2009 Bioneers National Conference.


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